The History of Breastfeeding

March 02, 2017

The History of Breastfeeding

In a time where breastfeeding is slowly becoming a societal norm, have you ever thought about how breastfeeding has grown & changed over the years? Well, today we’re going to take a step back into time and explore the history of breastfeeding. 

the history of breastfeeding


In the 18th century, one of the first forms of breastfeeding was by employing the use of wet-nurses. A wet-nurse, a woman who breastfeeds a child that is not biologically hers, was mainly used by the upper class in an attempt to ensure their children were being fed naturally. Societal classes used to dictate breastfeeding practices during these days. Wealthy women found breastfeeding to be unfashionable. They also thought it would ruin their figures and therefore, wet-nurses became a standard practice. 


In the 19th century, the use of wet-nurses as a method of breastfeeding grew to the lower income class as well. As the prices for wet-nurses increased significantly, the wealthy were able to relocate them to their houses to ensure the infants were fed and well taken care of. On the other hand, those of lower classes were not able to afford such a move and as such, were forced to leave their children in the rural areas without supervision. Unfortunately, this led to an increase in infant mortality. 

Bottle feeding was introduced in the 19th century. Unfortunately, at this time, bottles were difficult to clean and sterilize which also led to infant deaths. By the mid-19th century, however, these feeding devices began to undergo major developments. At the turn of the 20th century, with the help of refined bottles, rubber nipples, and access to animal’s milk, artificial feeding became more acceptable and the use of wet-nurses was diminished. 


With the introduction of formula for infant feeding and an uptick in advertising, breastfeeding trends took a turn for the negative. However, in the 1970s, multiple groups began to promote the movement of breastfeeding. With groups such as La Leche League and the Infant Formula Action Coalition in the spotlight, campaigns highlighting the importance of breastfeeding were brought to the general public. 

Over the last few years the movement to normalize breastfeeding has considerably increased. According to the NCBI, for the last 30 years, there has been a steady increase not only in the percent of infants breastfed in the United States, but also on the duration of breastfeeding! 

And just like that, we’re all caught up to the current times! Now that we’ve got a good understanding of how breastfeeding has evolved through the years, be sure to come back next week when we discuss how cultural backgrounds have played a role in breastfeeding journeys for moms across the world! 

By Myra Aslam @ Bliss Creative

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