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The Nursing Mother's Companion

The Nursing Mother's Companion

 

Kathleen Huggins lays a vast spectrum of early worries and questions to rest in an easy-to-read, factual, and yet not overly-clinical book. Every breastfeeding mother, and especially every new mom who wonders "Is this normal? Is this okay? What can I do about this?" should have this book on her shelf - or better yet, beside her bed or rocking chair for easy access.

The book has seven sections, dealing with everything from how to survive the first week and how to get baby latched properly, through the reward period of months two through six, to the older baby's changing needs and how to wean.

The author touches on nearly every common difficulty nursing mothers face, from how to treat traumatized nipples and plugged ducts, to how to stimulate increased milk production, to the recognition and treatment of thrush in baby and mother. Her advice is sound, with no medical misinformation, no old wives' tales, and no condescension. It is good basic advice, but it is frequently very basic advice - where it comes to more specific information, she often comes out lacking.

There is an extensive section on being apart from your baby, whether for work or school. On the plus side, she explains how to express and store milk, how to get the baby to take a bottle, and how to keep your supply up without the baby to provide ideal stimulus by suckling. On the down side, she describes a bewildering array of more than a dozen breastpumps, including pumps of very poor design (such as the so-called 'bicycle horn pump'), on roughly equal terms with excellent hand and electric pumps by White River, Ameda/Egnell, and Medela. She mentions drawbacks of individual pumps without actually advising against them, and makes no recommendation, even from personal experience, of which pumps are best.

To give a couple of examples where I might have wished for more specific advice on problems: the author explains that a plugged nipple pore may cause a plugged duct - but offers no real advice on how to get a stubborn pore unplugged beyond the cautious use of a sterile needle. (In fact, you can try mineral oil to dissolve the plug. You can also try warm moist compresses, massage, and colloidal silver - but she doesn't mention these, which may be discouraging for a woman if the needle doesn't work.) Her coverage of thrush nipples is also not as extensive as it could be, mentioning few possible causes of thrush in the mother, and few treatments. She fails entirely to mention that diet can affect the growth of candida in the body, especially when the mother consumes a lot of sugar and other simple carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, and potatoes - or that the birth control pill and the use of steroids such as prednisone can also predispose the body toward thrush.

The book assumes that most women will follow the cultural age of weaning at or before one year of age, and offers advice on weaning including an appropriate diet to which the child should be weaned. However, she acknowledges that many women do nurse their children into the toddler years, and that many tandem nurse, and refers the reader to Baumgarner's Mothering Your Nursing Toddler.

The book also contains three appendices: Resources for Nursing Mothers, Determining Babies' Milk Needs During the First Six Weeks, and The Safety of Drugs During Breastfeeding.

The first appendix consists of phone numbers and addresses for a number of breastfeeding support and education groups, lactation professional referral services, and sources for rental breastpumps, breast shells, milk coolers, nursing supplementation devices, pillows, and a number of other helpful products.

The second consists of a series of charts and formulae, intended to help mothers know how much breast milk is "enough" - which may not be as much as many moms, who think in terms of formula - expect. They may be able to show it, in all its official-looking glory, to anxious in-laws or grandmothers who want to give the baby a bottle "to make sure it's getting enough".

The third appendix, 'The Safety of Drugs' is the next best thing to Tom Hale's Medications and Mother's Milk I've seen - a valuable resource when you and your doctor are concerned about the safety of medications while you nurse - since the Physician's Desk Reference contains only information provided by the drug companies, which may not have conducted adequate testing on lactating woman, and which may advise against the use of a medication when there is no need to do so.

The Selected References lists articles from both medical literature and breastfeeding/childcare-related books. The Suggested Supplementary Reading consists primarily of specialty titles, addressing special situations such as cleft lip or palate, diabetes in the mother, and Down's syndrome babies, but also La Leche League pamphlets, and where to find them.

All in all, an excellent book for every nursing mother to keep at hand, especially in the early weeks and months, even if it is not as encyclopedic as one might wish.

 

References

Angela Beegle
Breastfeeding mother of Emmaline (11 months): survivor of innumerable plugged ducts, repeated bouts of breast yeast (thrush), a persistent plugged nipple pore, and an abcess which required multiple drainings and weeks of antibiotics - and still going.

 
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