The History of Mother Breastfeeding Baby: a breastfeeding timeline

Breastfeeding has had a very long and often turbulent history in the Western world. The necessity of mothers to feed their children has been the subject of many political conversations, debates and even laws! We take a look into the history behind mother breastfeeding baby, and how we have come to the accepting pro-choice society we enjoy today.

Breastfeeding has been a significant part of becoming a mother since time began. It has a fascinating history around the world, including being a legal requirement in Germany, links to Greek goddesses, and featuring in many famous works of art. We delve a bit deeper into the origins of mother’s milk in history.

The powerful benefits of breastfeeding has its roots in Greek mythology, when the goddess Hera’s breastmilk made Hercules invincible. Whilst it may not make your baby invincible, the benefits of mother’s milk for both your child and you, are undeniable.

Wet nurses, who are women who are employed specifically to breastfeed and care for another woman’s baby, were used by noble women and royalty throughout the 1600’s – when over half of all European mothers were sending their babies to be wet nursed.

Breastfeeding in art started to come into prominence in this period – with Jean-Laurent Mosnier’s The Young Mother one of the best-known examples of mother feeding her child in art.

Breastfeeding in some countries was also made mandatory by law, such as in France in 1793, when it was declared that women who didn’t breastfeed would be ineligible for welfare. Germany went one step further and made breastfeeding a legal requirement for all healthy women in 1794.

By the early 1800’s, women across Europe started to want to breastfeed their own babies again. Breastfeeding became almost a feminist issue as women proudly recognised their right to feed their children, however they wanted to.

It is fair to say over the years breastfeeding has evolved dramatically, but one thing that has not changed is the overwhelming benefits of mother’s milk!

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