Book Review: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

Reviewing The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Teresa Pitman

This book prides itself on being a kind of breastfeeding bible, and one that I hear a lot of women speak about. As it says, it holds ‘the philosophy of breastfeeding between its pages’. I think it is a great book for women to read while pregnant, as it focuses a lot on positive affirmations and ensuring that mothers feel as though they absolutely CAN breastfeed. It covers a lot of the basics, and does these well – things like different breastfeeding positions, the first breastfeed, safe pumping and milk storage, mastitis and clogged ducts, nursing multiples, etc. The many anectodes and mother’s stories throughout also help you to feel connected with others going through similar things.

If your breastfeeding journey is relatively ‘normal’, then this book will be a great resource for you. If you are having problems and have bought this book as a resource to help you, then no way. I personally find it very one sided and inflexible in many of its discussions, with things such as returning to work (it focuses on ensuring mothers feel supported with staying at home), weaning (not helpful in terms of mother-directed weaning), and it’s discussion of low supply and supplementation.

This book is largely about self-belief and trusting yourself and your baby. If you’ve passed that point and things aren’t going so smoothly, then look for a different book! The very small section of relactation and induced lactation, for instance, uses the story of a mother who wanted to relactate, and worked with a nurse practitioner who ‘showed me how to guide the baby to the breast, and Brandy took right to it.’ Tada! I personally think that such simply examples are great for positive affirmations, but these should also be balanced with other stories of mothers who are having a tough time too, to allow mothers to feel less isolated and less of a sense of failure when things don’t go quite so smoothly. In such situations, where mothers are having problems, broad sweeping statements throughout the entire book may be painful for these mothers to read – such as breastfeeding being ‘the key to good mothering’. Though I know I’m going against the grain here, I truly feel there are much better books out there to educate and empower new mothers.

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