How Are Babies Made?

Jun 9, 2017

How are babies made? We speak with Cory Silverberg, author of What Makes A Baby, for answers to questions about how we all come into the world.


This is a conversation that welcomes all kinds of families as we answer questions about why babies don't hatch out of eggs, why boys have nipples, why girls have babies but boys don't and how come some people look more like one parent more than the other. We also explore how we get our last names and how two people can have the same last name when they're not related.

"How are babies made?" - Wade, 7, Charlottesville, Va.

In his book What Makes a Baby, Cory Silverberg begins by reminding kids and grownups that there are really two questions: what makes a baby in general, and then the more specific question that is unique to you-where did you come from. That's a question that only your parent or parents or the adults who love you can answer.

While there are lots of ways that babies join families, some things are true for all of us.

"For all humans to be born we need three things. We need to start with an egg; we need to start with a sperm; and those come from two different bodies. And then we need a third body part which is called a uterus. That's where we grow, where this tiny, tiny thing grows into a baby, which is the thing you are when you are born," Silverberg explains.

"Why does my dad have nipples and why do I?" - Sander, 3, Duxbury, Vt.

"Almost everyone has nipples. Before we're born, when we're just beginning to grow, we're just a tiny thing, all of us start out pretty much the same. We develop some body parts that we all have by the time we're born: all humans have a heart, we all have bones, we all have lungs, and we all have a brain. And amazingly we all have nipples!"

Nipples are one of the body parts that develop before a baby's gender has been determined, so both females and males have nipples, but the tissue underneath grows differently once an embryo gets further along.

Here are some book recommendations from Cory Silverberg.

Books Geared to Kids 4 - 7 (ish)

What Makes a Baby
By Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth
A book about where babies come from that works for every kind of family, regardless of who is in it and how the child came to be.

What's the Big Secret: Talking about Sex with Girls and Boys
By Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
A simplified and clear introduction to reproduction, genitals, and touch.  Leaves out a lot of kids and families, but better than most.

Who Are You? The Kid's Guide to Gender Identity
by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and Naomi Bardoff
Also simplified, but a good introduction on gender identity written and illustrated for younger children.

Books Geared to Kids  7 to 10 (ish)

The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls
By Valorie Schaefer and Josee Masse
Only for girls, and not trans inclusive, but still one of the best books to cover a range of sexuality and puberty related topics.

It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families
By Robie Harris and Michael Emberly
Covers reproduction including intercourse gestation and birth, with a focus on heterosexual, gender normative parents and kids.

Sex Is a Funny Word
By Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth
Covers body parts, boundaries, touch, and an extensive gender section for kids and families of all identities and orientations.

Stacey's Not a Girl
By Colt Keo-Meier, illustrated by Jesse Yang
A picture book about a kid who knows they aren't a girl, but isn't sure if they are a boy.

Scarlett, left, 7, Los Angeles, Ca., wants to know why girls can have babies but boys can't? Elizabeth, 4, Hong Kong, wants to know how babies get in their mom's tummy. Benny, 4, West Berlin, Vt., wants to know how babies are made.

Ada, left, 9, Oak Park, Ill., wants to know why some people look more like one parent than another. Sander, center, 3, Duxbury, Vt., wants to know why boys have nipples. Wade, 7, Charlottesville, Va., wants to know how babies are made.
Credit Courtesy of parents

Listen to the full episode for answers to all of your baby questions, and for a discussion about traditions surrounding last names.

Read the full transcript.