Book Review: Born to Breastfeed: The First Six Weeks and Beyond

born to breastfeed cover.jpgNext to books about pregnancy and childbirth, books about breastfeeding would have to be amongst the most popular books a pregnant person or new parent seeks out.

Educators who set aside a reasonably significant portion of their childbirth education course to breastfeeding will attest to how much anxiety there is amongst pregnant people when it comes to feeding their babies. Myths and "Old Wives’ Tales" abound and most people worry if they will be able to successfully breastfeed - despite the fact that we know that the complete opposite is in fact true. Most new parents WILL be able to successfully breastfeed. So why is it that so many struggle with breastfeeding?

According to the survey results of Listening to Mothers III, only 54% of women reported wanting to breastfeed exclusively, while 27% planned to use a combination of breastfeeding and formula, and 19% planned to use formula only. One week after giving birth, half (50%) of the mothers reported feeding their babies breast milk only.

In Australia, where I live, a slightly different picture emerges initially, but ultimately we also end up with less than ideal outcomes. According to Australia’s Health 2012 statistics, most babies (96%) in Australia were initially breastfed (this is a statistic recorded upon discharge from hospital - which is usually 24 - 48 hours following birth, so hardly a strong indicator of future breastfeeding success!) However, only 39% of babies were exclusively breastfed to around four months; and by six months, only 15% were still being exclusively breastfed.

Unlike the United States, Australian hospitals abide strictly by the WHO Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes and new families will not be given formula samples in hospital. Despite this, the formula companies do a pretty good job of getting their products sold and I have no doubt that the proliferation of so-called “toddler formula” which has no such advertising bans and as such is promoted literally everywhere you look, has been the perfect way to subliminally and insidiously promote infant formula.

We also know that one of the primary barriers to successful breastfeeding is lack of information and support. Even if a parent is determined to breastfeed their baby, without the right support (personal and professional), they are highly unlikely to succeed. Thankfully, there are many excellent support networks out there for new parents. In the United States and many places around the world, La Leche League International provides vital professional and peer-based breastfeeding support. In Australia, we have the Australian Breastfeeding Association, a national organisation with local chapters in every major city and regional centre.

As a Lamaze certified childbirth educator, clients frequently ask me to recommend a good book on breastfeeding. Without question, there have been many wonderful books on breastfeeding that have stood the test of time - but I am always on the lookout for something new that will particularly attract the “Millennial Parents”. In this age of digital technology, getting people to read books at all is a challenge! For that very reason, books need to be reasonably concise, highly visual, practical and easy to navigate. For those reasons and more, I think Rowena Gray’s new book, Born to Breastfeed: the first six weeks and beyond is an absolute winner. At a relatively concise 167 pages, Born to Breastfeed packs in an impressive amount of breastfeeding information. The title tells the reader exactly what the scope of the book is. It’s not about how to successfully breastfeed your child for six months, a year or two years. Gray’s take on it is; let’s just get the first six weeks off to a great start. It’s clever and strategic. Again, as educators, we know that if a person can successfully get to six weeks of exclusive breastfeeding, they are likely to continue to have success in the future.

Rowena Gray headshot 2016.jpgBorn to Breastfeed covers all the essentials; initial attachment and the first feed, the physiology of breastfeeding, feeding and sleeping, correct attachment and positioning, the importance of good nutrition for breastfeeding parent, common breastfeeding difficulties and nipple problems, low milk supply (and oversupply), breastfeeding after breast surgery, mastitis, lip-tie, tongue-tie, medications and breastfeeding and more.

I particularly like the personal stories as told by new mothers that feature throughout the book. They are realistic and relatable. The layout too is excellent. It’s clean, has a good size font that makes it easy on the eyes (especially handy for the tired eyes of a new parent) and I especially like the “troubleshooting” tables that appear throughout the book as well.

The book also features a well-designed index, which makes searching for topics in the book very easy. The author has also included a useful glossary of terms at the back, as well as several blank lined pages at the end for readers to write their own notes.

It’s obvious that Rowena Gray really knows her stuff. As a registered nurse, registered midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), she is well qualified to write a book on breastfeeding. She is also the mother of three young daughters, so she has also been able to draw on her own personal breastfeeding experiences. As a busy LC in private practice, she truly understands the needs of new parents and this is reflected in her comprehensive, but information-packed book.

I have no doubt that Born to Breastfeed will soon become a breastfeeding bible for new parents, resulting in happier and healthier parents and babies reaping the multitude of benefits that only nature’s first food can provide.  I invite you to return on Thursday to read my interview with the author, Rowena Gray.

Have you read this book?  Would you recommend it to new parents yourself?  Would you like to win a free copy of Born to Breastfeed?  Leave a comment on today or Thursday's interview post by December 1, 2016, and you will be entered into a drawing for the book from amongst all who comment.

About Tanya Strusberg

Tanya_Strusberg_2016 headshot cropped.jpgTanya Strusberg is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) and founder of birthwell birthright, an independent childbirth education practice based in Melbourne, Australia. In 2015, Tanya was inducted as an FACCE (Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators) in recognition of her significant contribution to childbirth education. Through her internationally-accredited Lamaze Educator Training program, she is very excited to be training a new generation of Australian Lamaze educators. Last, but absolutely not least, she is also the mother of two beautiful children, her son Liev and daughter Amalia.


Born to Breastfeed

November 22, 2016 11:55 PM by Kelly Brown

Thanks for the book review! It's great to have a new resource and a resource available for this crititial time-period! I teach my students and doula clients to try breastfeeding for six weeks. While it is "natural" that doesn't mean it comes easy! There is learning that takes place on both sides - mother and baby.

Born to Breastfeed

November 23, 2016 04:52 AM by Dawn Kersula LCCE, IBCLC

Always on the lookout for new books on breastfeeding - so thank you for your review!  I always like books that include personal stories; we humans learn so much from stories as well as example.

Born to Breastfeed

November 23, 2016 06:10 AM by Therese

I am excited to be able to tell my clients/students about this evidenced-based breastfeeding book.

Born to Breastfeed

November 25, 2016 12:46 AM by Shelley Stuart

The book sounds fabulous & would be great to have it available to mothers in the antenatal as well as the postnatal period. As a midwife, I remember feeling so fortunate & grateful for the knowledge I had surrounding breastfeeding when I had my own children. I often wondered how women with little knowledge/exposure to breastfeeding (& all that it entails!) managed in those first weeks?!? Knowledge is power & by the sounds of it, Rowena's book should be on every new mothers' bookshelf.

Kelly Brown- You have won a complimentary copy!

December 2, 2016 04:43 AM by Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), CLE

Kelly, please contact me at and I will make arrangements to get your address and have your complementary copy sent on its way to you!  Congratulations!

Sharon Muza

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