Breastfeeding is natural, beneficial to mother and baby, and an important part of infant development. It’s a normal function of mammals (of which we humans are one), and part of the human growth process. It is important to teach our children about breastfeeding so that they grow up understanding that it is a normal, natural process, and not something of which to be ashamed or afraid. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where breastfeeding isn’t seen as important, breastfeeding mothers aren’t given adequate support to be able to nurse their babies successfully, women are required to return to work only a few short weeks after birth (often before their milk supply has regulated), breastfeeding women are discriminated against for feeding their babies, and extended or toddler nursing is looked down upon. It just isn’t that often that our children are able to see real women breastfeeding. All of these things make it difficult to convey the message to our children – the next generation of breastfeeders – that breastfeeding is normal and a-ok.
My oldest child weaned when she was four, and she had the opportunity to see her younger brother breastfed until he was three. He, however, will not have the benefit of regular direct exposure to nursing (since we’re not having any more children, and we no longer attend La Leche League meetings). This worries me a bit as I want him to grow up with positive images of breastfeeding, just like his elder sister did. So, one of the things I’ve done to help both of my children learn about breastfeeding is to read stories with them that involve positive images and stories of nursing mothers. Here are four of our favorite breastfeeding-friendly books:
If My Mom Were A Platypus: Animal Babies and Their Mothers
By Dia L. Michels
Illustrated by Andrew Barthelmes
This 61 page book is illustrated with colorful paintings and detailed brown and white sketches. The book features 14 animals (including humans) and details their birth process, early growth and feeding, what the animals eat and do as they grow, when they leave their mothers, and other interesting facts.
The section on humans shows baby being born in a birth center, delivered by a midwife, with dad close by. The family in the birth illustration is Caucasian, and the midwife appears to be a woman of color. The breastfeeding information mentions nursing on cue without a schedule, starting solids around six months (with breast milk as baby’s “main meal”), and that babies “lose interest” in nursing after a few years.
It’s full of facts about many different mammals – all written in similar format; which makes it easy to compare ourselves with other animals on our planet. It’s a fabulous book. I’d recommend it from about age three up to age twelve or so (the book recommends this for ages 8 – 12. However, my daughter reads it herself at age 6 and my son enjoys it as a bedtime story at age 3.5 – though we have to pick & choose just a few animals for each story time – it’s a longish & detailed book at 61 pages + a Glossary and Index.
Baby’s First Year
By Debbie MacKinnon
Photographed by Anthea Sieveking
This 25 book is a beautiful photo documentary about “Baby Neil”. The story follows him from birth through his first birthday. The photographs are big and bright, and illustrate tenderness and love from Neil’s whole family (Mom, Dad, and two Big Sisters) as he grows. He’s shown happy and crying and doing lots of different “baby” activities. There is one photograph of Neil nursing as a newborn in bed with mom, and a series of photos of Neil being fed AND feeding himself (hooray for baby led weaning!). Later in the book, Neil is shown riding in a backpack, a car seat, and a stroller. Neil and his family are Caucasian (and appear to be from the 80s, haha). I’d recommend this book from birth and up. Due to the use of real photographs of people it can keep a baby’s attention (though baby can’t handle the book because of paper pages, my youngest loved to look at the photos as an infant, while the story kept my then two-year-old interested).
Note: This book doesn’t appear to be in print any longer, which is a shame. We found our copy at a library book sale many years ago – it may be available used on Amazon or Ebay.
When You Were Inside Mommy
By Joanna Cole
Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss
This 28 page book is colorfully illustrated in watercolor. It details how a baby starts as an egg (the text says, “In the beginning you were just one tiny cell. Half of the cell came from your mommy, and the other half came from your daddy”, and how grows into a baby inside a mother’s womb, during pregnancy, and is born. It mentions visiting a doctor for prenatal checkups, and baby is shown being born in a hospital. There is one illustration of mother breastfeeding baby in the hospital bed with the father next to her. The family in this book appears to be Caucasian. With bright, easy-to-understand illustrations, and simple text, I’d recommend this book for ages 1 and up (though not a board book – pages will rip!).
Note: Though the text on this page says, “You drank milk from Mommy’s breasts or from a bottle”, there are not any illustrations of baby drinking from a bottle.
Mama’s Milk/Mama Me Alimenta
By Michael Elsohn Ross
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
This book is lovely. Each page features a gouache drawing of different mammals feeing their babies. The text is simple, rhyming, and written in two languages on each page – English and Spanish. There are several pictures of human mothers nursing their babies...
Mom nursing in bed (Co-sleeping with Daddy):
Mom breastfeeding in a park:
Mom breastfeeding and dozing (I remember those days) in a chair:
The mothers in this book all appear to be different ethnicities. In one illustration, a mother wears a baby in a ring sling (yay babywearing!) while she and her children observe a cat nursing her kittens. It’s a sweet book about the love of mammal mamas for their babies. On the last two pages are several breast milk facts, like “Mama’s milk helps to protect babies from common diseases”. This book would be best for ages 2 or 3 and up.
Note: The illustrations, while charming, are a bit muted and subtle, so they may not hold the interest of a young toddler or baby.
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What are your favorite breastfreeding-friendly children's books? Please share authors & titles in the comments - I'd love to add to our collection & post again with another review in the future!
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**ALL of the images on this blog post were scanned & edited by yours truly, KellyNaturally.com from my own book collection. If you'd like to use the above images on your website, to spread the word about the awesomeness of breastfeeding, I'm happy to share; but would please ask that you link back to my post. Thanks so much!**