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Victorian Women Posed For Public Breastfeeding Photos In The Mid-1800s Before It Became Taboo

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is a writer on the Original Content team. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

It seems like every other day there’s another story about a woman being shamed for breastfeeding her baby in public.

In just the past few months, we’ve written about a woman who was told to cover up at a bowling alley, women who were told they had to breastfeed in the bathroom at a wedding, a woman who was shamed for breastfeeding at a hospital, and so many more.

For years, it’s been taboo for women to nurse their children in public, and moms have finally started to fight back against the stigma and shame.

But it wasn’t always like this.

In Victorian times, it was totally normal for women to breastfeed in public. Even though women remained covered up in their daily lives, everyone recognized that nursing a child was essential and not shameful.

In fact, 19th-century moms in the US posed in front of the camera while nursing to capture the special moment with their children. Take a look at some of the stunning pictures below.

[H/T: Daily Mail]

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Today, breastfeeding is often seen as taboo. Women know they might get strange looks for doing it in public, even if they’re covering up.

During the Victorian era, though, it wasn’t unusual to see women nursing in public.

bonnet breastfeeding
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According to Professor Gwen Sharp, who has a PhD in sociology, “in the mid-1800s, images of breastfeeding mothers became a fad in the US.”

Wealthy women wanted to capture this special moment, so they hired photographers to snap pictures of them.

victorian nursing
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Professor Sharp explains that up until the mid-1800s, people preferred to use wet nurses to feed their babies.

Then suddenly, nursing your own child became more popular, and women believed it showed your worth as a mother.

nursing picture
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Femininity became based on the bond a mother had with her children, so women started spending more intimate time with their babies.

Although Victorian women wore modest clothing that covered most of their skin, they weren’t ashamed of breastfeeding.

nursing kids
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It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that women stopped seeing the value of breastfeeding.

Around this time, infant formula hit the market, and it was a healthy alternative to breastfeeding.

nursing victorian
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Eventually, wealthy women stopped nursing almost entirely — it was seen as too “animalistic” for delicate, refined women.

By the 1950s, only 20% of mothers breastfed their babies.

victorian era nursing
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Now, the pendulum has switched direction again, and more and more mothers are choosing to breastfeed their babies.

Luckily, most people now understand that both breastfeeding and formula feeding are healthy options.

breastfeeding nursing
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For moms who find that breastfeeding is the right option for them, it shouldn’t be a problem to nurse in public.

nursing mother
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Opinions on breastfeeding have changed a lot over the last 200 years, but now we’re in a place where we should support all mothers, no matter how they choose to feed their babies.

outside nursing
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