Earlier this week I reviewed Andi Silverman’s new book Mama Knows Breast: A Beginner’s Guide to Breastfeeding. Today Andi answers questions about her own experience with breastfeeding and the process of writing her book.
Did you have any difficulties breastfeeding?
My biggest problem with breastfeeding was that I had no idea what I was doing when our first son was born. I realized I knew more about my stroller, car seat and crib than I did about my boobs and feeding a baby.
Even though I had some parenting books and had taken a breastfeeding class, I often felt at a loss. I didn’t know what to do when I had horrible engorgement the first week after birth; I didn’t know how to find the right breast shield size for my pump; I didn’t know that babies ate around the clock and that I would be utterly exhausted. For some reason, I ideally expected breastfeeding, and taking care of a newborn, to be easy. So I experienced a sense of shell shock. I remember sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby at 3 a.m., wondering if it ever got easier.
Did you hire a lactation consultant and if so, how did she help you?
I never hired a lactation consultant, but I found some wonderful LC’s who helped me through these problems. I called the hospital where our son was born and an LC gave me advice on treating the engorgement. I went to the store where I bought my pump, and an LC helped me get the right breast shield. Then when I was weaning our first son, and clueless once again, an LC at the hospital gave me some pointers.
What’s your favorite piece of advice for new mothers?
I have my nursing advice, and my general parenting advice. For nursing, I try to figure out what the mom’s objectives are for breastfeeding or using formula. Once I know she wants to breastfeed, I recommend getting the telephone number of a lactation consultant before the baby is born. That way, if she needs help, she won’t have to scramble to get a recommendation. Second, I try to gently remind moms that newborns eat around the clock, and sometimes need to be woken up to eat if they are extremely sleepy. This is important to nourish the baby and to establish milk supply.
For general parenting advice, I tell a mom to keep an open mind since her opinions and attitudes will probably evolve once the baby is born. If she recognizes this, it can make the transition to parenting easier. For instance, someone who is convinced she’ll go back to work, might decide to stay home. The opposite can happen too. Someone who thinks she’ll stay home, may decide to go back to work. Of course this example assumes the mom has the financial ability to make a choice. But the basic idea is that it helps to remain flexible in your approach to parenting.
I also suggest lining up a support team of family, friends, and hired help if you can afford it. There’s no reason to struggle through all of this alone. Things are definitely easier if you have extra hands. It took me a long time to accept the fact that I needed help and couldn’t do everything on my own.
What are your feelings about breastfeeding, now that you’ve weaned?
I miss it. It almost makes me want to have another baby! But we’re done. We don’t want to be out numbered by our kids.
How did your Mama Knows Breast website influence the writing of your book?
Running my blog Mama Knows Breast connected me to moms around the world who wanted to talk about breastfeeding. It’s been amazing sharing stories and information with other moms. On a practical level, running the blog also helped me find resources and people (like you!) who helped me with some of the content of the book.
One of the things that has impressed me the most, in writing this book, is that every single woman has a story to tell about breastfeeding. Maybe it’s a story about getting mastitis, feeding the baby on an airplane, finding the best nursing bra, pumping in the office, or weaning a toddler. Everyone has an experience she’ll never forget.
How was the process of finding a publisher for the book? Did publishers balk at breastfeeding as a topic?
Book publishing is tough. I first got the idea to write the book in March of 2005. I had a light bulb moment, when I realized there wasn’t a book like this available for new moms. I envisioned a hand-book of practical information and cool illustrations; the tone would be light-hearted and realistic.
I then wrote a book proposal, a 50+ page document that explained the book and had a sample chapter. I used the proposal to find an agent. And finding an agent wasn’t easy. I had at least 10 people say they didn’t think the book would fly. Finally, I found Katherine Fausset, of Curtis Brown, Ltd., and she “got it.” She intuitively understood what the book was all about.
Katherine helped me improve the proposal I had written, and once that was done, she started shopping it to publishers. Again, rejection after rejection. Many publishers thought the topic was too controversial. Some thought the parenting market was over-crowded. And then, at long last, Quirk Books “got it.” Among their many titles, they have a line of parenting books that have excellent information with a clever tone. “Mama Knows Breast” was a perfect fit. I think I cried when they called to say they wanted to buy the book from me.
Do you have plans for another book?
I’m still working through the idea stage of my next book. But I’ve also got a lot to do with Mama Knows Breast right now. Not to mention the two little boys who call me Mama!