The New Motherly Art of Conscious Breastfeeding

By Máire Clements RN, IBCLC

The Breastfeeding Salon LLC., New York, 2009
pp. 137, $97

Reviewed By Carolyn Dean, MD, ND

Women today lead very different lives from their ancestors and are very influenced by the prevailing culture when it comes to breastfeeding. For many, breastfeeding seems to be a matter of opinion rather than a necessity for their child. Success or failure at breastfeeding will vary based on their preconceived notions.

As a Maternal-Child health nurse, and a full-time lactation consultant for over two decades, Máire Clements embraces an holistic and objective understanding of the process of breastfeeding. She calls it Conscious Breastfeeding. She shares this simple, but powerful approach to breastfeeding success in a new multi-media ebook "The New Motherly Art of Conscious Breastfeeding".

Her book gives us the historical perspective on how we have arrived at the current notion of breastfeeding as a choice (and not a requirement) and that it must be led by the baby. Breastfeeding needs to work in the cultural context where it is being done or it unfortunately will not be the choice made by many expectant mothers. Ms. Clements notes that the profession of lactation consulting grew out of an understanding that a baby may actually need to learn how to breastfeed. This seems counter-intuitive, because aren't all babies born with the sucking and suckling reflex? But the signals from a mother who doesn't know how to breastfeed can be picked up by the baby and lead to a major disconnection. Ms. Clements explains that in much the same way that birth has been forced into a medical model that puts emphasis on external measurements and conformity, breastfeeding has increasingly become more about weight and measurements, pumping prowess, and less about optimizing the actual miracle of breastfeeding.

The central theme of "The New Motherly Art of Conscious Breastfeeding" is that the mother needs to take responsibility for her breastfeeding outcome. She must learn the skill of a deep, pain-free latch and then teach it to her baby. Or more appropriately, show her baby that she can do it! Being fully engaged in each breastfeeding session ensures optimal comfort for mom and intake of milk by her baby. In time, rhythms of digestion, sleep and family life develop from the foundation of quality feeding sessions.

The mother, who may never have seen it done and can't imagine doing it, can indeed learn how to latch her baby and can optimize this connection and the bond over time. Knowing it is doable, having the intent to do it, and being in the moment are all factors in the dynamic of breastfeeding. Babies are sensate beings, they really do know what to do and the mother is the thinking partner who can put it all together.

That breastfeeding is foundational has been missed in breastfeeding education. Realizing that the latch is a skill is most empowering because it can be learned and incrementally improved. Breastfeeding should be seen as the pivotal point of an infant transitioning to life outside the womb and being embraced fully by his/her family and community.

Carolyn Dean, MD, ND is medical director, Nutritional Magnesium Association.