Breastfeeding and Men

One of these days I want to write a book about all these photos that I have been featuring on my blog. I believe there was a brief window in history where poor, rural mothers were afforded a level of breastfeeding freedom that their city-dwelling cousins didn’t have. Indeed, this was before the milk industry rushed in and changed infant feeding habits for mothers all across the country.

There are statistics about the growing number of women who bottle-fed their babies during this time, but what about the small percentage of women who continued to breastfeed? I want to tell their story. It would take a lot of work, to be sure, but I think it can be done

These are drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. The official at the border (California-Arizona) inspection service said that on this day, August 17, 1936, twenty-three car loads and truck loads of migrant families out of the drought counties of Oklahoma and Arkansas had passed through that station entering California up to 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

And here is the mother’s husband (I’m assuming). Even if he wasn’t her husband, this mother didn’t have to remove herself from the premises or cover herself just to nurse her son.

And this woman (below) didn’t feel compelled to nurse elsewhere even though she was being photographed nursing her daughter by a male photographer, Ben Shahn.


Breastfeeding, in my opinion and based on these photos, had not yet been defiled and was still a pristine practice.

It wouldn’t be long, though, before breastfeeding, as a natural practice, fell by the wayside especially as more mothers fed their babies cow’s milk in a bottle like this mother.


Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, Reproduction Numbers: LC-USF34-009747-E DLC, LC-USF3301-006023-M5 DLC, LC-USF34-T01-009666-E DLC