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 other.

Paul Auster. The Locked Room. (Volume 3 of the New York Trilogy)

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 no more.”

Dostoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov

“…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 fell ill.

Tolstoy. War and Peace. Epilogue. Part I. Chapter 11

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

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. Chapter 21

…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

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

… 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)

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

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

“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' breasts.

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

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

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

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 to Frances.

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 Herod.

W. P. Thackery. Vanity Fair. Chapter XXXVIII

…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 anyhow.”

Alice Munro. Jakarta (short story published in Saturday Night, February 1998)

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)

… 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

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 Scriabin.

Umberto Eco. Travels in Hyperreality

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

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

…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 Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC