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Spilled Milk: Breastfeeding Adventures and Advice from Less-Than Perfect Moms by Andy Steiner
208 pages Rodale Books August 2005 Paperback rated 4 out of 5 stars   

Reading Spilled Milk is like finding an instant bevy of best friends, all of whom have experienced the various trials and tribulations of feeding a baby via the breast. Andy Steiner is nothing if not enthusiastic, candid, and thorough; she covers a gamut of topics related to breastfeeding, much in the same sassy vein as the popular Girlfriend Guides. Refusing to shy away from issues like sex, public exposure, and what happens when a body refuses to breastfeed, Steiner delivers a thoroughly non-judgmental series of anecdotes and statistically supported research notes with flair and talent.

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the absurd can all be found in this book under headings such as “You Got A Problem With That?” or “Ouch!” or my favorite, “Romancing The Pump.” Women like Jackie, mother of twins, describe the loss of control, both physical and emotional, during the first few months of breastfeeding and how that translated into neglecting her own physical needs. Lisa daringly reveals a secret fantasy involving breast milk, her husband, and “the heat of passion.” Kristin remembers the exhausting lengths she traveled to get her employer to provide a clean, well-lit pumping room for nursing mothers. Dozens of others share their own personal stories about that most unnatural of natural processes - nursing their infant babies.

Contemporary women of the Western hemisphere, or at least the United States, traditionally miss out on seeing their mothers, their aunts, their friends, and strangers at the mall nursing their babies and therefore we’re left dangling with no pre-established network of knowledge and support when the hungry baby arrives and demands access to our previously superfluous appendages. Steiner makes this point several times. In a way, though, we’re lucky; on the flip side of the coin, we have plenty of fumbling, leaking, and squirting to look back and laugh at.

One theme constantly referred to in each chapter is that of guilt. Guilt for breastfeeding too long, not long enough, not at all, guilt over working or not working, guilt over method of birth, manner of feeding, state of marriage. Apparently this is one thing all mothers share, whether they breastfeed their child until kindergarten or for a few weeks in the very beginning. Reading this a short month after weaning my second fifteen month old from the breast, I felt both pangs of envy for the women still going strong and rushes of relief that I no longer have to choose my wardrobe according to my son’s feeding schedule. Mostly, though, I felt a sense of kinship for all these women struggling with the opposing tugs between self and child, and the wealth of guilty feelings this often unspoken conflict creates. I hope to see more books from Andy Steiner, other invitations to reflect on the experience of maneuvering outside the usual sphere of social experience.
Parenting book reviews and books for educators, teachers, and librarians

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Andi Diehn/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book

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