9 books to read while you’re breastfeeding

Top reads to help you pass the breastfeeding hours
By Kate HaasPublished on 08/02/2018 at 10:16 AM EDT

We know the facts: Breastfeeding promotes bonding, provides infants with essential antibodies, and lowers the risk for SIDS and asthma. Sure, getting started can be difficult, what with the pain and the cognitive dissonance (other mammals accomplish nursing with ease, so why does maneuvering an infant into position feel so profoundly unnatural at first?). But then we get the hang of it, the initial drama fades, and there we are, stuck in that rocker. The baby’s a natural, nursing pretty much all the time, what with the cluster feeding. But for a mother, this biologically enforced passivity can start to chafe—and no amount of lanolin can fix that.

But a good read can help. Yes, breastfeeding while reading takes more practice than operating the remote or picking up a phone. (Confession: I once dropped I Capture the Castle onto my baby’s head). But in this hectic age, when many of us have difficulty finding the time to crack a novel, breastfeeding is the perfect opportunity to rediscover the pleasures of a good book. So, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, why not find some books that will keep you company while you feed your child?

These nine selections will appeal to breastfeeding mothers. And even if you do happen to drop one of these on your baby, take it from me—the kid will be fine.

How My Breasts Saved the World: Misadventures of a Nursing Mother

Do you belong to that unfortunate sisterhood of new mothers with nursing problems? Demoralized and weary of it all? Escape into this funny, self-deprecating memoir chronicling one woman’s obsessive struggle to get nursing right (finger feeders, anyone?)

How My Breasts Saved the World: Misadventures of a Nursing Mother by Lisa Wood Shapiro ($15)

A History of the Breast

From powerful symbol of fertility, to wanton playground of lust, to icon of advertising, the female bosom has historically held powerful cultural significance. A journey from Paleolithic carvings to modern billboards (with many stops along the way), Marilyn Yalom’s surprising and insightful book delves into the social construct of breasts, and the contradictory meanings they’ve held for us. Just the thing to read while using them.

A History of the Breast by Marilyn Yalom ($16)


So That’s What They’re For

Let’s be honest: Most breastfeeding books are preachy. And all that rhapsodizing about the blissful effects of oxytocin? Frankly, not all of us are feeling it. Unlike those earnest tomes, this one has a sense of humor about the whole process. Conversational, funny, and full of practical tips, Janet Tomaro doesn’t try to guilt anyone into nursing; rather, she’s like an encouraging, sassy older sister whose counsel will get you through the tough times, and who will never judge you for not loving breastfeeding every minute.

So That’s What They’re For by Janet Tomaro ($12)

The Senator’s Wife

Can breastfeeding destroy your neighbor’s marriage? Watch it unfold in this dishy novel about the relationship between a young mother and her older neighbor, the faithful wife of a philandering politician. Why does anyone stay with a partner after years of betrayal? Sue Miller writes thoughtfully about the choices and compromises people make in marriage, creating characters whose messy, imperfect lives make for engaging reading.

The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller ($21)


Gone to Soldiers

Sometimes those hours of nursing call for a good, old-fashioned sweeping saga. This page-turner follows the lives of 10 people caught up in the events of WWII. The characters—among them a spy, an explosives expert with the French Resistance, a merchant marine, and American woman in the London Blitz—form an intricate tapestry of love, heroism, betrayal, and persistence.

Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy ($10)


On the other hand, if your attention span has shrunk to the size of a garbanzo bean, a graphic novel is the way to go. This thoughtful and funny memoir celebrates food and the connections it fosters, with each chapter framed by the food Lucy Knisley was eating at key points in her life. Her utterly charming book will give the most exhausted new mother something to smile over, from the quirky drawings to the recipes bookending each chapter.

Relish by Lucy Knisley ($14)

Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War

Missing your exciting pre-kid existence? In this memoir, a far-roaming photojournalist writes unflinchingly about entering the male-dominated world of war photography, with its adrenaline rushes, heartbreak, danger—and a whole lot of sexism. And when war-weary Kopaken Cogan finally trades in her camera for motherhood, she confirms that children change everything, even for the most adventurous among us.

Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War by Deborah Kopaken Cogan ($17)

Miriam’s Kitchen

Is the constant nursing making it difficult to find time to eat? Nursing mothers need calories, and lots of them. This memoir of cooking, motherhood and religious awakening should prove motivational. Especially to be savored is the description of Elizabeth Ehrlich’s lign in kimpet, the Yiddish term for an Old Country post-childbirth tradition of bedrest with the baby, while neighbors and relatives (here, Ehrlich’s mother and mother-in-law) ensure she does nothing but sleep, eat and drink.

Miriam’s Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich ($14)

Baby ER

Some hardy mothers don’t mind reading about sick babies. For us, it’s no bad thing to be reminded that our nearly unbearable sleep-deprivation is not, in fact, the worst thing ever. This chronicle of life in the NICU is for us. In a narrative often as gripping as a novel, Hume follows the families of several newborns struggling with life-threatening conditions. A sensitive and compassionate writer, Hume depicts the setbacks and triumphs of the NICU’s tiny patients and draws compelling portraits of the medical staff dedicated to saving them.

Baby ER by Edward Humes ($21)

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