“What did you do at Boob Club this morning?” my husband asked one afternoon. At the time, I nursed our then 3-month-old baby with one arm and looked for a photo of green frothy baby poop in a breastfeeding book with the other. Boob Club was his moniker for the breastfeeding support group that I attended for the first four months of my son’s life. Breastfeeding can be hard! Boob Club and breastfeeding books became my saving grace.
Twice a week, I met with a very nurturing lactation consultant, weighed my baby, eased my breasts out, and nursed with other moms who were trying to do the same thing. We laughed about leaky boobs, cried about returning to work and pumping, and shared tips on how to unclog milk ducts. Without this incredibly supportive group, I do not think I could have established breastfeeding as well as I did. Once I gained some confidence, I breastfed my son for almost two years and really grew to love it.
Along with Boob Club, breastfeeding books became my personal must reads. I read many breastfeeding books and even spattered milk on some while attempting to read and nurse at the same time. Here are ten helpful and eye-opening books about breastfeeding.
The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins
A mother of three nurslings gave this book to me and now I gift it to all of my expecting friends. In a comforting but straightforward way, Kathleen Huggins explains the nuts and bolts of breastfeeding. She covers such topics as preparing to breastfeeding, beginning breastfeeding, and expressing milk. She also includes a very handy first couple of weeks survival guide. As well, she trouble shoots common breastfeeding problems and clears up myths regarding nursing. When I was breastfeeding, I kept this book near my breastfeeding chair and thumbed through it often as I nursed.
The Better Way to Breastfeed by Robin Elise Weiss
The arrogant title of this book initially turned me off, but I picked it up anyway and found it to be a very helpful resource. Robin Elise Weiss provides up to date information on how to maintain breastfeeding. Over 150 photos and illustrations provide colorful visuals for parents. Other features of the book include checklists at the beginning of each chapter, quick tips from the author, confidence cues, and breastfeeding affirmations.
Born to Breastfeed by Rowena Gray
Lactation consultant and successful breastfeeding mom Rowena Gray confidently shares her research, wisdom, and knowledge about breastfeeding in this how to book. After an empowering introduction, Gray begins her book by assuring new parents that babies are born to breastfeed. She states, “He knows what to do. He knows where to go.” She includes many helpful bulleted lists on such topics as following your baby’s cues, correct positioning, and baby’s hunger cues. These lists are quick and easy to read for overwhelmed or sleep deprived parents.
The Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding:The Definitive Guide to Nursing for African American Mothers by Kathi Barber
Author Kathi Barber is the founder and executive director of the African American Breastfeeding Alliance. She is a sought after speaker who lectures about breastfeeding and African American women. In her book, she writes about the social implications that affect breastfeeding women of color. She also addresses the importance of breastfeeding and provides a how-to manual tailored to the needs of women of color.
I Make Milk! What’s Your Superpower? by Jennifer Ritchie
Lactation consultant and nursing mama Jennifer Ritchie penned this book based on her experiences with all things related to breastfeeding. Ritchie begins by assuring new parents that most women can successfully breastfeed, but that it can be challenging and that supplementing with formula is okay! She goes on to explain how to breastfeed, addresses problems that parents may face along the way, and discusses why continuing breastfeeding can be so darn hard! I enjoyed her laid back, encouraging, and humorous writing style.
Baby-Led Breastfeeding: Follow Your Baby’s Instincts for Relaxed and Easy Nursing by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
The best advice a friend told me about breastfeeding was to trust the baby—he was the expert. This is the basis of Baby-Led Breastfeeding. In this book, Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett teach new parents how to read their babies, trust their instincts, and enjoy stress-free breastfeeding. They write that “the essence of baby-led breastfeeding is to let the baby feed whenever she wants and let her feed for as long as she wants.” Mothers are encouraged to take time to listen to their babies and allow them to lead the breastfeeding journey. Colored photos enhance this book and illustrate the beauty and naturalness of breastfeeding.
Work. Pump. Repeat. The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work by Jessica Shortall
Most breastfeeding moms will need to leave their babies at some point, to return to work or even just to attend an out of town wedding. When this happens, expressing or pumping milk becomes a necessity for both mother and baby. In her book, Work. Pump. Repeat., Jessica Shortall introduces readers to different breast pumps and then explains in detail how to make pumping successful. She covers myriad topics from “Talking to Your Boss About Your Breasts” to “Pumping in Strange Places.”
Social History of Breastfeeding
The One Best Way? by Tasnim Nathoo and Aleck Ostry
Many consider breastfeeding to be the one best way to feed an infant, but this has not always been the case. This book looks at the history of breastfeeding in Canada and examines how the idea of breastfeeding has changed in the past 150 years. While the act of placing a baby at the breast remains the same, Nathoo and Ostry consult government reports, academic journals, and interviews with breastfeeding advocates to show just how breastfeeding has changed.
Skimmed: Breastfeeding, Race, and Injustice by Andrea Freeman
The Fultz sisters were the first set of quadruplets to survive in the United States. Born in 1946 to poor African American tenant farmers, the girls quickly became celebrities. Their white doctor capitalized on their fame and used the girls as models to sell baby formula. Black families were drawn to the ads and, while the quadruplets lived in poverty, the formula market boomed. Today, Black mothers have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. In Skimmed, Freeman tells the story of the Fultz sisters and uncovers a modern public health crisis rooted in societal inequalities.
The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding by Kimberly Seals Allers
In her book, Kimberly Seals Allers explores the simple expression “breast is best.” She shows that, in our modern society, breast may be best, but it is not always easy. Beginning with a history of breastfeeding, including the terrifying popularity of twilight delivery and the rise of infant formulas, Allers explores how something so natural and personal has become complicated and very public. She argues that uninformed pediatricians, our industrialized food system, unsupportive workplace policies, and many other factors make the act of sustained breastfeeding almost impossible. This is a fascinating read about a very polarizing topic.
Final Tips From a Former Breastfeeding Mother
When you start sharing with people that you choose to breastfeed, they will give you lots of advice, some warranted and some ridiculous. From one mother to another, all I will say is do what works best for you and your baby. Trusting my baby and letting him lead worked well for me. I also did not feel guilty about sitting on the couch and watching lots of Breaking Bad on Netflix while my child cluster fed.
My hairdresser gave me the best piece of advice and I will pass it along now. She said, “When you are sleep deprived and trying to nurse your hungry baby at 4:00 AM, remember that you are the only one on the planet who can provide what he needs at this moment. Just for now, embrace this.” Telling myself this truly helped when it was 4:00 AM and it felt like my baby and I were the only ones awake in our little world.
More Parenting and Pregnancy Books
Need more pregnancy and parenting books? Take a look at these book lists: