Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mama Knows Breast

Andi Silverman asked me to review her new book, Mama Knows Breast: A Beginner’s Guide to Breastfeeding.

This is not your ordinary how-to-perfect-your-latch or 10-ways-to-fix-thrush technical manual. It’s not a book about how to breastfeed. Instead, it’s a book about how to be a breastfeeding mom. In other words, it’s about the breastfeeding life. Mama Knows Breast includes advice about dealing with runny poop, nursing on the go, engorged/leaky/humongous breasts, horny husbands, or getting the most sleep possible.

Target Audience

I would give this book to a woman who is new to breastfeeding. She is determined to nurse her baby, but she does not have a lot of familiarity with the how-to’s and nitty-gritty details of life as a breastfeeding mom. Nursing pads, plugged ducts, and football holds are all fuzzy terms to her and she wants to figure this whole nursing thing out. It’s the kind of book that tells you what your mom, sister, best friend might say if they were around to give you advice.

This book would appeal less to women who have already nursed, since they will probably have figured most of if out the first time around. However, it would be a great gift for an experienced mom who has never nursed her children before.

This book should be given as a companion to a more technically-oriented breastfeeding book such as Jack Newman’s Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers (one of my personal favorites, but I am sure there are other excellent guidebooks as well). Between the two books, any new nursing mom will have all the answers she needs right at her fingertips. If she’s really struggling with the latch or thrush or sore nipples, she can consult the technical manual for detailed answers. But if she just wants advice, encouragement, or a good laugh to keep her going during a 3 a.m. nursing session, she can turn to Mama Knows Breast.


In her introduction, Andi Silverman sets the tone by reminding us that “mama knows breast”—no matter what your mom, doctor, aunt, or next door neighbor might say, YOU are the best person to decide what’s best for your baby. This book contains helpful advice if you are encountering challenges or even just unanticipated situations. As a pediatrician says in the book's foreword, “The key to success is trying different methods until you find what works for you. Have a sense of humor about it, and don’t give up. Most important, always ask for help....If you aren’t ready to pick up the phone just yet, Mama Knows Breast is a good first stop.” In the introduction, Andi reminds us that “breastfeeding is truly a matter of personal choice. It’s up to you. Your life, your decision. Do some reading, get expert advice, and then make up your own mind.” Her book includes advice and anecdotes from a lot of “ordinary” moms. Just look for the highlighted boxes with the heading “From the Mouths of Moms.” These snippets don’t always say the same things—instead, they show the variety of approaches that women have to breastfeeding.

Mama Knows Breast covers a variety of topics related to breastfeeding: the ups and downs of breastfeeding, basic latch and positioning, myths and realities of breastfeeding (from using medications to adoptive nursing), tricks of the trade from experienced moms, breastfeeding etiquette in public places, how a woman’s significant other can help her with nursing, sex life and relationships, relaxation techniques, and weaning advice.

Andi’s central point is that when it comes to breastfeeding, “mama knows breast.” However, I found that some of the information and advice she included deferred heavily to experts. For example, she included a story from a mom who started supplementing with formula and hired a night nurse because she was “doomed” with a “starving” son who was losing weight. The story ends with the mom extolling the benefits of supplementing! This is definitely not an example you’d expect in a breastfeeding-friendly book. There are also several times she defers to the standard advice to “consult your doctor.” Which is fine if your pediatrician or family doctor is up-to-snuff on breastfeeding, but unfortunately there are a lot of formula-pushing doctors out there.

Design and Layout

Mama Knows Breast measures a petite five by seven inches and has an appealing graphic design. It is quirky and feminine without being fussy or frumpy. From the illustrations by Cindy Luu to the font type and colors, this book has a 1950s retro-chic feel. The main font is robin’s-egg blue, and titles and headings are rocket red. At times, I found the font colors a bit garish and distracting, but they also make the book much more visually appealing than plain black-and-white. Every chapter includes numbered lists and headings that summarize the most important information. If you’re in a hurry (or have a hard time focusing—perhaps your baby is pulling at your hair or poking a finger up your nose) you can easily skim over the main points.

The illustrations show stylized zen mamas with ultra-cute pixie haircuts and yoga outfits, holding roly-poly babies wearing comfortable pajamas. Just looking at the pictures makes me feel cute, sassy, and hip. My only criticism of the illustrations is their simplicity. Sometimes there’s not enough detail for me to make out essential information, such as what a proper latch should look like, or how to do a cross-cradle hold correctly.

Breastfeeding is more than just transferring milk from mother to baby. It's a way of life. Mama Knows Breast tells us what it's really like with sass and style.


  1. that sounds PERFECT for my sister! She's just had her first baby and is book shy. I've wanted to encourage her to be the lactivist that I am but I know that such beliefs come from within, not without. So I step back and I think this book could really help her out.

  2. Andi, the author, here-- thanks for the review. I love that you were able to figure out how to incorporate the photos into the post. You are way more internet/blog savvy than I am. I'm a total spaz with this stuff. So...if anyone has any questions for me about the book, how to write a book, or anything else, fire away.

  3. I scanned a few of the book's pages and the cover. I probably should have asked you first--whoops!--but I figured you wouldn't mind the extra images.

  4. Sounds very cute and useful for a new generation of Mamas, perhaps?

    I am not sure what to think about the supplementing advice, since I have been blessed enough to never have needed to do this--but I have learned through my breastfeeding journey to never say never--and for some Mama out there, it might help her?

    The pics are ADORABLE and I am going to look for it at the bookstore.

  5. Your review makes me think I've found a new gift for non-hard-core-AP mamas...and as you well know, I am adamantly anti-formula...however, if this book can help a mama see that giving a little bit of supplement doesn't mean quitting BFing altogether, I can let that go ;)

    I know for many mamas, BFing is "all or nothing," so work/other can interfere with the "all" end of it. Whatever MY personal decisions and feelings are, if a woman can continue ANY breastfeeding, I want her to know it's an option...
    Thanks for the review. What a cool thing to get to do on your blog!


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