This post is part of a series on the books I have found absolutely necessary in growing and raising a child so far. For others in the series, click on one of these links.
I always knew I wanted to nurse my child(ren). It makes sense to me on every level: cheaper, more convenient, a great bonding experience, better for baby, etc. I knew from our Bradley class, and from just general mother-online-chattering, that it wasn't always as easy for us as nature had intended. See, our society has pretty much made any exposure of the breasts a terrible, awkward, sinful, immodest . . . well, you get the picture. Add to that some extremely effective and expensive mind manipulation (i.e. marketing) by formula companies, and you come up with my level of exposure to breastfeeding before the baby was born: I had never (even once!) seen a woman feeding her child in this way.
So, it's no surprise that things were rocky for me. I felt totally unsure of what I was doing, and my baby was losing weight rapidly. When she did start to gain weight, it was never as fast as the charts demanded. Even now, six months on Sunday, she weighs just about fourteen pounds. Being a new mother, with all the stresses and strains that go with even the "easiest" baby (which my baby would be classified as on the "frequent screaming" end of that spectrum), and feeling like you are not able to give your baby the important fuel she needs to grow, is crazy-making.
Enter La Leche League. I called for help in the first few days, and a kind leader talked me through my situations and listened sympathetically. She offered assistance, followed up frequently, and just generally made me feel like I wasn't completely insane for wanting to continue with this endeavor. So, I got the La Leche League book.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is way more than just a manual on how to nurse your child. It's a full-blown parenting resource. I devoured it. The book is subdivided into age groupings (birth to two weeks, two weeks to four months, and so on), and I anxiously counted down the days until Vicki Jo made it into the next age category so I could start reading all about what to expect.
And now that we're getting ready to start trying some real foods, there are helps and guidelines on how to do it healthfully for your child. There are suggestions on sleeping, there are little vignettes and stories from women who nursed their children. I will remember some of them forever, I think. Sometimes I was angry at the book because it portrayed nursing as easy and fun, when it was neither for me for a long time. But still, The Womanly Art was always there for me.
I don't think I could possibly have made it this far without this book. And that's why it stays on my shelf.