At thirteen they were “too small,” at fifteen “too far apart,” and at eighteen “not perky enough.” Still, I was glad to have them. No doubt they turned a few heads, satisfied a few lovers, and probably got me a few jobs. But it wasn’t until I had babies in my twenties that I discovered just how marvelous breasts really are. Breastfeeding is a joy beyond measure!

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Sarah nursing Sagan and Maya

He saw a girl working about the stove, saw that she carried a baby on her crooked arm, and that the baby was nursing, its head up under the girl’s shirtwaist. And the girl moved about, poking the fire, shifting the rusty stove lids to make a better draft, opening the oven door; and all the time the baby sucked, and the mother shifted it deftly from arm to arm. The baby didn’t interfere with her work or with the quick gracefulness of her movements.

— John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

And hence at our maturer years, when any object of vision is presented to us, which by its waving or spiral lines bears any similitude to the form of the female bosom, whether it is found in a landscape with soft gradations of rising and descending surface, or in the forms of some antique vases, or in other works of the pencil or chisel, we feel a general glow of delight, which seems to influence all our senses.

— Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life (1794)

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Josephine nursing Owen and Frances

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Who fed me from her gentle breast
And hushed me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
My Mother.

— Anne Taylor, My Mother

When she first felt her son’s groping mouth attach itself to her breast, a wave of sweet vibration thrilled deep inside and radiated to all parts of her body; it was similar to love, but it went beyond a lover’s caress, it brought a great calm happiness, a great happy calm.

— Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere

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“Her Universe” by Dejan Dizdar

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Beatrice nursing Max and William

The erotically excited kiss as well as the inward feeling of physical well-being, which is so difficult to describe, of a mother nursing her child at her breast, feeds on fare that is both coarse and infinitely fine and becoming finer; but all this in the sense of the primeval evolutionary fact that in the beginning the whole skin was the seat of sensual pleasure.

— Wilhelm Bölsche (quoted in The Hermit of 69th Street by Jerzy Kosinski)

Where did I come from?” the baby asked its mother. She answered, half-crying, half-laughing, and clasping the baby to her breast, “You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling. You were in the dolls of my childhood games. In all my hopes and my loves, in my life, in the life of my mother, and in her mother before her, you have lived. In the lap of the eternal spirit you have been nursed and nurtured for ages.

— Indian philosopher and poet, Rabindrandth Tagore

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Magg nursing Alek

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Ah, the joy of suckling! She lovingly watched the fishlike motions of the toothless mouth and she imagined that with her milk there flowed into her little son her deepest thoughts, concepts, and dreams.

— Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere

Only seldom was a whimper heard from one of the four children, all of whom, from the six-month-old infant to the six-year-old Amanda, were fed from Lovise’s breast.

Never again, never in the future that dawned later on, were we so sated. We were suckled and suckled. Always superabundance was flowing into us. Never any question of enough is enough or let’s not overdo it. Never were we given a pacifier and told to be reasonable. It was always suckling time.

There must be reasons why we men are so hipped on breasts as if we’d all been weaned too soon.

— Günter Grass, The Flounder

In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of two people existing only for each other, the tranquil sky reflected on the face of the mother nursing her child.

— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Ross: “I just don’t think breast milk is for adults…”
Chandler: “Of course the packaging does appeal to adults and kids alike.”

— From the sitcom “Friends”

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come to thee soon;

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Lullaby,” from The Princess

Many thanks to Sarah Martin, Josephine Joyner, Beatrice Jasper, Maggi Burnes and Dejan Dizdar for allowing me to use their photos, and to Jack Newman for allowing me to take quotes from his collection.

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