Since starting this blog I've been fortunate to get to know Andi Silverman, whose book, Mama Knows Breast was published a few months ago. Below are my thoughts about the book, as well as a mini-interview with her.
There are lots of reference books out there about breastfeeding. Not enough to fill a bookshelf, but enough to make a good crash if they all fall off your nightstand at once. Not that I would know.
So, what sets Andi Silverman's Mama Knows Breast apart from the stand-bys like the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and The Nursing Mother's Companion?
Mama Knows Breast is witty, concise, and down to earth. It takes a pop culture approach to breastfeeding, consistent with the spirit the publisher, Quirk Books, whose motto is Irreverence + Reference = Irreference. Breastfeeding, and parenting in general, is such natural territory for humor, that it's surprising that most books pass up the opportunity. We are, after all, talking about poop, gas, and leaking breastmilk.
When I read a breastfeeding reference book I'm primarily concerned with two things: the accuracy and scope of the information, and the the ease of use - meaning how easy it is to find information on nipple pain at 2:00 am. I found the information to be solid, and for a small book Andi has covered the bases. It's not encyclopedic, like The Nursing Mother's Companion, and you won't find much on topics like extended nursing, but it covers the bases. And since there are so many good online resources available, it's probably enough to get most mothers started. It's simply presented, with a good index, so it passes the ease of use test, too.
Mama Knows Breast is a great book for a mother who wants to know the basics, presented in a fun and non-threatening manner. It may be particularly good as a shower gift for a pregnant friend who is feeling a bit squeamish about breastfeeding, since the illustrations are so attractive and the tone is so hip and down-to-earth. It's not a book for the mom who needs to know everything about breastfeeding - you know, the mom who writes down every feeding (L or R?) for months and months, or for the committed attachment parenting mother.
There was one section of Mama Knows Breast that made me a bit uncomfortable. One is a section in which Andi lists the ten best and ten worst things about breastfeeding. Some of the things she lists, such as sleep deprivation, are not necessarily breastfeeding problems (I know formula feeding moms who don't get much sleep either) or have solutions. However, I also know that more information is usually better, and that preparing mothers for things that can be hard is far better than pretending they don't exist.
Here is a quick interview with Andi on her book:
Why did you devote a whole chapter to sex and relaxation? Actually, I really just want to know why you included the sex part.
Before we have kids our breasts are part of our sexuality. We buy sexy bras. We see advertisements of half-dressed models all over the place. So it can be hard to make that psychological shift from form to function. Breastfeeding is a whole new way of looking at your breasts.
This is partially why I think some women find themselves struggling with sex post-partum. Plus, let's face it. You are so tired, whether you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding, that sex is not exactly the first thing on your mind. But it is an important part of your relationship with your significant other, and it can make for some good comedy when you have a newborn. Just try fitting in a little conjugal visit between feedings, or imagine squiritng your partner with a little milk, and you'll see what I mean.
Bottom line, you have to laugh at your sex life when you're a parent. In fact, right now, as I type, one of the kids is climbing on my lap to see what I'm typing. Good thing he doesn't read yet.
Mama Knows Breast has a chapter on nursing in public, including a funny section on how to respond to critics. What have your experiences been nursing in public?
So at first, I was certainly a little apprehensive about breastfeeding in front of other people. But as soon as our first son was born, I got over this pretty quickly. I realized that I either breastfed in public, or I stayed at home all day, tethered to the couch. And soon enough I breastfed anywhere and everywhere. Planes, restaurants, department stores and hotel lobbies all made my list. I even breastfed while getting a pedicure once.
Fortunately, I never had any "bad" experiences breastfeeding in public. But I know a lot of people do, and that's why I felt this chapter was so important. Women should feel confident and comfortable feeding their babies anywhere they go. I found that if I told myself "no one is watching, no one cares what you are doing," then I was able to focus on the baby, take care of him, and everything went smoothly.
You live in New York City, which has it's own particular way of doing birth and probably breastfeeding. What are some breastfeeding quirks specific to New York?
I'm sure New York is quirky in some respects, but I think every part of the country has its own societal expectations. One of the best things about New York is that you really see it all here. People are not uptight.
I breastfed my sons everywhere in Manhattan. In fact, there is an incredibly supportive breastfeeding community. Just in my neighborhood alone, I found a shop called The Upper Breastside that sells all sorts of breastfeeding gear; a yoga studio called The Prenatal Yoga Center that has classes for pregnant and post-partum moms; and even a regular breastfeeding support group offered by an amazing lactation consultant named Bev Solow from the Manhattan Lactation Group.
Of course you still have to seek out help if you need it. And that's the same no matter where you live. I tell everyone I know to have the name of a lactation consultant programmed into their cell phone even before their baby is born.