Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review: The Nursing Mother's Companion

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During my pregnancy with McKenna, my insurance company sent me The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins. I didn't really think it would come in handy for me to be perfectly honest. I had, after all, already nursed two children successfully for one year each. I had spent two of the last 3.5 years nursing a child. While that doesn't make me an expert, I thought I would have little need for a book dedicated to nursing. I didn't have one while nursing my other two and made it just fine.

Well, I have found it to be helpful and informative. Yes, there is a lot in it that I don't have need of (discussion of how to latch and different positions to hold), but I have found a lot of helpful information. It is very complete, which isn't surprising since the entire book is dedicated to nursing.

Here are some of the sections found in this book:

  • Preparing for breastfeeding
  • Ensuring milk supply
  • Survival guides by week and later month
  • Caring for breasts
  • Breastfeeding difficulties
  • Concerns about baby in various age groups
  • Nursing adopted babies
  • Relactation
  • Nursing with thyroid issues (and other special circumstances)
  • Nursing premature babies
  • Nursing multiples
  • Nursing babies with physical defects or neurological problems
  • Nutritional needs
  • Herbal supplements
  • Nursing with illnesses and medications
  • Breast infections
  • Reflux, colic, etc.
  • Pumping and storing milk
  • Biting
  • Weaning
  • Nursing toddlers
  • Nursing during pregnancy
  • Tandem nursing
  • Resource list for nursing mothers
  • Charts for determining milk needs for babies birth to 6 weeks
While I have found this to be a helpful book, take note that it is a nursing book. As you might expect, it is not a book that is positive about schedules. In fact, she has a section where she addresses Parent Directed Feedings, though she never says "Babywise." She said, "...the program teaches parents to feed babies on a rigid three to four-hour schedule and to eliminate nighttime feedings at an early age. The purpose is to relieve parental anxiety and instill a sense of order and discipline in the infant...these practices are often associated with low milk production, poor weight gain in the baby, and early weaning. Some babies subjected to this method have become dangerously thin and dehydrated" (pages 126-127).
Perhaps there are other "Parent Directed Feeding" books out there? If not, then she is referring directly to Babywise, and just plain wrong. I actually read this section first as I flipped through the book. It irritated me so much that I put the book down. I didn't want to bother with it. If she was that wrong about PDF, then how could I trust other things she said? However, I have found helpful information in the book.
I want to address some of her points. First, PDF is not "rigid." I feel like going through Babywise and counting the number of times it says to feed baby when baby is hungry no matter how long it has been. It says that a lot. That is not rigid. Also, it is not a four hour routine for a newborn. It is 2.5-3 hours.
Another point is that the parent doesn't eliminate the nighttime feeding at an early age. The infant does. If the infant doesn't do it on her own, the parent will help eliminate it if the parent feels the child does not actually need the nighttime feeding anymore. This does not typically happen until the child is close to three months old.
The purpose of PDF is NOT "to relieve parental anxiety and instill a sense of order and discipline in the infant," but rather to stabilize metabolism so the baby can eat at regular intervals and sleep at regular intervals. Baby also then takes in full feedings each time she eats, getting plenty of hind milk if she is breastfeeding. Baby is then able to take a full nap, which helps brain synapses to form and helps baby to grow well. Baby is well rested and able to make the most of her waketime. PDF is for the benefit of the baby. It also helps the rest of the family to add baby to the family, not revolve life around the family. Some parents might be fine revolving life around one child, but what do you do when you have more than one? Something has to give.
As far as "low milk production, poor weight gain in the baby, and early weaning," all I can say is that I have never had a problem with any of those things. I have an entire post refuting this sentiment (see "related posts" section below).
Okay, now that I am done with my soapbox, despite the anti-PDF sentiment (it is only a few paragraphs), this book does have its helpful points and I find it valuable as a reference book.



Meg said...

It drives me crazy too, to hear such lies about babywise. Every time my daughter has had her Doctors check ups, she is always declared to be perfectly healthy, unusually happy and well behaved, and a wonderful nurser. I don't know a single babywise mom (and all my friends are babywise mom's) who would let their child go hungry... Anyway, before I get carried away, thanks for the book review :)

The Culbertsons said...

Thanks for the review. I have had actually ordered this book from Amazon last week because you used as a resourse on a Newborn Summary. I had a very hard time nursing my first child and want all the info I can get to successfully nurse my second who is due in 3 weeks! I trusted your judgment and went ahead and ordered. After reading the review, I'm even happier I have ordered it.


Angela said...

Girl, don't even get me started..


Jennifer said...

I also appreciated this book. I read it before my LO was born and thought I knew everything I could about nursing. Haha. I was glad to have it around after I got back from the hospital as a reference. However, I was glad I just checked it out from the library because within a few weeks everything was going well and I didn't feel like I needed it anymore.

I really appreciated your comments about PDF. Sometimes I feel like some BW moms are doing just what she says--their babies hit 8 weeks and they start to wonder why they aren't STTN so they let them CIO right away to eliminate that night time feeding. When my LO STTN it was because one night she just didn't wake up for that feeding. She was almost 11 weeks, but I felt great about that. Thank you for clarifying that here.

Emily said...

i have a 10 week old son who is already 14lb and is a babywise baby who is also exclusively breastfed! he's happy and content and never cries unless he is sleepy! i also have more breastmilk than i know what to do with so the anti-babywise people are wrong in every aspect!

Val said...

I remember when I told a few people I was going to follow Babywise, I got a few of those comments as well. "Don't you know Babywise kills babies!", "there have been babies that have starved to death when parents do that!"
After talking with a few nannies, I could see how these statements could be slightly validated. One nanny told me that a mother handed her the book and said, "do NOT feed before 3 hours no matter what! Have you read this book!" and our current nanny said that she had one woman who she was night nannying for, and this woman told her that if the baby cried she was to give it a pacifier but nothing else because this book says that after 8 weeks, no more nightfeedings.

I think Babywise could harm a baby, but it is on the fault of the parent/reader. They forget to read that "flexible" part and the part that, as you mentioned, if your baby is hungry...feed them!

Nathan and Rachel Greenfield said...

i used this book as a first-time mom also and i found it helpful as well. unfortunately, a lot of material out there goes against (and even bashes) BW principles, but i just brush that off and find what's helpful in the book.

i think that's why i like baby whisperer stuff so much because it has a lot of the same values and principles as BW.

CO Mom said...

My birth instructor gave me this book and it is great! Any question you could possibly have about nursing is discussed. It is very informative about potential problems you could have and how to deal with them. I had a hard time reading the book once I came across the PDF myths that are presented as fact. There are so many misconceptions about BW out there. Still a good book for nursing moms.

Kristi said...

I just laugh to myself when people (specifically lactation specialists) tell me I can't nurse on a schedule. We've been doing bw since birth, and I'm still nursing my 9 month old twins! I used to get upset, but now it just makes me laugh. Anyone who read the bw book and does what it says couldn't starve their baby. Maybe those parents who missed the "flexible" part have poor reading comprehension? :) They clearly didn't get the point or method.

Is the chapter on adoptive mothers nursing positive? My sister is hoping to adopt this year, and she really wants to nurse if she can. She's trying to research the possibilities and looking for good books to help her out. Thanks!

overlyactive said...

Amen. I get annoyed with judgemental comments.

Plowmanators said...


You are welcome :)

Plowmanators said...


You are welcome! I hope it is helpful to you.

Plowmanators said...


lol...I know, I could go on and on.

Plowmanators said...

Jennifer, you are welcome :) I think that most BW babies actually consistently STTN later than 7-8 weeks. At least from what I see and here. It does happen, but there is a significant percentage that are just older. There is nothing wrong with that :)

Plowmanators said...

Emily, unfortunately, facts of how well a baby is doing does nothing to even make them pause and think it is okay. They basically say, "well, that is nice it works for your baby, but lots of babies die."

Plowmanators said...

Val, I am sure there are those parents out there. But in that case, it still isn't Babywise doing it because that isn't what Babywise said to do. It is the parents misinterpreting what they read, or just deciding their baby must fall into that norm of sleeping through the night by 8 weeks. They want a book to tell them what their individual baby needs, and a book can never do that. A parent who is that way is likely to run into problems no matter what methodology they follow because no book can adjust to a particular situation.

Plowmanators said...


That is just what you have to do when you read books. Take what works for you, leave what doesn't. It is nice to find books that are compatible with each other like the Baby Whisperer, I agree.

Plowmanators said...

Thanks CO Mom, I agree!

Plowmanators said...

Kristi, That is funny :) Nursing twins for 9 months is impressive no matter what methodology you follow. I have a good friend who is a lactation consultant. She insists you can't nurse on a schedule, even when I point to my three children as evidence that you can.

Yes, the nursing an adopted baby stuff is positive. It is very encouraging, even if a mother can't provide all the milk through breastfeeding (which is apparently common with adoptive mothers). She would probably find it helpful.

Plowmanators said...

So true, Overlyactive.

Kathryn said...

Thank you for the review! My mom just sent me the book and after reading the misinformation about PDF I almost chucked the book. Lol

Good to know it was helpful for other information.

Plowmanators said...

I know--it can be annoying. And when you read something that gets something like that so wrong, it is hard to trust the other information. But there is good stuff in this book.


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