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Book Review: Nursing Mother, Working Mother

One of the breastfeeding topics that is important to me is how to handle the delicate balancing act that is breastfeeding while working full time. This is something I struggled with last time and am determined to tackle this time around.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosThis book is fantastic! Nursing Mother, Working Mother by Gale Pryor covers just the niche of this topic that I wanted to learn more about: overcoming the struggle of breastfeeding and working.

The first couple chapters are focused on what it means to be a working mom. Let’s face it, most of our offices are still dominated by men. A woman is rewarded at work by being as man-like as possible: there is an underlying “societal pressure to surrender or minimize motherhood.” Women in the office are taken (or perceived to be taken?) more seriously when we discount our roles as mothers, accept the long hours and over-commitments to our outside-the-home work and generally live two completely separate lives. Why? Is it not possible to succeed in the corporate world as both a woman and a mother? Is it not possible to schedule your pumping time and your going-home time as you would schedule a project review or staff meeting? I could go on about this for awhile, but the book does move on and so shall I.

What I appreciated about this book is not only the commentary about working mothers but also some breastfeeding science that can help with pumping success. For example, milk is most plentiful in the mornings. Being the analytical and scheduled person that I am, without this knowledge I would pump every 2.5 hours exactly. Now I know that maybe I should pump once at 9, at 11 and then at 2 before leaving at 4 to breastfeed at home.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosMs. Pryor gives this schedule to follow, which of course is a bit different for everyone. I will leave my baby at home with Mr. Handsome and drive 45 minutes to work, so I’ll probably pump three times at work rather than two. But I appreciate a broken-down baseline from which I can build my own plan.

There are lots of basic how-tos in the book as well. How to get started breastfeeding just after birth, troubleshoot problems like blocked ducts or mastitis, how to form a plan for returning to work (find a daycare, a place to pump at work, legal rights to pump at work, etc), the best breast pump features, storing milk and combating fatigue (relax while you’re feeding, skip unnecessary housework, trade something like cable tv for an occasional “maid cleaning).

The only thing I didn’t really like about this book is that not enough credit is given to the dads/partners. I realize that I am extremely, extremely, spoiled in that I have a husband that probably does three times the housework I do, stays home with the kids (two kids!) AND works a few nights a week at the restaurant. Not everyone has a partner who not only chips in but basically handles everything. Ms. Pryor seems to lump all partners into the typical “man role” of being the guy who needs to be constantly nagged in order to get him to simply put the seat down or pick up his underwear. Since she focuses so much on how working women are stereotyped, I find it odd that she turns around and does the same thing to working men.

All in all, though, this is a great book. If I had to pick just one book about breastfeeding, this would be it. Of course that’s because I need the emphasis on returning to work, but all the basic stuff is covered too. The parts about mothering in the workplace really sparked my inner feminist and made me think. I’m sure I’ll be picking this one up again as my maternity leave draws to a close.

Next Review: On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo, MA and Robert Bucknam, MD

Book Review: The Maternity Leave Breastfeeding Plan

PhotobucketTo be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to the title of this book before I started reading it. I kind of thought it had more to do with transitioning from maternity leave back to work and continuing to breastfeed, but supposedly the point of this book is exactly the opposite: enjoy three blissful months of breastfeeding then wean when you return to work.

That isn’t my plan but for some reason I stuck with the book anyway. The thesis of the book pretty much seems to be: give breastfeeding your all while you’re on leave, then don’t feel so bad about yourself if you have to stop when you go back to work. Dr. Wilkoff reminds the reader over and over again that weaning at three months is in no way failing. He believes that taking the pressure off to breastfeed for the recommended year will result in a more relaxed and productive career of breastfeeding during leave.

I’m torn between appreciating his desire to make the reader feel successful, no matter how long her breastfeeding career lasts, and feeling really talked down to and patronized. Like I’m not strong enough to come to grips with my situation of not being able to breastfeed past a certain point. With Kiddo1 I only made it five months but I, like the vast majority of mothers who have to stop short of their goal, realized that my situation couldn’t be changed and my breastfeeding termination was inevitable. Maybe I’m just too/more stubborn than some women and refuse to feel bad about myself.

Needless to say, there are some things I didn’t pay much attention to, like the whole stopping after three months thing. Luckily, Dr. Wilkoff does give a short chapter about continuing to breastfeed after returning to work (he is quick to point out that pumping and working and the energy drain that ensues is a challenge). It’s funny that he’s so intent on not making the reader feel like a failure if she decides to wean upon her return to work, yet he isn’t so encouraging if the reader decides she’d like to continue.

An additional tid-bit I didn’t really like is that Dr. Wilkoff doesn’t give much credit to collostrum (the pre-milk of the first few postpartum days). The Everything Breastfeeding Book and the book I just started, Nursing Mother, Working Mother, seem to think more highly of this substance.

These dislikes aside, the middle of this book contains fantastic tips on getting started and confronting challenges with breastfeeding from the start. Dr. Wilkoff walks through the first few hours, days and weeks of breastfeeding with so much detail that I’ve never received before! Even when I was breastfeeding the last time!

I wanted to jot down a few of my favorite tips. These are more notes for myself to look back on and remember because I’m sure I will forget most of the valuable information from this book over the next few weeks!

  • Accept the uncertainty of nursing.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Try a variety of positions (this not only enables you to find a few that work but helps empty your breasts and increase production from all ducts).
  • It’s okay if baby wants to sleep a bit more than eat for those first few days (but make sure it isn’t a sign of infection). Wake baby up every few hours to attempt a feeding.
  • If you have to supplement with sugar water until your milk comes in, always offer it after a feeding and offer with a syringe/tube combo rather than an artificial nipple.
  • Nurse on demand for the first couple weeks, don’t worry about any sort of schedule (I was totally obsessed with establishing a schedule ASAP with Kiddo1). The more often you nurse, the sooner your milk will come in and your baby will start gaining weight.
  • Don’t become a pacifier. In other words, don’t let baby associate nursing with sleeping time, otherwise she’ll believe that the only way to fall asleep is to nurse. Allow baby to learn to fall asleep on her own. (This is one of my main baby strategies. I used it with Kiddo1 and he learned to fall asleep on his own very quickly and slept “through the night” ie skipped one night feeding by five weeks old. He’s always been an awesome sleeper.)
  • Growth spurts will shake up the feeding schedule. Go with it.
  • Introduce the bottle at around one month, after breastfeeding has been firmly establish but before baby is so used to the breast that she may stubbornly refuse to take the bottle. Introduce it gradually; eventually she will take it.

Some good stuff in there – so much to remember! Who’d have thought such a natural act could be so complicated?!

Bottom line, the middle of this book is great! But the other parts, eh, I could do without someone telling me how I should feel about myself.

Next review: Nursing Mother, Working Mother: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding Your Baby Before and After You Return to Work by Gale Pryor and Kathleen Huggins

Book Review: The Everything Breastfeeding Book

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosSince it has been nine years since my last breastfeeding experience AND I like to be fully prepared for these kinds of things, I’ve started reading books on breastfeeding. The Everything Breastfeeding Book by Suzanne and Ray Fredregill seemed like a good primer to get me reintroduced to this world.

I was correct that this book would be a good reintroduction as it is basically a survey course of all things breastfeeding. The book’s chapters cover topics from supplies needed to common concerns and, of course, diet and exercise. It seems like every facet is addressed, although without too much of the specific details. For some things that I’m really interested in reading more about, such as overcoming challenges related to returning to work, this book barely scratches the surface.

I don’t think this book was a waste of a read at all – like I had hoped, it was a good primer to get me thinking about breastfeeding again – but it did have some pitfalls. For example:

  • There are several different breastfeeding positions covered, each complete with a pretty good illustration except what I would think are the most difficult positions (but extremely useful if needed), the over-the-shoulder and Australian/prone (laying on your back) holds.
  • One thing that I thought was just weird… when choosing which parent will get out of bed to get the baby for a nighttime feeding, the authors actually suggest a game called “I’m sleeping it’s your turn” in which you just lie there and wait for the other person to move. I’m not going to lie, sometimes this is my strategy with our dog (okay it’s always my strategy because I know I can make it way longer than Mr. Handsome) but I don’t think it’s a great idea for a crying, hungry baby. Doesn’t it seem like this would only make the baby more upset and therefore take more time for the baby to latch on and get calmed down? (Of course, I say this now but when it’s the middle of the night and I’m dead tired after a couple weeks of nighttime feedings, we’ll see what happens.) I just don’t think it’s a great suggestion to help ease any tensions about nighttime feedings between two exhausted parents.

These things wouldn’t necessarily keep me from reading this book, in hindsight.

It’s a positive that everything is covered because now I know what kind of information I’m really seeking and can search those books out. I need to know more about fostering positive sleep behavior and successful breastfeeding after returning to work. I didn’t realize those were the things I’d be looking for until I started reading the book and wondering why more detail about them was missing.

Overall a good read but if you’re looking for information on a specific topic or if you only want to read one book on breastfeeding, this book won’t work for you.

Next review: The Maternity Leave Breastfeeding Plan by William Wilkoff

Book Review: Birthing From Within

PhotobucketBirthing From Within is the lucky number seventh book about birth that I’ve read during this pregnancy.

It took me awhile to get through this book, for two reasons. One, being that this is the seventh birth book I’ve read, I’m getting a little restless with birthing so I took my time reading. Two, this isn’t a book you can just whip right through – it requires you to stop and think, reflect, visualize, etc. This latter reason for delay is also what makes this book so great.

I almost felt like I went through a little workshop in the experience of this book. Ms. England speaks of her experiences with leading childbirth classes. One of her favorite ways to help women and couples cope with fears about childbirth and all related things is to make art. She recommends all kinds of subjects for art but mostly about perceptions and expectations of birth. While I didn’t actually make any art, I did take the time to visualize what my art would be like and envision what I thought this birth would be like. I think that alone has helped in working through some of my fears for this birth.

One of my favorite tid-bits from this book was the concept of having a labor project. If you’ve been a reader of my blog you’d know that I love to have a project! Well, Ms. England describes this great birth story of an Amish couple. The Mrs. is basically going about her daily tasks, plus refinishing a rocking chair, while she’s in labor. I love the idea of immersing yourself in some distracting project while allowing your labor to just do its thing. Sure, this isn’t possible in all labors, but I’m willing to give it a try. I need to come up with something to do as a labor project now!

I also like that the benefits of active birth are discussed; very similar concepts that I read in the book Active Birth. I love when a concept shows up in more than one of the books that I read. It gives me the sense that the point is something to really pay attention to, that it has real value.

The section about pain management is great, including the chapter about “surrendering to pain” which kind of sounds easy but, of course, isn’t. It is not about forgetting about the pain or making it go away but rather about working with the pain, being part of it, giving up control and surrendering to what the body needs to do to make it through. Other chapters in this section explain practical techniques such as “Non-Focused Awareness,” breathing exercises, vocalizing, etc.

Honestly, if this book wasn’t good I wouldn’t have made it through because, like I said, I’m tired of reading birthing books! It took me awhile to get into the book but I’m really glad I read it all. I think it helped me to really think about some of my fears, think about letting go of my control issues and giving me productive things to do and think during labor.

Next review: The Everything Breastfeeding Book by Suzanne Fredregill and Ray Fredregill

Book Review: The Waterbirth Book

As you may know, I’m very interested in pursuing a waterbirth so, naturally, I’m reading up about it in order to prepare myself and Mr. Handsome.

The first book I read, Choosing Waterbirth, was a great primer and helped prepare the emotional side of my brain for this experience. This next book, however, took my preparation to a whole new level.

PhotobucketMuch like her book Active Birth, The Waterbirth Book, by Janet Balaskas, is a comprehensive account of every detail of waterbirth that I could possible thing of, and then some.

Ms. Balaskas not only goes over a brief history of waterbirth, cultural uses of water during birth and pain management using water, but she also walks the reader through every stage of water labor and delivery. Any question that was lingering in my mind after reading Choosing Waterbirth has now been answered. Now I’m only left with a list of questions for the hospital about their policies. And an incredible excitement for what we could experience with this birth plan!

Here are some of my questions for the hospital after reading this book:

  • When do you fill up the pool? When we call to say we’re coming in (based on our assumed progress/timing of contractions)? When we get there and progress has been assessed?
  • How long does it take to fill the pool? How is water temperature regulated?
  • What does the pool look like/what is it made of? (Based on photos I’ve seen, our hospital uses inflatable pools that look about 5-6′ in diameter and maybe 2-1/3′ tall.)
  • At what point during labor is the appropriate time to get in the pool? (The book says 5-6 cm dilated, before transition.) Is there a point at which “the window closes” and it’s too late to get in?
  • What things would cause you to ask a woman to leave the pool?
  • How do you manage fetal monitoring? How often do you monitor?
  • Are partners allowed in the pool? During all stages?
  • Is there a time limit for being in the pool? (This book states most births occur within 3-4 hours of getting in the pool.)
  • Can the entire third stage (birth of the placenta) be done in the water or is it preferable that this is done on dry land? Will cord blood banking be effected? (We’re donating to a public bank.)
  • Finally, the big one, will you let Mr. Handsome “catch” and bring our baby up to the surface?!

See, Ms. Balaskas gives you a whole lot of ammo to make sure you’re fully comfortable with hospital policies regarding waterbirth. I’m totally going to rock our class (coming up in June).

There’s also some great tidbits in here from Active Birth; not so much from a physioloical perspective, more like the reiteration that movement and staying upright is helpful whether on “dry land” or in the water. She also points out that the pool actually facilitates movement as you’re less inclined to get into bed and have greater freedom of motion (one of the birth story quotes talked about being able to move quickly from an all-fours position to a squat which is quite a feat on dry land). Plus you’re in your own little bubble where you can be free to concentrate inward which is a major bonus for me.

Choosing Waterbirth was a great book but there’s nothing in it that The Waterbirth Book doesn’t have, plus it has a whole lot more. If you can only read one book about waterbirth, make it this one by Janet Balaskas!

Book Review: Active Birth

This book is so great I literally read it twice. I finished the book and just flipped it right back to the first chapter and starting reading it again. I checked the book out from the library but I’m even thinking about buying it because it is that good. I want Mr. Handsome to read it to so he can help me keep its principles during my labor.

PhotobucketActive Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally by Janet Balaskas is all about moving around and basically getting off your butt (literally) during labor and delivery.

Let me back up: a lot of books about labor talk about listening to your body and doing what comes natural. They talk about moving around to facilitate labor and encourage you not to be embarrassed about assuming (for lack of a better work) “primitive” positions for delivery, such as squatting. They talk about labor in a very touchy-feely way which really, is all fine and good, you should listen to your body, but it gives a sort of flighty vibe to the whole thing.

This book is not like the others. For one, it is very much grounded in science (I like science). Ms. Balaskas proves that labor is much more easy if you move around and assist your body during contractions rather than lying back on a table as in most hospital labors. Did you know that the uterus actually tips forward during a contraction? So if you’re lying on your back the muscle has to work even harder to do what it has to do. But if you’re upright you can bend yourself forward a bit and help yourself out. You can even slow down your labor a bit if needed by coming all the way forward, like an all-fours position.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppScience is in delivery, too. Ms. Balaskas clearly shows how the bones and muscles of the pelvis just open right up when you’re upright or bending over. But if you’re lying on your back the sactococcygeal joint slips the coccyx (science talk!) forward, narrowing the pelvic opening (the bones push together creating less space for baby to pass through).

This info about helpful positioning for labor and delivery is enough to make this book great. But wait – there’s more!

Like Choosing Waterbirth, there are whole chapters devoted to yoga and breathing exercises for pregnancy (one chapter for each). I felt like the poses in this book were a bit more basic than in Choosing Waterbirth, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. They’re perfect for later on in pregnancy when you don’t feel like contorting your body too much at all. Nice and simple. (To be fair, I don’t have Choosing Waterbirth at my side for a direct comparison. I’ve already returned it to the library.)

I love when I book has a chapter about the three stages of labor and delivery because I learn something from every explanation. This one is quite extensive and one of the main reasons why I chose to read the whole book all over again. Not only does it contain insights about what is happening to you and the baby during each stage, it reiterates helpful positions based on stage and situation (like squatting to help move the baby down and open the cervix if things are moving slowly).

There’s a small section about pain-reducing drugs but it isn’t scary – some books present this information in a way that you sort of think they almost want to scare you out of using it. (Hey! Who’s Having This Baby Anyway? was kind of like that. Although it was a very thorough account of each drug and its pros and cons.) This book is more like, “here are the drugs that are available, but you won’t need them because you’ll be such an awesome active birther.” I like that it’s pumping me up for success rather than scaring me into success.

I could go on and on about  the things I love about this book, really. There’s a chapter on waterbirth that is great so I can’t wait to read Ms. Balaskas’ next book, The Waterbirth Book.

If you can’t tell, I highly recommend this book. It’s for sure in my top three pregnancy books that I’ve read so far, it’s actually probably number one. Read it!

Next review:

Book Review: Choosing Waterbirth

A few years ago, a friend of Mr. Handsome and mine told us her waterbirth story (over beers you tend to talk about anything after awhile!). It was such an amazing story that I swore right then and there that I would pursue the waterbirth option in the future if given the chance.

Now that I have been given the chance, ie we are pregnant, have a healthy pregnancy, are seeing the hospital midwives, etc, I’m totally taking the opportunity to birth this way.

Naturally, I’ve been looking for books on waterbirth to supplement the class we’ll be taking in June, however these books are a bit few and far between. Waterbirth isn’t anything new but it has been somewhat slow to gain frequency, especially in this country. I’ve been cruising the local library looking for books on waterbirth. So far I’ve found two so I’ll be reviewing those over the next week or so.

PhotobucketThe first book I found is Choosing Waterbirth: Reclaiming the Sacred Power of Birth by Lakshmi Bertram.

This was a good book for not just an overview and testimony of waterbirth but also preparation for birth and some postpartum tips as well. It has a very “free spirit” sort of vibe – this is good for natural childbirth, of course, but it is very noticible in this book!

The author very much emphasizes natural methods of relaxation not only during birth but as preparation for birth and dealing with day-to-day life in general. There’s a whole chapter on yoga poses which are illustrated and explained well. Plus, it made me feel good that most of the poses I already incorporate in my yoga routine. She also gives a couple great birthing exercises that I’ve been using. They are great!

The chapters on waterbirth helped to answer a lot of the questions I’ve had about this method, such as how big the tub should be, how high the water level should be, when to get in the tub, when to get out, etc. There’s information on some of the perceived risks and how the mother’s body and the baby’s instincts mitigate these risks (such as how babies won’t try to breath in the water and how low the risk of infection is). The chapter on the three stages of labor and delivery was also excellent.

The author publishes six waterbirth stories – all five of her own children’s births plus her sister’s waterbirth. I love reading birth stories. It’s great to hear a first-hand experience. For me, I can’t imagine a better way to prepare than by learning from others’ stories.

This book is a great overview of waterbirth. It helped to answer some of my questions and it gave me enough knowledge to think of more questions, which I think is great. I hope the next waterbirth book helps to give me even more knowledge about what I’m wanting to get myself into. By the time our class roles around in June (and our birth in July!) I think I will be a well-prepared student.

Next Review: Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally by Janet Balaskas