Let’s Celebrate National Breastfeeding Month With Children’s Books!
Phoebe Fox, Phoenix, Arizona
National Breastfeeding Month is celebrated in the US every year from August 1-31. This month is a special time to support and increase awareness of breastfeeding.
World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated the first week in August, commemorates the Innocenti Declaration On the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding, signed in August 1990, by government policymakers, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF to promote and protect this important first food. Breastfeeding is a human right; it saves lives; and it helps communities. However, there is very little in the way of children’s books on this important topic.
I first noticed this lack of children’s books on breastfeeding while I was working as an elementary school librarian. Newly married, my husband and I were considering beginning a family. I was thinking through all the choices mothers have when it comes to childrearing. My mother had breastfed my sister, my brother, and me, and she always talked about it being a lovely experience. It was surprising to me that the picture books I could find, showing mothers feeding their babies, displayed only bottle-feeding.
When I gave birth to my first child and began nursing him, I enjoyed the closeness. Breastfeeding helped us develop a beautiful bond, and I soon discovered that exclusive breastfeeding had many additional benefits for me:
- Financial savings
- Delayed menstruation
- Pleasant-smelling diapers (Let’s face it, the poop of breastfed babies doesn’t stink!)
By attending La Leche League meetings, where I received much support and encouragement, I began to learn how beneficial breastfeeding was for my son. He was a healthy baby, enjoying all the immunities my breast milk provided; he consistently met his developmental milestones; and he was easily soothed at the breast when he was tired, cranky, or teething.
Later I discovered something truly remarkable. Breastfeeding actually reduces the mother’s risk of four diseases:
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
Why wasn’t there more literature out there for children about this miracle fluid? As Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison says, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
If I, as a young mother, craved a book to share with my child about the beauty of breastfeeding, there must be other nursing mothers who felt the same way. How better to demonstrate this marvelous way of caring for an infant than with the mammal-baby relationships we see in nature?
Animals, whether in fiction or nonfiction literature, are a wonderful way to fascinate early readers. A picture book about mammals, I figured, could gently introduce to little ones the beautiful subject of nursing.
When my son became a toddler (and I had my hands free on occasion), I began working on a rhyming picture book about nursing babies in the animal kingdom —Babies Nurse / Así se alimentan los bebés.
Community members and employers can play a significant role in helping to normalize breastfeeding. Through a diverse collection, libraries can help expose children to the universal nature and beauty of the act. Why not celebrate National Breastfeeding Month by borrowing or requesting a breastfeeding book from your local library or by donating a breastfeeding book to your library?
- Babies Nurse / Así se alimentan los bebés by Phoebe Fox
- Noey Loves Nursing by Monica Haywood
- Cuddled and Carried / Consentido y cargado by Dia Michels
- Best Milk by Kate Carothers
- Mama’s Leche by Michelle Hackney and Mia Ortiz
- We Like to Nurse by Chia Martin
- You, Me, and the Breast by Monica Calaf
- What Does Baby Want? by Tupera Tupera
- Who in the World Likes to Nurse by Cristie Henry
- Mama’s Milk / Mamá me alimenta by Michael Elsohn Ross
- A Nursing Love Poem by Michelle Neylan
Books for Older Children:
- If My Mom Were a Platypus: Mammal Babies and Their Mothers by Dia Michels
- The Best Gifts by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].
Supporting Breastfeeding Families–Today, Tomorrow, Always
Please consider donating to La Leche League USA.
Donations of any amount are gratefully accepted, and for a minimum gift of $25 your special message of congratulations, encouragement, or appreciation can be published in New Beginnings Blog.