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Book Review

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Reviewed by Lisa Hassan Scott
Dinas Powys UK
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 5, September-October 2007, p. 228

Many mothers find that the early days of breastfeeding are far from straightforward. This unfortunate fact is the reason why La Leche League (LLL) has received so many requests for information and support over the past 50 years. Breastfeeding is the most natural way of feeding our babies -- it is the perfect food, delivered in the perfect way. If breastfeeding is so difficult, however, something has clearly gone wrong.

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers is Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett's contribution to helping the system get up and running again. By presenting their seven "laws," the authors explain how nature intended breastfeeding to work. Reading this, mothers may be empowered to make mother nature work for them. The authors state, "In order to simplify breastfeeding, we want you to understand the built-in mechanisms, or ‘natural laws,' that make breastfeeding easier for you and your baby. In the process, we also want to avoid giving you lots of left-brained ‘head' knowledge about breastfeeding."

This volume will teach you how to respect your baby's and your own instinctual behaviors to get breastfeeding right for you both. The authors tell us that if breastfeeding was merely about reading the right books, the breastfeeding rate in the US would be one of the highest in the world, which is far from the reality.

Mohrbacher and Kendall-Tackett explain that breastfeeding is a right-brained activity that involves heart or body knowledge rather than head knowledge. In LLL, we talk about trusting our own instincts. Many mothers are so divorced from their instincts that they have lost confidence in their ability to nurture their own babies with their bodies. The authors examine why this is the case, and they offer readers the tools to regain confidence and meet their breastfeeding goals.

The first law, "Babies Are Hardwired to Breastfeed" brings the baby back into the breastfeeding equation. A mother is all too often instructed in a formulaic way how to feed her baby (nose to nipple, tummy to mummy, etc.) while baby is a passive recipient. But the first law illustrates that babies are actually able to self-attach! A mother can encourage this by simply enjoying her baby in skin-to-skin contact in any comfortable position. The baby is waiting for certain sensory cues to tell her it's time to feed; once she has these cues, breastfeeding can happen naturally.

Learning that babies can breastfeed with little or no intervention is one of many "ah-ha!" moments in this book. Newborn reflexes (sucking, pushing with legs, and bobbing the head) are part of a baby's "hardwiring" and ensure the baby's ability to latch on and survive. Moreover, mothers have a hormonal connection to cuddle, stroke, and hold their babies -- mothers are "hardwired," too! So why does breastfeeding often go wrong? In each chapter, the authors explain what happens when things get in the way of the natural laws. Birth interventions, separation of baby and mother, hospital routines, and experiencing a difficult start are all discussed as potentially disruptive factors.

Each of these laws is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. One builds on another until we have a complete picture of how breastfeeding can work. If the baby is held in close contact, and the mother responds to the baby's hardwiring, she is on the road to successful breastfeeding. Successful breastfeeding depends on the mother getting her nipple into the "comfort zone" of her baby's mouth (Law 3), so that her baby gets plenty of milk and the mother can breastfeed without pain. Once this is achieved, feeding the baby frequently will stimulate a mother's milk supply(Law 4). As we near the end of part one, we begin to see how breastfeeding can work when potentially disruptive factors are avoided.

Chapter 8, "What Interferes with the Laws," is of special interest to anyone who would like to know more about how "our culture managed to stray so far from breastfeeding as the biological norm...." What comes across loud and clear is that fads in parenting advice, commercial pressures, and a general ignorance about breastfeeding in both the lay and medical communities have contributed to making breastfeeding one of the most challenging tasks for the new mother.

The second part of Breastfeeding Made Simple discusses how mothers can apply the seven laws to daily life with a baby, what to do in special situations, and how to deal with common breastfeeding challenges. There is an excellent resources section for further information.

In this book, Mohrbacher and Kendall-Tackett present breastfeeding not as a task, but rather as a beautiful dance between mother and baby -- a dance that can be simple and joyful. They remind us that breastfeeding is the gift our bodies were designed to give to our babies, and that it can be both natural and simple.

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