What if?

  • Post category:Mothering
  • Reading time:6 mins read

“With our first baby, I had a very difficult birth and my milk just didn’t come in.  I didn’t know what to do so we started him on formula when I got home from the hospital.  I really wanted to do it differently for our next child.  I planned more when I got pregnant again – found LLL and did a lot of reading.  It wasn’t easy this time either but with persistence and a lot of support we got our girl latched on and my milk finally came in.  We’re so glad!  But now sometimes I can’t help wondering when our son is sick, is that because of the formula?  Or when my daughter seems to developing faster in some way, maybe because she got my milk…  Do other mothers have problems with “what ifs” and “if onlys” like these?”


Karen Taylor-Lewis, Te Awamutu – Yes and yes to the many “what ifs” and “if onlys” of raising children. When I discuss my thoughts with my husband, I am regularly told I think too much about things I can’t change! So I try and make sure that I don’t blame myself and instead remind myself I did the best I could, with the knowledge I had, at the time.  If possible I learn something for the future: e.g. think proactively and take care that all the food I provide my children is the best nutrition possible, especially after giving them the best start with breast milk.

Lisa Ross, Hibiscus Coast – You did the best you could with the knowledge and support and experience you had at the time. Everyone has moments of hindsight. You can’t know for sure if your son gets sick because he had formula from a young age, just as I can’t know for sure that my daughter has allergies because I gave her something other than breast milk in the early weeks. Had we known what we know now, we may have done things differently, but we didn’t. Acknowledge it as a maybe, then move forward, knowing you are doing the best with the knowledge and support you have now.

Bea Lorimer, Waiheke Island – I only have one daughter, whom I breastfed, so I don’t have the same perspective of comparing one to another, but I do sometimes question certain behaviours and traits of hers and wonder if they would be different if I’d reacted in another way.  We want our children to become the best they can, so I think it’s perfectly normal to question some things.

We need to trust that we are making the best decision we can in any given moment- and there’s more than one “right” choice. Kids are resilient, and as long as we’re giving lots of love – and making decisions with the best intentions – they will surely bounce back from any “wrong” choice we’ve made.

Claire Hargest-Slade, Timaru – The “if onlys” really get to us as mothers –  if I had more knowledge, more support, the baby’s health status had been better or different –  these are feelings of regret and grief; perfectly natural responses to an unexpected outcome in regards to feeding your first baby . Often when mothers have subsequent babies the painful feelings of perceiving they have failed or deprived their child can be triggered and resurface.

Blaming yourself or others can be an attempt to regain control of a situation that you may have felt powerless in. Remembering that you did the very best that you were able to do in the situation can be comforting. However you fed your son, your deep and loving commitment to being his mother is evident.  Instead of comparing the health of the two children, perhaps see your second experience as a positive chance to heal the hurts of the first for you. Well done on persevering through what sounds like a tricky start!

Adith Stoneman, Kelston Group, Auckland – I believe that mothers have the word guilt written all over their foreheads.  Even fathers do.  We, with the wisdom of hindsight, know that we could have done things differently or could have responded differently.  Yet it is just that: “wisdom of hindsight”.  What is most important is that we learn from it.  We can make a difference by educating other mothers about the importance of a healthy pregnancy, of the great start in life by experiencing a vaginal birth, of the importance of skin to skin contact, the truth that breastfeeding can be hard work but it is absolutely worth it.

The founding mothers of La Leche League had a variety of experiences in regards to breast and bottle feeding.  They decided to set up a support network and to pass on the lessons they had learned to other mothers. And look what an effect this has had.  Be proud to be part of LLL; be proud to be part of a group of mothers and fathers who are making a difference in our world. Guilt is not a helpful emotion.   You are a loving mother who wants the best for her children.   Be proud of the efforts you make every day to ensure the best for your children.

Kathy Deacon, Invercargill – Well done that you have managed to feed your little girl; it sounds like she is thriving on your milk.  It is sad that you were not able to breastfeed your son. You sound like you have regrets and wonder if his health could have been better. We promote breastfeeding as the best food for babies and sing its praises for optimum health, so it is only natural for you to wonder if things could have been different.

We are lucky in this country that we have good quality formula and a clean water supply. Without a constant supply of donor milk being readily available in this country at present, your baby received the best that was available.  Without the formula he could have been a very sick wee boy.  It must be frustrating to wonder why it didn’t work out the first time round, but I’m sure he received all the love and care you could give him. It is wonderful that you found good support and information to breastfeed your daughter.  You will be enriched by both experiences and will no doubt be a great source of comfort and support for other mothers.

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The Nursing Mother’s Herbal

The Nursing Mother’s Herbal

Written by Sheila Humphrey, RN, IBCLC, and LLL Leader, this is a comprehensive and wellresearched
book about herbal use during breastfeeding and one that completely supports
breastfeeding. The use of herbs and natural remedies during lactation dates back to the earliest
breastfeeding mothers and many families now turn to natural remedies before allopathic
medicine to maintain good health and prevent illness, taking a proactive stance rather than a
reactive “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” stance. Sheila’s grandmother was a “plant person
whose medicine didn’t include anything from a doctor” as were her parents and Sheila also
married a botanist so using plants to maintain health is a way of life that is intrinsic to her.
The Nursing Mother’s Herbal integrates information about ways that herbs and natural remedies
can benefit or could possibly harm the breastfeeding dyad with practical breastfeeding solutions.
It is a very easy-to-read book and is written in a warm, reassuring manner with its primary
emphasis on the value, benefits and process of breastfeeding. The author’s extensive experience
in lactation support is clearly reflected in the breastfeeding information presented in the book, to
the benefit of mothers, Leaders or health professionals. The reader is consistently urged to seek
the help of an LLL Leader as her primary resource or is referred to LLL resources.
The Nursing Mother’s Herbal’s comprehensive information about the use of hundreds of herbs
and natural remedies during breastfeeding is also highly accurate, bringing together the wisdom of
the herbalists and the knowledge of the scientists. The book includes an extensive table of plant
safety, listing several hundred herbs, a discussion of herbal products, explanations of alternative
healing options, as well as herbal resources and websites. Sheila Humphrey has included just
about everything you would want to know about this subject. She has also included information
on specific herbal remedies for various situations and always the information is presented in a
conservative and safe manner, with clear reminders that the book is not a substitute for medical

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 14 Number 2

The Nursing Mother’s Herbal
By Sheila Humphrey
Fairview Press, USA, 2003
Reviewed by Trudy Hart (LLL Leader and Homeobotanical Therapist)

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Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family

Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family

This is the new nutrition and cookbook from LLLI – the old favourite, Whole Foods for the Whole
Family is now looking rather old, battered and dated. This isn’t just a cookbook – in fact there are
only 75 recipes in the whole book, it also gives vital information about nutritional needs (and what
foods to avoid) at various stages of life. It is divided into sections which cover the gamut of
nutrition, looking after yourself, solids, family foods and weaning in a lovely ‘conversation’ style,
punctuated with some delicious and nutritious recipes. One reviewer really wishes it had been
around when she was a new mum as it would have been a handy kitchen manual.
It generally has a relaxed approach, full of great ideas, like ‘foods you can eat with one hand’,
meals that give you more nutritional value, child-pleasing recipes, make-ahead and no-cook meals
as well as ideas for if you don’t eat meat. It has a good discussion about solids readiness and
baby-led introduction of solids and weaning. A few old favourites from Whole Foods for the Whole
Family are included, along with many new recipes. It often refers to the Womanly Art of
Breastfeeding and other LLLI books, but it doesn’t really talk about breastfeeding itself, except in
terms of stages and lifestyle and looking after yourself while breastfeeding.
The recipes use imperial measurements rather than metric, although there are conversion charts
at the back of the book. A few of the ingredients may be unfamiliar to some New Zealand readers,
but LLLNZ is inserting a glossary into each book to clear up any possible confusion.
The photos are lovely – although some may find them staged, and a little unreal. This is not a
cookbook with a photo for each recipe, although those that have been photographed look very
tempting. It is a very contemporary looking book and will appeal widely.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 14 Number 3

Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family
Good Nutrition and Healthy Cooking for New Moms and
Growing Families
LLLI, Ballantine Books, USA, 2012
Reviewed by Lorraine Taylor and Rosemary Gordon, LLLNZ

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Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding

Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding

This is a revised edition of the book first published in 1992 and previously reviewed in New
Beginnings, Volume 13, Number 1, Jan-Feb 1997. There are not a great many changes, apart from
some more emphasis on the obesity epidemic sweeping the Western world. Some concerns were
expressed in the original review and these probably still stand, together with the fact that the
author hasn’t updated all references to starting solids at around six months rather than the older
standard of four months or four to six months. Some of the ideas about good healthy foods seem
a bit strange, although maybe they constitute a relatively good diet compared with many
Americans’ food choices!
However, the reasons for the original recommendation of this book for Group Libraries are also
still relevant. The author, a registered dietician, provides a lot of good advice on eating well and
losing weight slowly while breastfeeding – no diet fads or large weight loss here. She includes
weekly meal suggestions, recipes from her own kitchen, and information about what to avoid or
take only in moderation. Special situations like colic, food allergies, diabetes etc are also covered.
This book is easy to read and you can dip in and out of it as the need arises for specific
information. Some of the references and suggested resources are now out-of-date, for example,
the latest Womanly Art of Breastfeeding mentioned is the 2004 edition. However, the book fills a
niche on a subject that often arises among breastfeeding mothers.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 15 Number 2

Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding
Revised Edition
By Eileen Behan
Ballantine Books, USA, 2006

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Children’s Health A to Z for New Zealand Parents

Children’s Health A to Z for New Zealand Parents

This book by paediatrician, Dr Leila Masson, a member of LLLNZ’s Professional Advisory
Group, provides extremely comprehensive information about how to help our children get
better and stay well naturally.
The first section focuses on lifestyle choices that will help keep everyone healthy, identifying
the four steps parents can take towards optimal health for their child/children. These steps
are: nutrition, sleep, healthy lifestyle and avoiding environmental toxins. The author’s dislike
for sugar is portrayed in the nutrition page; however, there are a few nutritional ideas other
well researched nutritionists would disagree on. Having said that, compromises sometimes
need to be made, and the nutritional and other lifestyle advice is great for the novice to a
healthy way of living. On page 26, ‘What about co-sleeping?’, the author mentions that it is
safe from three months of age to co-sleep if certain measures are in place. This contradicts
some of the advice in the LLLI book, Sweet Sleep. However the author does recommend this
book for further reading.
In the next part (Part 2), she groups the information in alphabetical order under 20 common
health issues experienced by children as they are growing up. Each chapter includes a
diagnostic ‘Questions to Ask’ section that helps parents decide about the significance of the
symptoms displayed and the type of action needed, from getting medical help immediately
to reading the information she provides. There are plenty of suggestions for natural athome
treatments, as well as some suggestions for prescribed and OTC medications.
In the final part (Part 3,) Dr Masson includes a diverse range of subjects (in no particular
order) that range from mineral-rich foods through how to teach your child to swallow
capsules and finishes with ‘5 steps towards positive parenting.’
The design of the book is superb: the layout, with use of headings, bullet points, cute
photos, caution icons and the uncrowded pages makes it an easy read. The book includes
Endnotes listing scientific references and a comprehensive index that also includes subheadings.
Dr Masson also includes many useful websites throughout the book where
parents can source additional information from reliable sources.
Caution: Don’t try to read this book straight thought as you would a novel you could be
overwhelmed with all that could go wrong – but rarely wouldn’t. Far better to treat is as a
reference book or dictionary and use the index to look up only what you need when you
need it.
With the plethora of childrearing books available here from overseas it is refreshing to have
a book written in our ‘heart’ language (New Zealand English) that also reflects the medical
system we have here rather than the unfamiliar and different systems in other countries.
The book will be helpful to and appeal to parents and caregivers. Children’s Health is
approved for Group Libraries, but please note that there are contradictions in the sleep
section with other LLL material, and there are numerous recommendations for certain
branded supplements and medicines (LLLNZ does not usually make such recommendations).

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 17 Number 5

Children’s Health A to Z for New Zealand Parents
Dr Leila Masson
David Bateman Ltd, NZ 2015
Reviewed by Jeannie McNaughton and Janette Busch

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