After an emperor penguin hatches from its egg, its mom takes off and leaves dad in charge of babysitting. Why? She travels up to 50 miles away to the ocean to dive for fish, squid, and krill. When she returns to her chick, she regurgitates all this food into its mouth. Yuck for us humans, yum for a little penguin. (Don't miss these arrestingly beautiful photos that stand the test of time.)
Michael Nichols/National Geographic Creative
At birth, newborn panda cubs are 1/900th the size of their mothers. Their average weight is a measly one-fifth of a pound, which makes them one of the smallest newborns relative to their mother. But they get big and strong very fast: By age one, pandas weigh 88 pounds. These exceptionally rare National Geographic photos will stay with you.
Brian Skerry/National Geographic Creative
Young harp seals are born on the ice. Mothers are able to identify their own offspring from the multitudes of others by their smell. The baby seal's coat stays white for around 12 days before it begins to darken. During this 12-day period, it feeds on its mother's high-fat milk, putting on more than two pounds a day and creating that all-important insulating layer of blubber. (Check out these stunning photos of national parks covered in snow.)
Norbert Rosing/National Geographic Creative
Polar bear cub season lasts from November through January. Mother polar bears give birth inside the safety and warmth of a den, and they emerge with their babies in April. A young polar bear lives with its mother for some 28 months to learn essential survival skills, like hunting.
Michael and Patricia Fogden-Minden Pictures-National Geographic Creative
Sloths just love to hang out: A female sloth often gives birth while dangling upside down in a tree. Other sloths will clean the baby and make sure it doesn't tumble to the ground. For roughly the first nine months of life, a baby sloth will cling onto Mom while it builds up the strength to grip trees on its own.
Ring-tailed lemurs typically give birth to one baby at a time, so this mom hit the jackpot. An endangered species found only in Madagascar, lemurs spend two-thirds of their time in the trees. Babies hold on to their mom's chests for their first two weeks, and then they migrate to her back. Lemurs use their striped tails for balance, not for clinging, and a full-grown lemur's tail measures a stunning 24 inches. You'll be awestruck by these spectacular photos of America's national parks.
Strawberry poison dart frogs
Konrad Wothe/Minden Pictures/National Geographic Creative
After a strawberry poison dart frog's eggs hatch, she carries up to five tadpoles (here, just two) on her back to a bromeliad plant in the Central American rain forest. She deposits the tadpoles into the water-filled center of a bromeliad. Every day for nearly two months, she returns to the plants to care for her babies. These breathtaking National Geographic photos of the world's greatest landscapes will fill you with wonder.
A zoo's worth of animal babies and moms
National Geographic Society
Want more photos to warm your heart and brighten your day? Check out the National Geographic book Amazing Moms: Love and Lessons From the Animal Kingdom, which also contains fun animal facts and inspiring quotes.