Dost thou not see my baby at my breast, That sucks the nurse asleep?
—Shakespeare. Anthony and Cleopatra. Act V, Scene 2
One would think his mother's milk were scarce out of him.
—Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. Act I, Scene 5, 1, 165
Dear nurse of arts, plenties and joyful births
—Shakespeare. Henry V. Act V, Scene 2, 1, 34
On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen;
That shall she, marry: I remember it well.
'T is since the earthquake now eleven years;
And she was wean'd, I never shall forget it,
Of all the days of the year, upon that day;
—Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Act I, Scene 3
(Juliet was 3 years old when she was weaned)
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,
Sitting in the sun under the dove-house wall;
My lord and you were then at Mantua;—
Nay, I do bear a brain;—but, as I said,
When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple
Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool,
To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug!
—Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Act I, Scene 3
An honour! were not I thine only nurse,
I would say thou hadst suck'd wisdom from thy teat
—Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Act I, Scene 3
I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done this.
—Shakespeare. Macbeth. Act II, Scene I
Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers.
—Shakespeare. Macbeth. Act I, Scene 5
Give me the boy; I am glad you did not nurse him;
Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you
Have too much blood in him.
—Shakespeare. The Winter’s Tale. Act II, Scene 1
Such advice (re: breastfeeding and HIV positivity) reflects the Western prejudice
that artificial milks are innocent until proven guilty, whereas breastmilk
is guilty until proven innocent.
—Short RV. Breastfeeding, birth spacing and their effects on child survival. Nature. 1988;335:679-82 (page 682)
A working woman who looked like a Kirghiz, her head bent, was feeding Karl-Yankel. He was a chubby little fellow of five months old, in knitted bootees and with a white tuft on his head...
"The fuss he's making!" said the Kirghiz woman. "Not everyone
would be willing to give him suck"...The Kirghiz woman,pulling gently,
drew her nipple from Karl-Yankel's mouth. The child started growling and in
despair jerked back his head with its white tuft. The woman uncovered her
other breast and presented it to the little boy. He looked at the nipple with
dull little eyes, and something gleamed in them.
—Isaac Babel. Karl-Yankel (short story)
"Here's a child lying and yelling its little guts out enough to make you weep, and you, you great fat thing, sit like a boulder in a forest and can't ease him with the breast."
"You ease him with the breast," retorted Pesya-Mindl, not raising
her eyes from the book, "provided he'll take it from you, you old twister—the
breast, I mean. For see, he's a big boy now, as big as a Rooski-boy, and all
he wants is his mother's milk..."
—Isaac Babel. Lyubka the Cossack (short story)
The baby started fussing on the sofa, and without any pause in the conversation,
Sophie opened her blouse and nursed him, first on one breast and then on the
—Paul Auster. The Locked Room. (Volume 3 of the New York Trilogy)
Hourly feeding is exhausting for the mother, painful if you are breastfeeding, unnecessary for the baby, and interferes with his developing more normal and healthy sleep-wake and feeding patterns.
If your baby has been feeding every hour, begin to increase the time between
feedings by an amount you feel comfortable with—perhaps 15 minutes per
day—until he is being fed every two hours, then every two and a half
or three hours.
—Ferber. Solve your child's sleep problems. page 42
And she (Sarah) said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should
have given children suck?
—Genesis XXI, 7
But Hannah did not go up; for she said unto her husband, So soon as the child shall be weaned, then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and abide there for ever. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth good in thy eyes; tarry until though has weaned him; only may the Lord fulfill his word.
So the woman remained behind, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.
—Samuel I, I, :22-23
From the God of thy father, who will help thee; and from the Almighty, who
will bless thee, with blessings of heaven above, with blessings of the breasts,
and of the womb;
—Genesis. XLIX, 25-26
Like a shepherd will he feed his flock: with his arm will he gather the lambs,
and in his bosom will he carry them, will he lead gently those that suckle
—Isaiah XL, 11-12
Yet Zion said, The Eternal hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten
me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, not to have mercy on the son of
her body? yea, should these even forget, yet would I not forget thee.
—Isaiah LI, 14-16
Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be delighted over her, all ye that love her;
be highly glad with her, all ye that mourn for her. In order that ye may suck,
and be satisfied with the breast of her consolations; in order that ye may
sip and find pleasure from the abundance of her glory. For thus hath said
the Lord, Behold, I will extend to her peace like a river, and like a rapid
stream the glory of nations, that ye may suck; upon the arm shall ye be borne,
and upon knees shall ye be dandled.
—Isaiah LXVI, 10-13
Instead that thou wast forsaken and hated, without one to pass through (thee),
will I render thee an excellency of everlasting, a joy of all generations.
And though shalt suck the milk of nations, and the breast of kings shalt thou
—Isaiah LX, 15-16
Now when she had weaned Lo-ruchamah, she conceived, and bore a son.
—Hosea I, 8
Give them, O Lord, what thou wilt give! give them a miscarrying womb and
—Hosea IX, 14-15
Yea, thou art he that took me from the womb; thou hast been my trust when
I hung on my mother’s breasts.
—Psalm XXII, 10-11
Surely I have pacified and stilled my soul, like the suckling on its mother’s
breast; like a suckling is in me my soul.
—Psalm CXXXI, 2-3
Oh that some one would make thee as my brother that hath sucked my mother’s
—The Song of Solomon VIII, 1
Shall women, then, eat their own fruit, the babes they have tenderly nursed?
—Lamentations II, 20
Even wild beasts offer the breast, they give suck to their young ones; the
daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.
The tongue of the suckling cleaveth to its palate by reason of thirst: babes
ask for bread, there is not one to break it for them.
—Lamentations IV, 3
And Na’omi took the child, and laid it in her lap, and she became a
nurse unto it.
—Ruth IV, 16
And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the
crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore
you, and the breasts which nursed you!"
—Luke XI, 27
Gentlemen, we are all cruel, we are all monsters, we all make people weep,
mothers and nursing babies...
—Dostoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov. Mitya is taken away. 3.9.9
...and in her arms a baby is crying, and her breasts must be all dried up,
not a drop of milk in them. And the baby is crying, crying, reaching out its
bare little arms, its little fists somehow all blue from the cold.
—Dostoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov. The Evidence of Witnesses 3.9.8. Dimitri's dream
Grigory took the infant, brought him into the house, sat his wife down, and
put him in her lap near her breast: "God's orphan child is everyone's
kin, all the more so for you and me. Our little dead one sent us this one,
who was born of the devil's son and a righteous woman. Nurse him and weep
—Dostoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov
All being drinks the mother-dew
Of joy from Nature's holy bosom;
—Schiller. Ode to Joy (1785)
"...And I must run to Mitya. As ill-luck would have it, I haven't fed him since tea. He's awake now, and sure to be screaming." And feeling a rush of milk, she hurried to the nursery. This was not a mere guess; her connection with the child was still so close, that she could gauge by the flow of her milk his need of food, and knew for certain he was hungry.
"Why didn't you let me nurse her, when I begged to?"I begged to
nurse her, I wasn't allowed to and now I'm blamed for it."
"...They gave the baby medicine and it turned out that the baby was simply hungry: the nurse had no milk, sir."
...The baby was lying with its head thrown back, stiffening itself in the nurse's arms, and would not take the breast offered it;
...The smartly dressed and healthy-looking nurse, frightened at the idea of losing her place, muttered something to herself, and covering her bosom, smiled contemptuously at the idea of doubts being cast on her abundance of milk.
"Yes, but a man can't nurse a baby," said Pestsov, "while a woman..."
"No, there was an Englishman who did suckle his baby on board ship," said the old prince...
"And have you any children?"
"I've had four; I've two living—a boy and a girl. I weaned her last carnival."
"How old is she?"
"Why, two years old."
"Why did you nurse her so long?"
"It's our custom; for three fasts..."
...the care of her large family was a constant worry to her: first, the nursing of her young baby did not go well, then the nurse had gone away, now one of the children had fallen ill.
—Tolstoy. Anna Karenina
She pictured a child, her own—like the baby she had seen the day before
in the arms of her old nurse’s daughter—at her own breast, with
her husband standing by and gazing fondly at her and the child.
—Tolstoy. War and Peace. Book I, part 3, chapter 3
Thus in the anxious time, which Pierre would never forget, after the birth
of their first child, when they tried three different wetnurses for the delicate
baby and Natasha fell ill with worry, Pierre one day told her of Rousseau’s
views (with which he was in complete agreement) of how unnatural and deleterious
it was to have wetnurses at all. When the next baby was born, in spite of
vigorous opposition from her mother, the doctors and even from her husband
himself—who were all against her nursing the baby, which to them was
something unheard of and pernicious—she insisted on having her own way,
and after that nursed all her children herself.
—Tolstoy. War and Peace. Epilogue. Part I. Chapter 10
No one could give her such soothing and sensible consolation as this little three-month-old creature when he lay at her breast and she felt the movement of his lips and the snuffling of his tiny nose.
During those two weeks of restlessness Natasha resorted to the infant for
comfort so often, and fussed over him so much, that she overfed him and he
—Tolstoy. War and Peace. Epilogue. Part I. Chapter 11
Regularity of nursing is most important. The infant should always be fed
exactly at the stated hour and never at irregular intervals, as this upsets
the baby's routine and soon leads to stomach trouble. If the infant wakes
up and cries before the feeding hour he should be examined to see if he is
wet, and if so, changed and then offered some plain boiled water. If the infant
is asleep at the feeding hour he should be awakened. It is remarkable how
these infants learn to wake up at or shortly before the appointed time. After
a few days' training they behave like little machines.
—Frederick Tisdall. The Home Care of the Infant & Child. JM Dent & Sons Ltd. Lon & Tor 1931
This disease (rickets) is confined almost exclusively to infants who are artificially fed. ...Just what exists in breast milk that prevents, and what is absent or present in cows' milk which permits or causes the symptoms of rickets to appear, has not been clearly defined.
The responsibility for the failure to conserve the maternal milk-supply, while dual, rests with greater weight upon the physician, who, while realizing the value of natural and the dangers and uncertainties of artificial feeding, has failed to become fired with that enthusiasm which the subject demands.
—Lowenberg H. A Practical Treatise on Infant Feeding and Allied Topics for Physicians and Students. FA Davis Co. Philadelphia. 1916
We therefore speak of a kidney infarct and a urine infarct; by the latter are indicated the masses of urate passed in the urine which are frequently visible as a brick-red powder, and which appear under the microscope partly as an amorphous and partly as a crystalline precipitate. The phenomenon of the so-called "infarct urine" must be looked upon always as a physiological process, even though it may be absent in some cases.
Most infants sleep during the first hours of life and show no signs of hunger. Should they be awakened they usually fall asleep at once. In the majority of cases this condition lasts the whole of the first day. The rule that a child should not be fed during the first 24 hours may therefore be laid down with confidence.
During the first and often also during the second day of life urine is usually
only passed at rare intervals: one to two, or three to four times in twenty-four
hours. It also happens not infrequently during the first day that a child
does not pass any urine at all; this occurs in actually 34 per cent of all
cases, according to Kotscharowski, but is not clinically to be regarded as
an alarming symptom.
—Diseases of the Newborn. August Ritter von Reuss.William Wood & Co. NY. 1921
...bread boyled so long in thin ale, with clarified honey, if not, with sugar,
until they shall come together in the likeness of a mucilage, or glew, or
jelly: then as much thin ale is mingled with and washed on this jelly, as
is sufficient for it to serve instead of drink.
—Van Helmont JB. Oriatrike or Physick refined. trans. Cartwright J. (ed.) London 1662
They who on meare curiositie (where no urgent necessitie requireth) try whether
their children may not as birds be nourished without sucking, offend contrary
to this dutie of breast feeding and reflect that meanes which God hath ordained
as best; and so oppose their shallow wits to his unsearchable wisdom.
—William Gouge, Of domestical duties, 1622
Here the earth covers Hippostrate’s good nurse;
And Hippostrate still misses you. "I loved you
While you were alive, nurse, I love you still
Now even below the earth, and now I shall
Honour you as long as I live. I know that
For you below the earth also, if there is
Reward for the good, honours will come
First to you in the realm of Persephone and Pluto.
—epitaph on grave stele (Athens, 4th century BC)
In the very act of lactation there is, by nature, generated such an endearment
of the suckled child to the nurse, as that she began it perhaps only for hire,
finds herself engaged by a growing affection to supply in some measure the
place of the mother to the orphan or deserted babe.
—Nihell E. A treatise on the art of midwifery, London 1760
Where, boundless nature, can I hold you fast?
And where you breasts? Wells that sustain
All life--the heaven and the earth are nursed.
Wo fass ich dich, unendliche Natur? 455
Euch Brüste, wo? Ihr Quellen alles Lebens,
An denen Himmel und Erde hängt
The child, offered the mother's breast,
Will not in the beginning grab it;
But soon it clings to it with zest.
And thus at wisdom's copious breasts
You'll drink each day with greater zest.
So nimmt ein Kind der Mutter Brust
Nicht gleich im Anfang willig an,
Doch bald ernährt es sich mit Lust.
So wird's Euch an der Weisheit Brüsten
Mit jedem Tage mehr gelüsten.
—Goethe. Faust. Mephistopheles speaking to the student
No mineral water--very hard on mothers who need it for biberons. They can
always boil the tap water, of course.
—Mavis Gallant. The Events in May. A Paris Notebook I
...the idea of bottle feeding just to "involve the father" is one
more instance of preserving the status quo at a price to the baby. p78
—Marni Jackson. The Mother Zone. Macfarlane Walter and Ross, Toronto, 1992
It (bottle feeding) also made a fetish out of cleanliness, and maybe all the washing and scrubbing has further reduced the pleasure we take in our body and in life.
Certainly, before bottle feeding, mothers had no choice but to let the infant
suck pleasurably from her body, and in the absence of 'baby foods', this tended
to go on for a considerable time. ...A great deal of modern drug and sex behaviour
has its roots in the desperate effort to set things aright--to give the pleasure
principle a belated chance to assert itself, after denying it too early.
—Bruno Bettelheim. The Children of the Dream. Paladin. 1971
No one who has seen a baby sinking back satiated from the breast and falling
asleep with flushed cheeks and a blissful smile can escape the reflection
that this picture persists as a prototype of the expression of sexual satisfaction
in later life.
—Freud. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) (London: Imago, 1949) p. 60
Adieu beloved child, you whom I have nourished with my milk and whom I would
like to penetrate with all my sentiments. A time will come when you will be
able to judge the efforts that I make at this time not to weaken [at the thought
of’] your sweet face. I press you to my breast.
—Manon Roland, awaiting execution on the guillotine, in a letter to her daughter Eudora
The moment it is born, the cord is cut or clamped, the child is exhibited to its mother, and then it is taken away by a nurse to a babyroom called the nursery, so called presumably because the one thing that is not done in it is the nursing of the baby.
We live in the logical denouement of the Machine Age, when not only are things increasingly produced by machine but also human beings are turned out to be as machine-like as we can make them, and who therefore see little wrong in dealing with others in a similarly mechanical manner; an age in which it is considered a mark of progress when whatever was formerly done by human beings is taken out of their hands and done by machine. It is reckoned an advance when a bottle of formula can be made to substitute for the contents of the human breast and the experience of the human infant at it...
The benefits to the mother of immediate breastfeeding are innumerable, not
the least of which after the weariness of labor and birth is the emotional
gratification, the feeling of strength, the composure, and the sense of fulfillment
that comes with the handling and suckling of the baby.
—Ashley Montague. Touching. Harper & Row 1978
You may feel some resistance to the idea of such intimacy with an infant
who, at first, seems like a stranger. To some mothers it seems better to keep
the baby at arm's length, so to speak, by feeding plans which are not so close.
—Infant Care. US Children's Bureau, HEW. 1963
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
The moment she had laid the child to the breast both became perfectly calm.
...Lispeth had got two children beside the baby which she had left in order to give her warm bosom and heart to the little Prince...
—Isak Dinesen. Ehrengard
The New World's Sons, from England's breasts we drew
Such milk as bids remember whence we came;
—JR Lowell, Inscription, On the Raleigh window in St. Margaret's, Westminister
Come then, Sorrow! Sweetest Sorrow,
Like an own babe I nurse thee on my breast.
—Keats. Endymion, Bk IV, 1, 279
For we were nursed upon the self-same hill
—Milton, Lycidas, 1, 23
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
—John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath. Chapter 21
...a baby nursing at a mother's breast...is an undeniable affirmation of
our rootedness in nature.
—David Suzuki, Toronto Star, April 18, 1992
Mothers ought to bring up and nurse their own children;
for they bring them up with greater affection and with greater anxiety,
as loving them from the heart, and so to speak, every inch of them.
—Plutarch. De Lib. Educ., Cap V
The mothers shall give suck to their offsprings, for two complete years.
—Quran Surah II (Baqarah) Verse 233
The La Leche League succeeded by reconstructing the neighbourly networks
which medicine had tried to discredit. League members began to trust and rely
on one another. Their confidence in their intuitive connection with their
children grew; and for both of these reasons, they found it less necessary
to rely on doctors, except in emergencies.
—David Cayley. CBC radio Ideas. April 1985
...nobody wants to think about breastfeeding, not the professor and certainly
not the girls. Over coffee they shiver: they themselves are fastidious, they
will bottle feed, which is anyway more sanitary.
—Margaret Atwood. Cat's Eye
In modern consumer society, the attack on mother-child eroticism took its
total form; breastfeeding was proscribed and the breasts reserved for the
husband's fetishistic delectation. At the same time, babies were segregated,
put into cold beds alone and not picked up if they cried.
—Germaine Greer. Sex and Destiny. Harper and Row New York. 1984
In the late 19th century, as the chemical composition of milks was determined,
animal milk was modified to approach human milk more closely in gross composition.
Milk first was diluted with water, so that protein and electrolyte concentrations
were reduced. Babies fed this diluted formula failed to grow. Experiments
revealed that caloric density of human and cow's milk were similar. Subsequently,
sugar was added to the mixture. Some infants fed these formulas lived. Manipulating
the composition of formulas heralded the advent of Pediatrics as a specialty.
—Lewis Barness. Remarks to AAP, March 19, 1991 San Diego, California. In Pediatrics 1991;88:1055
In the near future, it appears prudent to continue recommending full breastfeeding
for the term infant. Eventually, formulas may equal breast milk and studies
should continue to improve formulas and to make more elegant measurements
—Lewis Barness. Remarks to the AAP. March 19, 1991. San Diego California. In Pediatrics 1991;88:1056
With her weak blood and wheysour milk she had fed him and hid from sight
of others his swaddlingbands.
—James Joyce. Ulysses, chapter 2, line 176
As part of Ross Laboratories' ongoing research to ensure our infant formula products provide the very best nutrition, we have increased the level of linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid, in our powdered infant formula products.
If mothers do comment on this colour variation, please assure them that it
is a modification brought about by an improvement to the product in our continuing
effort to provide the very best infant nutrition for their babies.
—Letter to health professionals from Ross Laboratories, October 1991
...the inessential houses seemed to melt away until I was aware of the old
island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh green breast
of the new world.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald (quoted in The Hermit of 69th Street by Jerzy Kosinski)
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)
A little child born yesterday
A thing on mother's milk and kisses fed
—Homer. Hymn to Hermes, 1:406
A babe is fed with milk and praise
—Charles and Mary Lamb. The First Tooth
Gin was mother's milk to her
—GB Shaw. Pygmalion, Act III
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
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
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
...to seek the breast of darkness
And be suckled by the night.
—Simon and Garfunkle. A Poem on the Underground Wall
Lady Madonna baby at your breast
Wonders how you manage to feed the rest
—The Beatles. Lady Madonna
Impassioned lover wrestle as one
Lonely man cries for love and finds none
New mother picks up and suckles her son
Senior citizens wish they were young
—Moody Blues. Nights in White Satin
The days are cold, the nights are long,
The North wind sings a doleful song;
Then hush again upon my breast;
All merry things are now at rest,
Save thee, my pretty love!
—Dorothy Wordsworth. The Cottager to her Infant
They were difficult to keep clean, and infants surely must have found them
uncomfortable, but for almost 2000 years, pottery nursers (complete with pottery
nipples) were used for feeding babies. Mothers had no choice—glass was
unknown at first, then later only a curiosity.
—Anonymous. Feeding baby through the ages. Today’s Health (US magazine for general readership). April 1964
And since Giovanni knew how important it is to rear infants, not with the milk of nurses, but with that of their own mothers, no sooner was Raphael born, to whom with happy augury he gave that name at baptism, than he insisted that this his only child—and he had no more afterwards—should be suckled by his own mother... (page 233)
Michelangelo was put out to nurse by Lodovico in that village with the wife
of a stonecutter: wherefore the same Michelangelo, discoursing once with Vasari,
said to him jestingly, "Giorgio, if I have anything of the good in my
brain, it has come from my being born in the pure air of your country of Arezzo,
even as I also sucked in with my nurse’s milk the chisels and hammer
with which I make my figures." (page 308)
—Giorgio Vasari. Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors and architects. Random House 1959. (Original Italian version first published in 1550)
SOLNESS: The fright had shaken Aline so dreadfully. The alarm—getting out of the house—the hurry and rush—and the freezing night air into the bargain—. For they had to be carried out just as they were. Both she and the children.
HILDE: Couldn’t they stand it?
SOLNESS: O yes, they stood it all right. But it turned to a fever with Aline.
And that affected her milk. She insisted on feeding them herself. Because
it was her duty, she said. And both our little boys, they—[Clenching
his hands.] they—ah!
—Ibsen. The Master Builder. Act 2.
There is comfort in a mother’s breast, but there has to be a weaning.
The attainment of independence, the severing of ties, is, at best, a bleak
process for both sides; but it is necessary, even though each may grudge it
and hold it against the other.
—John Wyndham. The Chrysalids
O, thou beautiful damsel, may the four oceans
Of the earth contribute the secretion of milk
In thy breasts for the purpose for improving
The bodily strength of the child
O, thou with the beautiful face, may the child
Reared on your milk, attain a long life, like
The gods made immortal with drinks of nectar
—Susruta Samhita (4th-2nd centuries BC) An English translation of the Susruta Samhita, trans. Bishagratna, KKL (1911)
"You exist, and you alone!" I cried in my innermost self. "O
Earth! I am your last-born, I am sucking at your breast and will not let go.
You do not let me live for more than one minute, but that minute turns into
a breast and I suck."
—Nikos Kazantzakis. Zorba the Greek. Chapter 15
Tired at last, I came out of the water, let the night wind dry me, and set
out again with long easy strides, feeling I had escaped a great danger and
that I had a still tighter grip on the Great Mother’s breast.
—Nikos Kazantzakis. Zorba the Greek. Chapter 15
When she went by, perfumed and heavily plastered with paint, wearing loud
and garish clothes, in the streets of Alexandria, Beirut, Constantinople,
and saw women giving the breast to their babies, her own breasts tingled and
swelled, her nipples stood out, asking for a tiny childlike mouth as well.
—Nikos Kazantzakis. Zorba the Greek. Chapter 19
Greasy-faced children popped-the-whip through the crowd, and babies lunched
at their mothers’ breasts.
—Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird. Chapter 16
Judge Taylor was the only person in the courtroom who laughed. Even the babies
were still, and I suddenly wondered if they had been smothered at their mothers’
—Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird. Chapter 18
It is true, a child just dropped from its dam, may be supported by her milk
for a solar year, with little other nourishment;
—Jonathan Swift. A Modest Proposal
I think that I shall never see,
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast.
—Joyce Kilmer. Trees
A pair of substantial mammary glands has the advantage over the two hemispheres
of the most learned professor's brain, in the art of compounding a nutritious
fluid for infants.
—Oliver Wendall Holmes
A woman’s life isn’t worth a plateful of cabbage if she hasn’t
felt life stir under her heart. Taking a little one to nurse, watching him
grow to manhood, that’s what love is.
—Carol Shields. The Stone Diaries
Toward women he feels both a profound reverence and a floating impatience,
and from his random reading on the subject, he understands that this impatience
stems from a resentment toward a punishing, withholding,enfeebling mother,
the mother who gives and then withdraws the breast.
—Carol Shields. The Stone Diaries
WOMAN THREE: I got it pumped into me too, but I mean like literally. My mother?—she used to take me with her when she played. It was hard to get baby-sitters in the daytime then and I was just a baby. She just stuck me in a corner in my little basket thingamajig, and if I got hungry and made a fuss, she’d whip out a boob right there at the table. Never missed a hand. A month old, two months old, and there I was, sucking up all those hearts and diamond tricks along with my mother’s milk, God, I wonder what it tastes like.
WOMAN ONE: (reflecting) Vanilla ice cream—that’s what I’ve
heard, only melted.
—Carol Shields. Thirteen Hands, Act 1
Bread is for us a kind of successor to the motherly breast, and it has been
over the centuries responsible for billions of sighs of satisfaction.
—Margaret Visser. The Rituals of Dinner. Chapter 1. Behaving.
Then, in a further act of generosity—or was it a mortification of the
flesh, a self-inflicted punishment for her instinctual revulsion?—Aurora
gave me an even greater gift. ‘Miss Jaya’s bottle was okay for
the girls,’ she announced. ‘But as for my son, I will feed-o him
myself.’ I wasn’t arguing; and clamped myself firmly to her breast.
—Salman Rushdie. The Moor’s Last Sigh. Chapter 10.
I was the only child she suckled at her breast. It made a difference: for although I received my share of the sharp end of her tongue,there was something in her attitude towards me that was less destructive than her treatment of my sisters.
She suckled me, and the first ‘Moor’ pictures were done while
I nestled at her breast: charcoal sketches, watercolours, pastels and finally
a large work in oils. Aurora and I posed, somewhat blasphemously, as a godless
madonna and child.
—Salman Rushdie. The Moor’s Last Sigh. Chapter 13.
He watched Shams al-Din, ecstatically suckling from his mother’s breast and smiling, oblivious to events around him.
Shams al-Din began to cry. She changed him and thrust her full breast gently into his open mouth...
Shams al-Din at least was content. He crawled around on the sand, sat and played with pebbles, was never bored, and grew in the wind and sun, feeding abundantly on his mother’s milk.
He noticed Ulfat engrossed in the child at her breast,...
Zahira was feeding Galal when Muhammad Anwar suddenly rushed into the room. She thrust her breasts inside her dress, and pulled the veil more tightly around her head and face, full of embarrassment.
—Naguib Mahfouz. The Harafish
From: Mary McCarthy, The Group (most of Chapter 10)
Priss Hartshorn Crockett was nursing her baby. That was the big news. ‘I never expected a breast-fed grandson,’ said Priss’s mother, laughing and accepting a martini from her son-in-law, Dr. Sloan Crockett, the budding pediatrician.
He was in the nursery now, behind the plate-glass window at the end of the corridor—roaring his head off; his feeding time was six o’clock. Priss was drinking an eggnog, to help her lactate; liquids were very important, but she had lost her taste for milk during pregnancy, doing nothing and having to force herself to drink that quart a day that the doctors insisted on if she were not to lose her teeth building the baby’s bones. Now, to tempt her, the nurses flavoured her milk with egg and sugar and vanilla and gave her fruit juices on the hour and ginger ale and Coke—every kind of liquid but alcohol, for if she drank a martini, Stephen would have gin for his dinner.
‘No politics today,’ said Mrs. Hartshorn firmly. ‘We’ve declared a moratorium. Priss has to think of her milk.’
Lakey, she went on to Polly, had sent the most exquisite christening robe from Paris, fit for a dauphin—a great surprise, because she had not written for ages; she was doing her doctorate at the Sorbonne. And Pokey Prothero Beauchamp, who had had twins herself the year before, had sent a baby scales, a most thoughtful gift. Everyone had been frightfully kind. Dottie Renfrew Latham had arranged, from way out in Arizona, for Bloomingdale’s to deliver a sterilizer, all complete with bottles and racks, instead of the conventional baby cup or porriger. That would come in handy later on, when Priss’s milk ran out.
Mrs. Harshorn glanced at her daughter and lowered her voice. ‘Just fancy little Priss being the first of your set to do it, Polly. She’s so flat there she’s never had to wear a brassière. But Sloan says it’s not the size that counts. I do hope he’s right. The miracle of the loaves and fishes, I call it. All the other babies in the nursery are on bottles. The nurses prefer it that way. I’m inclined to agree with them. Doctors are all theory. Nurses see the facts.’ She swallowed her martini in a single draft, like medicine; this was the style among advanced society women of her age. She wiped her lips and refused a ‘dividend’ from the silver shaker. ‘Which way progress, Polly?’ she demanded, in a slightly louder voice, shaking her white bobbed locks. ‘The bottle was the war-cry of my generation. Linda was bottle-fed. And you can’t imagine the difference. For us, the bottle spelled the end of colic, and the frantic you husband walking the baby all night. We swore by the bottle, we of the avant-grade. My mother-in-law was horripilated. And now, I confess, Polly, I’m horripilated myself.’
‘Medicine seems to be all cycles,’ continued Mrs. Hartshorn. ‘That’s the bone I pick with Sloan. Like what’s-his-name’s new theory of history. First we nursed our babies; then science told us not to. Now it tells us we were right in the first place. Or were we wrong then but would be right now? Reminds me of relativity, if I understand Mr. Einstein.’
Sloan ignored this excursion. ‘By nursing Stephen,’ he said patiently, ‘Priss can give him her immunities for at least the first year. He won’t be liable to chicken pox or measles or whooping cough. And he will have a certain protection from colds. Of course, in some cases the mother’s milk disagrees with the child. You get a rash or stomach upsets. Then you have to weigh the advantages of breast-feeding against the negative side-effects.’
‘And psychologically,’ appended Polly, ‘isn’t the breast-fed baby supposed to have a warmer relation with his mother than the bottle-fed baby?’ Sloan frowned. ‘Psychology is still a long way from being a science,’ he declared. ‘Let’s stick to measurable facts. Demonstrable facts. We can demonstrate that the breast-fed infant gets his mother’s immunities. And we know from the scales that Stephen is gaining. An ounce a day, Cousin Louisa.’ This was his name for Mrs. Hartshorn. ‘You can’t argue with the scales.’
The sound of a baby’s crying made itself heard in the silence that followed this speech. ‘That’s Stephen again,’ said Mrs. Hartshorn. ‘I recognize his voice. He yells louder than any other baby in the nursery.’ ‘Shows he’s a healthy young fellow,’ replied Sloan. Time to worry if he didn’t cry for his dinner. Eh, Priss?’ Priss smiled wanly. ‘Sloan says it’s good for his lungs,’ she said, grimacing. ‘Develops them,’ agreed Sloan. ‘Like a bellows.’ He drew air into his chest and released it.
Mrs. Hartshorn looked at her watch. ‘Can’t the nurse bring him in now?’ she wondered. ‘It’s quarter of six.’ ‘The schedule, mother!’ cried Priss. ‘The reason babies in your time had colic wasn’t because they were breast-fed, but because they were picked up at all sorts of irregular times and fed whenever they cried. The point is to have a schedule and stick to it absolutely!’
In the middle of the general laugh, a nurse tapped at the door. ‘Excuse us, ladies and gentlemen. Feeding time.’ When the room was cleared of guests, she closed the window Mrs. Hartshorn had opened and then brought the baby in on her shoulder. He was wearing a long white nightgown and his face was red and swollen; she placed him next to Priss in the bed. It was exactly six o’clock. ‘Which one is it tonight, dear?’ she demanded. Priss, who had managed to lower one shoulder of her nightgown, indicated her right breast. The nurse swabbed it with cotton and alcohol and laid the baby to suck; as usual, he made a face at the alcohol and pushed the nipple away. The nurse settled it firmly in his mouth again; then she went about the room emptying ashtrays and collecting glasses to take back to the diet kitchen. ‘You had quite a party tonight.’
To Priss, this sounded like a criticism, and she did not reply. Instead, she gritted her teeth. The baby’s mouth always hurt her nipple at the beginning, like a bite. Her breasts were very sensitive, and she hated to have Sloan touch them in love-making; she had hoped that nursing the baby would get her over that. People said that nursing was very satisfying, sensually, to the mother, and she had thought that if she got in the habit with the baby, she would not mind so much with a grown man. Though she had not told Sloan, this was one of her principal reasons for agreeing to breastfeed Stephen: so that she could give Sloan, who was entitled to it, more fun in bed. But so far nursing, like most of sex, was an ordeal she had to steel herself for each time it happened by using all her will-power and thinking about love and self-sacrifice. The nurse was watching her now, to make sure that the baby was drawing at the nipple properly. ‘Relax, Mrs. Crockett,’ she said kindly. ‘Baby can sense it if you’re tense.’ Priss sighed and tried to let go. But naturally the more she concentrated on relaxing, the more tense she got. ‘Bless braces, damn relaxes,’ she joked feebly. ‘You’re tired this evening,’ said the nurse. Priss nodded, feeling grateful that someone knew and disloyal, at the same time, to Sloan, who did not know that it wore her out to have company, especially mixed company that sat there discussing her milk.
But as the baby (she wished the nurse would call him ‘Stephen’ not ‘Baby’) commenced to suck rhythmically, making a little noise like a snore, Priss grew somewhat easier. She did not enjoy the sucking, but she liked his fresh, milky smell, which made her think of churns and dairies, and his pale fuzz of hair and his warmth. Soon she was unaware of his sucking, except as a hypnotic rhythm; the nurse put the bell in her hand and tiptoed out. Priss was almost asleep when she came to, with a start; Stephen was asleep himself. His little mouth had ceased to tug, and the noise he was making was a light snore. She joggled him a little, as she had been taught to do, but her nipple slipped out of his mouth. He turned his round soft head away and lay sleeping with his cheek flat on her chest. Priss was terrified; she tried to turn his head and thrust her breast into his mouth. He resisted; his little hands rose and beat feebly at her breast to push it away. She shifted her position and looked at her watch. He had only been nursing seven minutes, and he was supposed to nurse fifteen to get the milk he needed to carry him through till the next feeding, which would be at ten o’clock. She had been cautioned before not to let him fall asleep. She rang the bell, and turned the light on outside her door.
No one came; she listened; there was complete silence in the corridor. Not even the sound of a baby crying came from the far end at the nursery. They were all being fed, obviously—all but poor Stephen—and the nurses were all busy, giving them their bottles. She was always fearful of being left alone with Stephen and usually she contrived to keep a nurse with her, making conversation.
Still no one came; another three minutes had passed. She thought of Sloan, who would be in the Visitors’ Lounge with her mother and Bill Edris, talking and enjoying himself; it was against the hospital rules for the husband to watch the mother nurse, and this was one rule that Sloan did not care to break. Perhaps a passing interne would notic her light. She raised her arm t look at her watch again; two more minutes gone. She felt as though she and Stephen were marooned together in eternity or tied together like prisoners in some gruesome form of punishment. It was useless to remind herself that this frightening bundle was her own child and Sloan’s. Rather, she felt, to her shame, that he was a piece of hospital property that had been dumped on her and abandoned—they would never come to take him away.
‘Is he all right? I’m afraid I lost my head.’ ‘Stephen’s just plain mad, isn’t he?’ the girl said, addressing the baby. ‘Does he want to go back to bed?’ She picked up his blanket and wrapped him in it; she patted his back to ‘bubble him’. ‘No, no!’ cried Priss. ‘Give him back, please. He hasn’t finished nursing. I let him go to sleep in the middle.’
‘Oh, my!’ said the girl. ‘You must have been scared, all right. I’ll stay with you this time till he finishes.’ The baby belched and the girl unwrapped him and laid him, under the covers, on Priss’s breast. ‘Somebody should have come in to bubble him,’ she said. ‘He swallowed a lot of air.’ She gently slid the nipple into his mouth. The baby pushed it away and began to cry again. He was evidently angry. The two girls—Priss was the older—gazed at each other sadly. ‘Does that hapen often?’ said Priss. ‘I don’t know,’ said the girl. ‘Most of our babies are bottle babies. But they do that sometimes with the bottle if the holes in the nipple aren’t big enough; they get mad and push the bottle away.’ ‘Because the milk doesn’t come fast enough,’ said Priss. ‘That’s my trouble. But I wouldn’t mind if he pushed a b-bottle away.’ Her thin little face looked rueful. ‘He’s tired,’ said the student nurse. ‘Did you hear him this afternoon?’ Priss nodded, looking down at the baby. ‘It’s a vicious circle,’ she said gloomily. ‘He wears himself out crying because he’s famished and then he’s too exhausted to nurse.’
The door opened again. ‘You left Mrs. Crockett’s light on,’ the older nurse chided the student. ‘You should remember to snap it off when you come in. What was the trouble here, anyway?’ ‘He won’t nurse,’ said Priss. The three women looked at each other and sighed jointly. ‘Let’s see if you have any milk left,’ siad the older nurse finally, in a practical tone. She moved the baby’s head slightly to one side and squeezed Priss’s breast; a drop of watery liquid appeared. ‘You can try it,’ she conceded. ‘But he’ll have to learn to work for his supper. The harder he works, of course, the more milk you produce. The breast should be well drained.’ She squeezed Priss’s breast again, then clapped ‘Baby’s’ head to the most nipple. While both nurses watched, he sucked for another minute, for two minutes, and stopped. ‘Shall we prime the pump again?’ said Priss with a feeble smile. The older nurse bent down. ‘The breast is empty. No sense in wearing him out for nothing. I’ll take him now and weigh him.’
In a moment the student nurse was back, breathless. ‘Two ounces!’ She reported. ‘Shall I tell your company they can come back?’ Priss was overjoyed; her supper tray appeared while she was waiting for her family to return, and she felt almost hungry. ‘We’ve heard your vital statistic,’ announced Mrs. Hartshorn. ‘Is two ounces a lot?’ asked Allen dubiously. An excellent average feeding, declared Sloan: Priss’s milk was highly concentrated though the volume was not large; that was why the baby was gaining steadily, despite the little fuss he made before meals.
Priss picked up the last number of Consumer Reports; she was hoping they would have an article on bottled baby foods. She know she was letting herself slip, mentally, in the hospital. She lived on the bulletins the nurses brought her of how many ounces Stephen had taken—they weighed him before and after each feeding. If the nurse forgot to come and tell her, she nearly died, imagining the worst and not having the gumption to ring and ask. The other important event was the regular morning weighing, before his bath, which showed his over-all gain for the day. Nothing but these figures and her own fluid intake interested Priss now; she was always having to ring for the bedpan because of the gallons of water she imbibed. The nurses were awfully co-operative, though they disapproved, she knew (except the student), of her breast-feeding Stephen. They thought Sloan and her obstetrician, Dr. Turner, were barmy. But they too were impressed, nolens volens, by the evidence of the scales. The child was growing.
If it had not been for the bulletins, Priss would certainly have lost faith. Sloan and Dr. Turner did not have to hear Stephen crying. The nurses and Priss had to hear it. At eight o’clock that night right on the dot, down in the nursery Stephen started to cry. Sheknew his voice—the whole floor knew it. Sometimes he would whimper and then go back to sleep for a while, but when he began noisily, as he was doing now, he might cry for two solid hours—a scandal. It was against the rules for the nurses to pick him up; they were allowed to change him and give him a drink of water, and that was all. The babies were not supposed to be ‘handled’. And if they gave him a second drink of water, he might not nurse properly when feeding time finally came.
Sometimes merely changing him would quiet him for the time being. Often the drink of water would quiet him. But not always. A lot depended, Priss had discovered, on when he got the water; if they gave it to him too soon, he would sleep briefly and wake up again, howling. If he woke up midway between between feedings, the nurse usually let him cry, after changing him, for an hour, and then gave him the water, so that, tired from crying and with a deceptively full stomach, he would often sleep through until the next feeding. That was the best for then he was fresh when he was brought in to nurse and would draw with might and main from the nipple. But if he woke up shortly after a feeding, it was horrible: after an hour’s cry, he would get his water, sleep, wake up and cry again without stopping—his record, so far, was two hours and three-quarters.
The idea that her child disturbed the other infants greatly troubled Priss, though the nurses tried to reassure her: newborn babies, they said, quickly got accustomed to a familiar noise. Still, Priss could not refrain from framing an apologetic sentence t the maid. ‘Oh, dear, Catherine,’ she said (she had made a point of learning the maids’ names), ‘do you hear him? He’ll wake up the whole hospital.’ ‘Hear him?’ replied Catherine, who was Irish. ‘He’ll wake the dead. When are they going to let him have a bottle for God’s sake?’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Priss, closing her eyes in pain. ‘Ah, don’t take it so hard,’ the maid said jauntily, straightening Priss’s covers. ‘He’s exercising his lungs.’ Priss wished everyone would not say that. ‘It’s not my place to ask,’ said Catherine, moving closer to plump Priss’s pillows, ‘but I’ve been wondering. What put it into your head to nurse?’ Priss felt her neck redden. ‘Im-m-munities,’ she stammered. The maid looked at her curiously. ‘You know,’ said Priss. ‘Like vaccination. He can’t get any diseases I’ve had, like mumps or chicken pox or measles.’ ‘Always something new,’ said Catherine, shaking her head. She poured Priss fresh water. ‘They’re always inventing something, aren’t they?’ Priss nodded. ‘Would you like your radio on, now? A little music? You won’t hear him, over the music.’ ‘No, thank you Catherine,’ said Priss. ‘Can I crank you up a bit, Mrs. Crockett?’ ‘No, thank you, ‘ Priss repeated. The maid hesitated. ‘Good night, then, and cheer up. Look on the bright side. They used to say it developed the bust.’
Priss could not help treasuring this last remark; she saved it to tell her mother tomorrow, in the brogue, if she could without stuttering. At the same time she had to admit that she had been secretly hoping that Stephen would be a bust-developer and she had made Dr. Turner laugh when she asked him anxiously whether she wouldn’t need a nursing brassière. Her mood lightened; outside, silence reigned—Stephen must have had his drink of water while she and the made were talking.
This calm was broken by the head floor nurse, Miss Swenson, who was going off duty. She came in and closed the door. ‘I want to tell you, Mrs. Crockett, that I’m going to speak to Dr. Turner in the morning. To recommend that Stephen be given a supplementary bottle.’ The nurse’s casual tone did not fool Priss. A supplementary bottle—the phrase sounded horrid, as if Miss Swenson had said, ‘I’m going to recommend a dose of strychnine.’ The very word bottle made Priss bristle, no matter what adjectives were attached. She braced herself against her pillows and prepared to give battle. Miss Swenson went on smoothly, as if she had not noticed the effect of her announcement on Priss. ‘I know this will be a great relief to you, Mrs. Crockett. We all undersatnd what you’ve been going through. You’ve been a wonderful patient, a remarkable patient.’ Even in her shock, Priss recognized that Miss Swenson, whom she had always liked, was speaking with real earnestness. ‘But why?’ she brought out finally. ‘The scales...’
Miss Swenson, who was in her thirties with blond hair in a bun, came to the bedside and took her hand. ‘I know how you feel, my dear. Torn. Most nursing mothers cry when I have to tell them that I recommend a supplementary bottle. Even when the child is failing to gain weight. They want to keep trying. You’re exceptionally brave not to break down.’ ‘You mean this happens often?’ asked Priss. ‘Not very often. But we have one or two younger doctors who like to have the mothers nurse as long as they’re able. Not all the mothers agree, of course. There’s still a prejudice against breast-feeding, especially—and this will surprise you—among ward patients. They feel that a bottle baby is socially superior.’ ‘How interesting!’ Priss exclaimed. ‘And we see that same attitude with our Jewish private patients. Even when they have plenty of milk, and the doctor encourages it, they don’t want to nurse; they have the idea it’s lower East Side.’ ‘How interesting,’ Priss repeated thoughtfully. ‘Oh, being a nurse one sees a great deal. And the class differences are quite extraordinary.
‘Do higher-income women have a lower milk supply?’ She did not like to use the words upper class. Miss Swenson avoided answering this blunt question; probably she was afraid of depressing Priss with the thought that her case was statistically pretty hopeless. She looked at her watch. ‘I want to explain the supplementary bottle to you, Mrs. Crockett.’ To Priss’s surprise, she found that this phrase no longer sounded like a death knell. ‘But if he’s gaining the right amount...?’ she protested, nevertheless. He’s an unusually hungry baby,’ said Miss Swenson. ‘Your milk is quite adequate from a nutritional point of view, but it doesn’t give him enough volume. What I suggest, Mrs. Crockett, is this. After his six o’clock evening feeding, starting tomorrow, we’ll give him a small amount of formula in a bottle. Your milk supply is at its lowest then, I’ve noticed. At ten he gets enough volume from you to hold him. On a full stomach he’ll sleep through till two; so will you, poor girl. In fact, with the supplementary bottle we mayeven be able to train him, before you leave the hospital, to sleep right through till six in the morning, so that you’ll have an unbroken night. We like to do that anyway for our mothers, before they go home; once the baby has the habit of the two o’clock feeding, it’s hard for the mother to break it herself. A baby works like a little clock, and we like to have it set right before the mother takes over.’
Priss nodded. How wonderful, she thought, of the hospital to plan ahead for the mothers. None of this would have been possible a few years before. ‘If he’s still fretful, even with one supplementary bottle,’ Miss Swenson went on, ‘we may have to give him more. Some babies take a supplementary bottle after each time at the breast. But in Stephen’s case I don’t think this will be necessary. You may even find that your flow of milk increases, once Stephen is more comfortable.
From: Mary McCarthy, The Group (most of Chapter 14)
‘Have you got a watch?’ Norine asked, yawning. Priss told her the time. ‘Are you nursing?’ she asked, stealing an envious look at Norine’s massive breasts. ‘My milk ran out,’ said Norine. ‘So did mine¡’ cried Priss. ‘As soon as I left the hospital. How long did you nurse?’ ‘Four weeks. Then Freddy slept with the girl we had looking after Ichabod, and my milk went on strike.’ Priss gulped; the story she had been about to relate, of how her mil had run out as soon as they gave Stephen a supplementary bottle was hastily vetoed on her lips.
James arrives home in the middle of that day to find Mrs. Luvovitz in the kitchen feeding his baby with a dropper.
James plunked his wife onto the chair and put the screeching baby into her arms. "Now feed her."
But the mother just blubbered and babbled.
"Speak English, for Christ’s sake."
"Ma bi’der. Biwajeaal."
He slapped her. "If she doesn’t eat, you don’t eat. Understood?"
Materia nodded. He unbuttoned her blouse.
James allowed Mrs. Luvovitz over that evening when Materia hadn’t produced a drop and the baby was fit to be tied. The women went upstairs. The howling the mother put up, as Mrs. Luvovitz did the necessary.
In a few days the pump was primed and the baby was sucking. But the mother cried through every feeding. One evening in the fourth week of Kathleen’s life, James snatched his child from the breast in horror.
"You’ve hurt her, Jesus Christ, you’ve cut her lip!"—for the baby’s smile was bright with blood.
Materia just sat there, mute as usual, her dress open, her nipples cracked and bleeding, oozing milk.
James took one look and realized that the child would have to be weaned before
it was poisoned.
—Anne-Marie MacDonald. Fall Down on you Knees. Chapter "1900"
Frances looks a litle starveling and she’s bald as a post. Materia figures it’s because she conceived too soon after Mercedes, the goodness in her womb hadn’t yet been replenished. And her milk isn’t as bountiful. All the more reason to love this one too.
The two little ones seem fine, Mercedes breastfeeding a dolly and cooing
—Anne-Marie MacDonald. Fall Down on you Knees. Chapter "The First Solution"
"She was a good woman. Her name was Mahmoud. Many years ago, when your
jitdy was a baby, the Turks came to his village in the Old Country. They were
looking for Christian babies to kill. The Mahmoud woman took your jitdy and
put him among her own children. When the Turks came to the door and said,
‘Are there any Christian babies here?’ she said ‘No! All
these children are my own.’ And to convince them, she put your jitdy
to her own breast and suckled him.
—Anne-Marie MacDonald. Fall Down on you Knees. Chapter "Over Here"
...The corners of Lily’s mouth run with clear saliva, she is incapable of closing her mouth or of taking the next breath. Frances touches Lily’s fist, unlocking her throat. The air pours scraping in, and corrosive sobs begin.
"Come here, Lily."
Frances opens her nightgown and guides Lily’s mouth to drink.
—Anne-Marie MacDonald. Fall Down on you Knees. Chapter "Blue Dress"
‘Wvery,’ replied his parent, wilth a sigh. ‘She’s
got hold o’ some inwention for grown-up people being born again, Sammy;
the new birth, I thinks they calls it. I should wery much like to see that
system in haction, Sammy. I should wery much like to see your mother-in-law
born again. Wouldn’t I put her out to nurse!’
—Charles Dickens. The Pickwick Papers. Chapter XXII
A day came—of almost terrified delight and wonder—when the poor widowed girl pressed a child upon her breast... How she laughed and wept over it—how love, and hope, and prayer woke again in her bosom as the baby nestled there.
How his mother nursed him, and dressed him and lived upon him... It was her
life which the baby drank in from her bosom.
—W. P. Thackery. Vanity Fair. Chapter XXXV
The parting between Rebecca and the little Rawdon did not cause either party much pain. She had not, to say the truth, seen much of the young gentleman since his birth. After the amiable fashion of French mothers, she had placed him out to nurse in a village in the neighbourhood of Paris...
He preferred his nurse’s caresses to his mamma’s and when finally he quitted that jolly nurse and almost parent, he cried loudly for hours.
It is a fact that even the poor gardener’s wife, who had nursed madame’s
child, was never paid after the first six months for that supply of the milk
of human kindness.
—W. P. Thackery. Vanity Fair. Chapter XXXVI
...her grief at weaning the child was a sight that would have unmanned a
—W. P. Thackery. Vanity Fair. Chapter XXXVIII
It is most distressing, for instance, for a man sitting on his beach-front
verandah with his family to have a woman with a large family appear, sit calmly
upon the edge of the boardwalk and expose her person to feed her baby.
—Toronto Evening Telegram, 10 August 1933, page 9. Comment attributed to representative of homeowners of the eastern beaches.
...When she nurses her baby she often reads a book, sometimes smokes a cigarette, so as not to slink into the sludge of animal function. And she’s aware of the nursing shrinking her uterus and flattening her stomach, not just providing the baby—Noelle—with precious maternal antibodies.
"Good thing you weren’t going to drink that yourself," the girl from the library said to Kath. "It’s a no-no if you’re nursing."
"I guzzled beer all the time when I was nursing," the woman on
the stool said. "I think it was recommended. You piss most of it away
—Alice Munro. Jakarta (short story published in Saturday Night, February 1998)
O would my young, ye saw my breast,
And knew what thoughts there sadly rest,
Great was my pain when I you bred,
Great was my care when I you fed,
Long did I keep you soft and warm,
—Anne Bradstreet. In Reference to Her Children, 23 June 1659.
Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come t thee soon;
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Lullaby, from The Princess
Who fed me from her gentle breast
And hushed me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
—Anne Taylor. My Mother
Untaught, yet wise! mid all thy brief alarms
Thou closely clingest to thy Mother’s arms,
Nestling thy little face in that fond breast,
Whose anxious Heavings lull thee to thy rest!
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge. To an Infant
Struggling in thy fathers hands:
Striving against my swadling bands:
Bound and weary I thought best
To sulk upon my mother’s breast.
—William Blake. Infant Sorrow
At birth the baby should sleep almost 23 hours out of 24.
He should sleep at least 18 hours a day until 6 months old.
At least 16 hours until 1 year old.
At least 14 hours until 4 years old, part of which should be in the afternoon at a regular hour.
The baby should sleep alone in a room or at least have a crib or a bed to himself.
Never rock a baby to sleep. Never put a baby to sleep in your arms; it is a bad habit, tiresome for yourself and unwholesome for the baby.
—Canada's Baby Book. 17th edition. Rice, Montreal. 1928
If I hadn't had my children, I wouldn't have written more and better, I would
have written less and worse.
—Margaret Laurence. Quoted by Jay Scott in Chatelaine, October 1989
It is well that a growing infant should cry a little every day. ...The baby
should be made to cry every day by slapping him on the buttocks.
—The Normal Child by Alan Brown. Frederick D. Goodchild. Toronto. 1923 p. 42
The selection of the nurse-maid is a matter of considerable importance. ...Women
who are of about middle age, at which time the attractive qualities of policemen
and grocery-boys have faded into a dim recollection..very often make capable
—The Normal Child by Alan Brown. Frederick D. Goodchild. Toronto. 1923 p. 6-7
When the baby is just born, and during the first few days of life, it is
very little more intelligent than a vegetable.
—The Normal Child by Alan Brown. Frederick D. Goodchild. Toronto. 1923 p. 52-3
If these parts are not kept thoroughly clean, secretions may form to such
an extent as to act as foreign bodies, drawing the child's attention to the
parts and in this way frequently lead to masturbation.
—The Normal Child by Alan Brown. Frederick D. Goodchild. Toronto. 1923 p. 29
Badly managed and spoiled infants often cry vigorously when left alone, and
when attention is given to them and they are taken up or talked to, the crying
—The Normal Child by Alan Brown. Frederick D. Goodchild. Toronto. 1923 p. 43
Community traditions of midwifery and mutual aid were discredited as women were urged to trust their doctors rather than their neighbours or themselves. Medically prescribed childbirth became an alienating surgical procedure and child rearing a rigid clockwork routine devoid of sensual pleasure.
...People came to accept the idea that relevant knowledge about children and childbirth was vested in professional experts who stood outside the network of family and community relationships.
By becoming merely the agents of the latest theory, mothers gave up the last
vestige of their traditional authority and independence.
—David Cayley. Ideas. Doctoring the Family. CBC radio. April 85
A young baby is sufficient unto himself. He derives all necessary stimulation
from his own activities and his own immediate surroundings. Playing with a
young baby is never necessary and it is often harmful...A little play in the
middle of the afternoon, say for 10 or 15 minutes, with a baby of four months
or over may be permitted...The best practice is to have a physician trained
in the care of children to look after the baby from birth, to whom all matters
of this sort may be referred.
—Alton Goldbloom. The Care of the Child. Longmans Green. Toronto 1928
When the baby is crying, whether it is during the day or night, rocking,
walking the floor, shaking or otherwise agitating the baby must be rigorously
avoided. Few people realize the importance of vigorous, lusty crying in a
healthy infant. It is as essential to the infant as exercise is to the adult.
It is, in fact, the infant's daily exercise. All young babies should have
a crying period during each day...The infant who cries regularly between 5
and 6, or 8 and 10 o'clock in the evening is doing what is called "reflex
crying". It is not to be assumed under such conditions that he is suffering
either discomfort or pain, but it is to be taken for granted that such crying
is good for the baby and is as important as food.
—Alton Goldbloom 1928
The environment of the child must be guided by the physician. He must give
advice concerning the details of early training in obedience, habit formation,
temper tantrums etc. How often do we see the young infant stop crying at two
weeks of age when it is picked up by either parent. Herein lies the potential
juvenile court case. Unless the parents are guided by the physician, even
at this early stage, the infant soon learns to put one over on its parents.
The first issue of 20/20 was unquestionably one of the worst turkeys ever seen on American network, and yet it was curiously prophetic, and critics like Tom Shales who saw in it an omen of the future of the TV news-magazine program were not wrong. There was the voyeuristic interest in the confession of sins. There was the fixation on celebrity. There was the almost total absence of any serious news... There was the phony sentimentality, the mock humanism. Above all, there was the belief that reality must always take a back seat to entertainment, so that the audience must not be overtaxed, so that they will come back for more of the same Twinkie.
—Robert Hughes. Why Watch It, Anyway. The New York Review of Books. 42;3;p40 Feb 16, 1995
...the American imagination demands the real thing and, to attain it, must
fabricate the absolute fake;
—Umberto Eco. Travels in Hyperreality
Obviously advertising works.
—Leslie Chester, business director for the confectionery division Nestlé Canada. Globe and Mail, November 9, 1993
The environmental impact of the Great Flood of '93 will be tremendous and long-lasting, say scientists, and will illustrate how a century of levee-building and dam-constructing has taken a natural river system and turned it into something artificial, and perhaps even more dangerous.
—William Booth, The Washington Post. Reprinted in Guardian Weekly, July 25, 1993
The recognition of oneself as part of nature, and reliance on natural things,
are disappearing for hundreds of millions of people who do not know that anything
is being lost.
—Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels. (Clement Hollier to Mamusia Laoutaro)
The hidden intention is to go to the limit, to see how far can we ride the
tiger. The more we know about the responsiveness of nature, the more somehow
you can test the limits.
—Wolfgang Sachs. Ideas (CBC Radio), June 1990
As a man who had seen something of life, and neither a fool nor an invalid, he had no faith in medicine...
—Tolstoy. Anna Karenina
"There speaks a Protestant," Mr Visconti said.
"Any Catholic knows that a legend which is believed has the same value and effect as the truth. Look at the cult of the saints."
"But the Americans may be Protestants".
"Then we produce medical evidence. That is the modern form of the legend..."
—Graham Greene. Travels with My Aunt
...his students...wouldn't believe their grandmothers had wrinkles if they
couldn't measure them with a micrometer
—Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels. (Clement Hollier to Maria Theotoky)
And thou shalt take no bribe; for a bribe blindeth the clear-sighted and perverteth the words of the righteous.
—Exodus, XXXIII, 8
...though she was interested in everything that did not concern her, (she)
had a habit of never listening to what interested her;
—Tolstoy. Anna Karenina
It is fortunate for the future of the human race that young women are transferring
their allegiance from crochet and embroidery-needles to golf...
—The Normal Child by Alan Brown. Frederick D. Goodchild. Toronto. 1923 p. 43
Look sweet, speak fair, become disloyalty;
Apparel vice like virtue's harbinger;
Bear a fair presence, though your heart be tainted;
Teach sin the carriage of a holy saint;
—Shakespeare. The Comedy of Errors. Act III Scene 2
When power is scarce, a little of it is tempting.
—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale. (Professor James Darcy Pieixoto, Keynote speaker "Historical notes on The Handmaid's Tale")
It (William Randolph Hearst's castle) is like making love in a confessional
with a prostitute dressed in a prelate's liturgical robes reciting Beaudelaire
while ten electronic organs reproduce the Well Tempered Clavier played by
—Umberto Eco. Travels in Hyperreality
Stick to your desk
And never go to sea
And you'll all be rulers of the queen's navy
—Gilbert and Sullivan. HMS Pinafore
Would the world ever have been made if its maker had been afraid of making
trouble? Making life means making trouble.
—GB Shaw. Pygmalion. Act V. (Henry Higgins to Eliza Doolittle)
His face wore that everlastingly peevish and woebegone look which has been
so sourly imprinted on all the faces of the Jewish race without exception.
—Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment (even smart people can be anti-semites)
There is nothing harder in the whole world than frankness, and there is nothing
easier than flattery. If there is only one hundredth part of a note of falsehood
in your frankness, at once a discord is created, followed immediately by a
row. If, on the other hand, everything to the last note is false in flattery,
it is still pleasant, and is listened to not without satisfaction; with a
coarse sort of satisfaction, maybe, but with satisfaction still. And however
coarse the flattery may be, half of it at least always seems to be true.
—Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment
...so many different sorts of business men have recently become enthusiastic
adherents of the common cause, and so dreadfully have they distorted in their
own interests everything they touched that they've absolutely discredited
the whole thing.
—Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment (Razumikhin)
Well, don't you think that one little crime could be expiated and wiped out
by thousands of good deeds? For one life you will save thousands of lives
from corruption and decay. One death in exchange for a hundred lives-why,
its a simple sum in arithmetic!
—Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment
If you can measure that of which you speak, and can express it by a number,
you know something of your subject; but if you cannot measure it, your knowledge
is meagre and unsatisfactory.
He was...one of those men who select their opinions like their clothes, according to the prevailing fashion.
"You see", said Berg to his comrade, whom he called his friend only because he knew that everyone has friends.
"...In these days", pursued Vera—speaking of "these
days" as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining
that they have discovered and appraised the peculiarities of "these days"
and that human nature changes with the times—...
—Tolstoy. War and Peace
Do not expect that you will make any lasting or very strong impression on
the world through intellectual power without the use of an equal amount of
conscience and heart.
—William Jewett Tucker (Principal of Dartmouth University, beginning century)
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate,
contrived and dishonest—but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.
—John F Kennedy
People who value their privileges above their principles soon lose both.
—Dwight D Eisenhower
Some people reach the top of the ladder only to find it was leaning against
the wrong wall.
We must be the changes we wish to see in the world.
...we may be pretty certain that persons whom all the world treats ill, deserve
entirely the treatment they get. The world is a looking-glass, and gives back
to every man the reflection of his own face.
—Thackery. Vanity Fair. Chapter 2.
Always to be right, always to trample forward, and never to doubt, are not
these the great qualities with which dullness takes the lead in the world?
—Thackery. Vanity Fair. Chapter 35.
Compiled by Dr. Jack Newman
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