Compiled by Anne Altshuler, RN, MS, IBCLC
Images children see in books have a powerful and long-lasting impact. Book illustrations allow parents and children to point out familiar objects and activities as well as to become acquainted with new people, places and customs. Nursing toddlers take great delight in seeing other children like themselves getting comfort and nurture at their mothers’ breasts. Older siblings of nursing infants also benefit from seeing other babies breastfeeding.
It is relatively rare to find such images in children’s books. At a time when health recommendations strongly support exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with the addition of appropriate complementary foods until a child is at least one to two years old and beyond, it is unfortunate that our books for children continue to portray bottle- feeding as the norm. This situation serves to perpetuate the public belief that bottle-feeding is the norm, and also to pass bottle- feeding on to future generations as appropriate while leaving breastfeeding mostly unseen and unusual. The more that breastfeeding can be presented as a normal part of everyday life, the more accepted it will become. It’s especially nice to find books where fathers
interact with their young babies in a multitude of ways other than by feeding them a bottle. Some examples would be holding, talking to the baby, carrying in a sling, bathing, changing, reading, singing, rocking, etc. Such images serve as good models for both children and the adults who read books with them.
Some books by breastfeeding advocates get the feeding message right. However, it is not an easy task to write and illustrate a book for children that will last through repeated readings and retain a child’s and parent’s interest over time, let alone become a cherished favorite. When a book appears with good information, good role modeling, fine art work and an interesting, well-told story, it is indeed reason to celebrate.
Here are some examples of breastfeeding being presented normally in children’s books. Many can be found in the local public library.
Good Books for Nursing Toddlers
We Like to Nurse by Chia Martin. Illustrated by Shukyo Lin Rainey. Hohm Press, 1995. Paperbound
Fourteen animal pairs are shown nursing in bright, flat pictures with simple text, ending with a human mother and baby. A favorite of breastfed toddlers. (ages 1 – 3)
Mama Outside, Mama Inside by Dianna Hutts Aston. Illustrated by Susan Gaber. Henry Holt, 2006. A mother bird in a tree and a human mother in the house nearby prepare for the births of their babies and tenderly care for them with the fathers’ help. One breastfeeding illustration. (Ages 1 – 4).
Breastmilk makes my tummy yummy by Cecilia Moen. Midsummer Press, Sweden 1999. This book is ideal for a nursing toddler. Simple, rhymed verse accompanies the multicultural illustrations of babies and toddlers nursing in various situations: when angry or sad, in the bath tub, when mummy is on the phone, in a family bed, etc. Tandem nursing is also shown: “Two can breastfeed without fuss, there is room for both of us.” (ages 2 – 4)
Mama’s Milk by Michael Elsohn Ross. Illustrations by Ashley Wolff. Tricycle Press, 2007. Beautiful illustrations of 17 different mammals nursing as well as human mothers and babies from three different ethnic groups accompany a simple, rhyming text. The final pages give some facts about nursing. Includes co-sleeping, nursing in the park, carrying baby in a sling.
Maggie’s Weaning by Mary Joan Deutschbein. Moon Gold Press, 1993.
Reissued in smaller format by La Leche League International, 1999. Preschooler Maggie shares the story of her gradual and gentle weaning process. A helpful note to parents begins the book. Nice for home use. (Ages 2 – 5)
Good Books for the Sibling of a Breastfed Baby
My New Baby by Annie Kubler. Child’s Play (International) Ltd., 2000. This 14 page, wordless board book shows a toddler helping his family to care for the new baby. Two breastfeeding pictures. (ages 1 – 2)
We Have a Baby by Cathryn Falwell. Clarion Books, 1993. This is a picture book for the very young child with a new sibling. Just 32 pages long, with only a few words on each page, the book shows a loving family with both parents actively involved in the care of the toddler and the new baby. The mother is shown nursing the baby, her arm around the toddler who is nestled against her and eating milk and a cookie. (ages 1 – 3)
Mama, Daddy, Baby and Me by Lisa Gewing. Illustrated by Donna Larimer. Spirit Press, 1989. The very simple, rhymed text and appealing illustrations show a family welcoming a new baby, told from the toddler sibling’s point of view. One picture of the mother and baby nursing. (ages 2 – 4)
Hello Baby! By Lizzy Rockwell. Crown Publishers, 1999. A young boy describes his mother’s pregnancy, his sister’s hospital birth, homecoming and first day at home. One nice breastfeeding illustration. (ages 3 – 6)
What Baby Needs by William Sears MD, Martha Sears RN, and Christie Watts Kelly. Little Brown & Company, 2001. The needs of a new baby are described in terms a preschooler can understand and relate to. The baby is carried in a sling and sleeps in the parents’ room. The father is very involved in this baby’s care. Feelings of the older siblings are recognized as the book models many positive ways for children to interact with a new baby. Includes two nice breastfeeding pictures and one of bottle feeding mother’s milk.
A companion book about pregnancy, Baby on the Way, explains the emotional and physical changes that occur when a mother is expecting a new baby. Includes a nice breastfeeding illustration. (ages 3 – 6)
Will There Be a Lap for Me? by Dorothy Corey. Illustrated by Nancy Poydar. Albert Whitman & Company, 1992. Preschooler Kyle, from a middle class African-American family, misses his special place on his mother’s lap as her pregnancy advances and the new baby arrives. A full page illustration shows Mother nursing the new baby with Kyle beside her on the sofa. Kyle is sad that the baby needs to eat so often, but Mother makes room on her lap and special time in her day for him again. (ages 3 – 8 )
How You Were Born by Joanna Cole. Photographs by Margaret Miller. Morrow Junior Books, 1993. A clear and helpful book about conception, fetal development and birth is illustrated with color photographs of parents and children from many racial backgrounds. The 1984 edition with same text and black and white photos by Hella Hammid and others is also still available in paperback and has a lovely breastfeeding illustration. (ages 3 – 11)
How Was I Born? by Lennart Nilsson and Lena Katarina Swanberg. Illustrated with color photographs by Lennart Nilsson. Delacorte Press, 1994. A Swedish preschooler tells the story of her baby brother’s birth.
Three lovely photographs show the new baby nursing just after birth. Additional text explains conception, birth and the growth and development of babies. 80 pages long. (ages 4 – 8 )
Good Stories That Happen to Include Breastfeeding
The World Is Full of Babies! by Mick Manning and Brita Granström. Delacorte Press, 1996. With humorous, engaging text and bright, attractive illustrations, the authors explain how human and animal babies grow and develop. An East Asian mother is shown nursing her baby. (ages 2 – 6)
Supermom by Mick Manning. Illustrated by Brita Granström. Albert Whitman & Company, 2001. A wide variety of human and animal mothers feed, shelter, talk, play with, protect, cuddle and nurse their babies to sleep. (ages 3 – 6)
Look What I See! Where can I Be? In the Neighborhood by Dia L. Michels. Photographs by Michael J. N. Bowles. Platypus Media, LLC, 2001. Clues help children to guess where the baby wakes up as a busy family explores a multicultural urban neighborhood. The baby is carried in a sling, a front pack, a back pack, a stroller, and a wagon. The last picture shows the mother and baby nursing outdoors on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. (ages 2 – 4)
Happy Birth Day! by Robie H. Harris. Illustrated by Michael Emberley. Candlewick Press, 1996. A mother tells her child about her hospital birth and first day of life. Large, beautiful illustrations capture the essence of a newborn baby breastfeeding and falling asleep cuddled up with both parents. (ages 3 – 8 )
Only the Cat Saw by Ashley Wolff. Originally published in 1982. Walker and Company, 1996 (softcover). In this colorful picture book the cat sees all the details in a typical 24 hour day in the life of a busy farm family. The mother is shown breastfeeding the baby in a rocking chair at dawn. (ages 3 – 8 )
The Best Gifts by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Illustrated by Halina Below. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1998. Growing up from infancy to adulthood, Sara receives the most important gifts from her parents (including breastfeeding, time, love and caring) and passes them on to her own baby son. (ages 4 – 8 )
Over the Green Hills by Rachel Isadora. Greenwillow, 1992. A young boy in the Transkei, on the east coast of South Africa, accompanies his mother on a long walk to visit Grandma Zindzi in another village. Baby sister Noma is carried wrapped close on her mother’s back. They make several nursing stops, and this older baby is shown breastfeeding in one picture. (ages 4 – 8 )
Breasts by Genichiro Yagyu. First published in Japan in 1989. Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 1999. Alternately silly and tender, this book introduces young children to the real purpose of women’s breasts: feeding babies. (ages 5 – 8 )
A Teeny Tiny Baby by Amy Schwartz. Orchard Books, 1994. Reissued in 2006. This first baby is center of attention in his family. Although Dad is shown feeding a bottle in one illustration, Mother is nursing in eight other pictures. Baby sleeps between his parents in a family bed and is carried in a sling by his father. (ages 3 and up)