Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book Review: So That's What They're For

Two months ago at LLL, one of the leaders mentioned a story of a female gorilla raised in captivity. She got pregnant, had a baby, and then subsequently killed it because she didn't know how to nurse her baby and the crying got to her. To prevent this from repeating, the next time she was pregnant, the zoo asked the LLL what to do. LLL sent women to breastfeed in front of the gorilla (safely behind glass). At first she wasn't interested, but soon she would watch the women breastfeeding to see how it was done. However, after she had her baby, she still struggled to breastfeed (that postpartum time is kind of crazy for us all!). LLL sent more women to the zoo who slowly, step-by-step showed the gorilla how to latch on. Eventually the gorilla learned and mother and baby survived that hard time.

The point of the story was that sometimes we just need to see breastfeeding. That story was a wonderful example of how something that would appear easy and natural- is even difficult for animals if they've never seen it. Why then, do we expect ease when we are learning- especially if we've never seen it?

The LLL leader at the meeting then said that this story was from the book So That's What They're For: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide. I really wanted to read the story in context, so this month, I checked the book out from our LLL's lending library.

I have to admit something: before I had Margaret I had not read any breastfeeding books. I received a copy of Dr. Sear's The Baby Book from a baby shower and I had good relationships with the LLL leaders here, and that seemed to be enough for me. I definitely made use of both the book and the leaders those first few months! If I had to do it again So That's What They're For would have been wonderful. I would definitely recommend it for moms who are breastfeeding for the first time- whether it's your first baby or not.

I'm always a little hesitant to read nonfiction that's over a decade old, but in general, it hits the mark. There are obviously some discrepancies between what we know about breastfeeding now and what was known in 1998. For example, this January a study came out that breastmilk has a longer storage time than previously believed. Also, I didn't find all of the information particularly relavant to me, such as the claim that engorgement only lasts 12-24 hours. Maybe that's the norm, but as someone whose cups ran over multiple times a day and could not sleep on my belly for months because my breasts would be so full by the morning, that probably would have been discouraging: "I'm a lactating freak!" I also wasn't a fan of the recommendation "There's always the bathroom" if you aren't comfortable breastfeeding in public. I suppose that's true on a superficial level, but Eww! Gross! No. No breastfeeding in bathrooms. The fact that it was even mentioned gives me the heebiejeebies.

But I am really nitpicking here. Ninety-eight percent of the book was spot-on. The emphasis on positioning, latch, having support, etc. all hit the mark for me. The book is funny and is written in a way that you can tell the author has been there before and she's working with you and going at your own pace. I really enjoyed all the real-life stories and thought they also emphasized all the right things. The gorilla story wasn't the only awesome story there. If you need a good breastfeeding book, this would be a great one to pick up. Do it. You'll enjoy it, I promise.

And the gorilla story is at the beginning of chapter 3, in case you are interested.


  1. I'm so with you on the "If we never see, how are we supposed to do it?" Thing. Breastfeeding is not easy! I am 23 years old, I have a younger sibling, two sisters, lots of sisters-in-law, dozens of girl cousins and many, many neices and nephews, and I have seen someone breastfeed ONCE: at a LLL meeting. No wonder I couldn't do it.

  2. That is such a cool story!!! If you don't mind, may I snag this post (copy and paste in it's entirety--with a link to you of course) and put it on my breastfeeding support group page?

  3. I'm just floored by the gorilla story!

  4. A friend gave me that book when I told her I as pregnant. It was my best breastfeeding resource, and I loved reading it! Who would ever expect a BFing book to be a page-turner?

  5. Yup. I really liked this one too. I know that some people think it's way too light and fluffy, but I like that it's accesible and not overbearing.

  6. that was a good book. but my fave, from someone who had terrible trouble breastfeeding and read about a million breastfeeding books, is one called "Breastfeeding Made Simple: 7 Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers" by Nancy Mohrbacher. Much more up to date and very good to read as late in your pregnancy as possible, because there is a lot of info on starting off on the right foot and avoiding problems right from the start. Love it. I'm not due for a couple of months, but I'll let you know if it helps me this time!

  7. Amen! Even having grown up watching my mom nurse (7 babies!) It was still difficult for me to nurse at first. I do wish our society wasn't so much about "Oh my, I saw a boob!" but "what a beautiful thing, I wonder how that works?" Sigh...

  8. Nice to know I'm not the only one who is engorged for months on end!!! I think Ava was 8 months old before I could stop going through a box of breast pads a week!


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