Breastfeeding is something that we plan for before the birth of our baby, but few of us prepare like we should. While very natural, it doesn’t always come easily and arming yourself with resources to support breastfeeding is a useful way to make it more successful.
There are a variety of ways to prepare and learn about breastfeeding from books to actual woman-to-woman support. Here are a few of our favorites.
Every woman planning to nurse should have at least one comprehensive breastfeeding book on hand. This will definitely be used as a reference in the early days of breastfeeding and as your baby grows and that relationship shifts and changes.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding published by La Leche League International
This respected book on the subject of breastfeeding is required reading for all of our birth instructors. Spanning hundreds of pages, this book is a classic and contains loads of information. It will help you re-think your approach to feeding a child from the breast in a bottle-feeding culture as well as addressing special situations such as pumping and returning to work and nursing multiples or babies with special needs. We love the newest version for its updated look, feel, and approach. This is one to keep on your shelf throughout your time as a nursing mother.
Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher IBCLC, FILCA , Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC
Breastfeeding Made Simple is just that - it makes breastfeeding seem so simple. Some books will make it feel as though breastfeeding is incredibly complicated and you need a math degree to get all the angles right - knees, hips, elbows, back, neck, etc. Breastfeeding Made Simple can help remove fear and worry while still providing straightforward and helpful information.
Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy by Laura Keegan
Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy has great photos so you can see what a baby looks like when they have their mouth open wide enough to latch and what a good latch looks like. It shows a lot of different holds including nursing twins, and also nursing babies of different ages. In our bottle feeding culture where nursing an infant is sometimes shocking, nursing an older baby can be even more so. This book helps normalize breastfeeding and the pictures are worth a thousand words. Many of us grow up rarely, if ever, witnessing nursing, which can make it harder to actually do. This book is a fabulous resource for any mom but particularly for those who learn visually.
Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery by Diana West
Defining Your Own Success is geared towards women who have had reduction surgery and may not be able to produce 100% of the milk needed for their baby. For women in this situation, breastfeeding might require some supplementation. Breastfeeding can look like so many different things, especially for women that have had breast surgery.There is extensive information about preparing to breastfeed after reduction, from learning about the type of surgery you had to knowing what to expect based on the records from your surgery. The book gives great examples of all different types of breastfeeding situations and shares many different personal stories of women and their experiences. One of the main things of concern to reduction-surgery moms might be the amount of milk they will produce. The book gives you many different tips to help make as much milk as you can, and it goes into great detail about supplementing, if that should be necessary. It also addresses the emotional side of BFAR (breastfeeding after reduction) which is incredibly helpful. To go along with the book there is an online support group/forum at www.bfar.org.
Also related to this book and helpful is The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West. The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk is a complete study on real ways to improve milk supply. While for many women simple tips like nursing on demand and babywearing can help with supply, for those in special situations (like reduction surgery or various conditions) more help is needed. This book is designed for those women and is an asset indeed.
The Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Katherine Barber
According to the CDC, Black, (non-Hispanic) women have the lowest breastfeeding initiation rates in the US, averaging around 54%. The Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding is specifically written for breastfeeding women of color. This book addresses some of the unique challenges Black women may face. For Black women in the childbearing years, this book specifically confronts issues from economics to practical concerns that can have a profound impact on breastfeeding rates and success.
Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
In the style and voice of the famous Ina May, (author of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth) this book has practical advice as well as plenty of inspiration and a little politics thrown in. Ina May will help you understand why you should breastfeed and help you accomplish it.
The Breastfeeding Book by Sears Parenting Library
Easy to read, approachable, and in the welcoming style of Bill and Martha Sears, this book is also a classic. Dr Bill has years of experience in pediatrics working with and truly supporting breastfeeding mothers and his wife Martha is a lactation consultant and a breastfeeding mom of a large family, including an adopted baby and a special needs baby. The Breastfeeding Book gets an A+ for both useful information and lovely delivery by parents who have been there.
La Leche League International is a non profit organization that offers peer support for nursing mothers. La Leche League International is probably the best known and longest established peer breastfeeding support group in the world. Begun by moms just like you and I in the 1950s when breastfeeding rates were at record lows and woman-to-woman support was difficult to find, this ingenious organization lives strong with groups meeting monthly throughout the country and world.
Not only will you be able to meet and learn from other mothers in similar life circumstances as you (some wonderful friendships are forged at La Leche League meetings) your meeting will be attended by and organized by a volunteer LLL leader. These women give tirelessly of their time and talents offering free advice. For a free organization however, the calibre of help found at LLL meetings is absolutely wonderful. The website for LLLI is where you can find a group close to you.
KellyMom is great for those looking for evidence based information and studies regarding breastfeeding, KellyMom is a resource you will use often. With countless articles on a variety of tough subjects, this website is one you will refer to as your baby grows and changes.
For Babies’ Sake is the home of Mellanie Sheppard and a myriad of wonderful links and information about breastfeeding. We love Mellanie here at Birth Boot Camp so much that she is the star of the show on our breastfeeding DVD, Breastfeeding: The Ultimate MRE. Friendly, forgiving, and down-to-earth, there is nobody you would rather have on your team that Mellanie. With her website and her DVD, you will feel like you have your own private lactation consultant.
Breastfeeding in Combat Boots- Breastfeeding for active military moms can have its own unique challenges. This page and website exist to support and promote nursing among military moms. We love it!
Breastfeeding Resources for Black Women- Fortunately, more websites have appeared to address supporting Black women in achieving their breastfeeding goals. A few that can prove helpful include: The Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, Free to Breastfeed, and Mocha Manual.
Best for Babes is making breastfeeding look hip with its focus on breastfeeding celebrities and real life info on avoiding the boobie traps” or common things that trip up the breastfeeding relationship. You will find both information and inspiration on this website.
Dr Jack Newman’s Breastfeeding Inc is a website that must not be missed. Not only is it chock full of information and resources, it is available in numerous languages. Dr Newman is probably the best known breastfeeding authority in the world, check him out!
In addition to all of these books and resources, finding a real person trained in breastfeeding or a lactation consultant is helpful in establishing a good start to breastfeeding. An IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) has extensive training and may even be available at your local hospital or birth center. You can find a lactation consultant here. For those who qualify for WIC, you can also usually find breastfeeding support at your local WIC office and pumps are often available for nursing moms returning to work. You can find your local WIC office here.
Breastfeeding is an endeavor most likely to be successful when well supported. Knowledge, partners, professionals and peers can all make breastfeeding easier and more enjoyable. Prepare yourself now.
(A special thanks to our Birth Boot Camp instructors who offered suggestions and favorites for this article. We couldn't do it without you!)
CDC report of racial and ethnic breastfeeding rates by state: