Get any group of mothers with young children together- or even just two of us—and the stories start coming. Labor stories, teething stories, blowout-diapers-in public stories, the list goes on. It’s refreshing to hear someone reassure you that no, you’re not the only one who has experienced the joys, fears, and constant battle with bodily fluids that mark the first few years of motherhood.
Maggie Singleton’s compilation, Milk Diaries, does in print what we do naturally. It tells stories. The beauty of the book is that these stories are fresh, honest, and completely uncensored. These women have laughed, cried, struggled, smeared on the lanolin, and soldiered on, doing exactly what we mammals were designed to do: nurse their babies. Anyone who hasn’t been through the experience cannot truly understand the myriad of emotions, pressures, and sheer exhaustion that nursing entails. Yes, it’s natural, but no, it’s not instinctive. And in the West, we have a few generations behind us who were almost entirely raised on formula, so for a time there, it was almost a lost art.
Because of the popularity of formula since the 1950s, we have a large number of women today who want to nurse their babies but lack support. Perhaps their mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, etc. all used formula and either don’t understand breastfeeding or find it “creepy.” I was lucky to have a mother who nursed me and who was incredibly supportive when I learned to nurse my first son, then unexpectedly struggled with my second son. I needed her support and guidance during a very difficult first week. A short time later, a friend of mine delivered her second baby. She had talked to me about nursing late in her pregnancy, and I wrote her a long email explaining everything I’d learned from the lactation consultant when my son just couldn’t latch on. She was grateful because her mother had passed away, and the other women in her family used formula. She needed support, too, to make nursing work.
Milk Diaries is broken into sections: Stories of Determination (get out the Kleenex for this one); Stories of Humor (my favorite); Stories of Wisdom (great tips here!); and Stories of Confidence (you go, girl!) Each of these has several short entries—diary entries, if you will—that detail their best and worst experiences as nursing mothers. And not all of them “succeeded.” Part of the honesty is admitting what Maggie writes in the forward: there is no such thing as Supermom.
Before the stories start, there is a lengthy introduction with tips, resources, and ideas shared by Maggie herself. She’s done her research, and the intro alone is worth reading before the baby comes. The shorter entries would make great reading before or after baby arrives. I would have poured over this in the early days with Lucas, if it had existed then.
This book would not replace The Nursing Mother’s Companion or similar “how to” books, but that’s not its goal. What this book does is add another voice to the conversation, and it’s the voice of a friend—a whole roomful of friends—letting mothers know, “Hey. You’re not alone, and you can do this. And here’s a napkin for that spit-up on your shirt.”
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