Beautiful Breastfeeding Images from Our Past

Although breastfeeding has become one of the hottest topics of our day — depiction of it in the media is nothing new. The act of breastfeeding has been documented and shared throughout history. From photographs and paintings that show breastfeeding as a natural part of everyday life, to early 20th century health initiatives designed to combat a growing decline in nursing rates, the breastfeeding relationship has held our fascination for centuries.

We’ve collected 10 beautiful samples of such imaginary from locations across the world. We hope you enjoy them.

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

Migrant agricultural worker’s family. Nipomo, California 1936

.

Library of Congress<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

“The baby and the bear nursing” 1903

 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>

Inuit Woman Breast-feeding Baby, c1908

 

Library of Congress

Beatrice Baxter Ruyl, in white cape, breastfeeding infant (Ruth Ruyl) 1905

 

Library of Congress<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

A Javanese family at Tasik Malaya, Java 1902

 

Library of Congress<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

Inuit woman breast-feeding two babies. c1904

 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>

“The Cornstock Madonna” Illinois c1916

 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>

“A free lunch,” New York c1890

 

Library of Congress<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

Nurse the baby. Your protection against trouble : Inform yourself through the Health Bureau publications and consult your doctor, poster bet 1936-1938

 

Library of Congress<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

Print shows a woman, dressed as the Virgin Mary, posed as though breast feeding the infant Jesus 1900

 

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

“Dutch Interior” by Pieter de Hooch bet 1900-1912

 

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

“Maternity” by Gari Melchers,  bet 1900-1920

 

Library of Congress

Print shows Minerva, having exchanged her battle raiments for more domestic dress, nursing an infant; at her feet are an owl, a spear, and a shield which bears the likeness of a gorgon. Sitting to the right is Mentor holding an olive branch and teaching “two children the advantages of peace.” 1788

Which one is your favorite?


26 thoughts on “Beautiful Breastfeeding Images from Our Past”

  1. A couple of years ago, Mothering had a series of bloggers working through the website. One girl found these beautiful pictures of breastfeeding: a woman in a tenement, women in a park in turn of the century clothes, a woman leaning up against a haystack, women waiting for a bus, a woman in a group of people with an inquisitive boy peering to see better, etc. These photos are really interesting, but I would love to find the other ones again. I searched for them the other day to share with friends, but the blog was gone. :( They didn’t look so much like they came out of a National Geographic or art textbook and more like they came out of an interesting movie that I’m dying to know the ending to. That said, the top two photos in this list are my favorite. I really want to know the story behind the bear!

    1. I remember those photos… they were beautiful… I had them saved on our computer, before it crashed. I would love to see those again.

  2. These are great! There are also some beautiful works of art that depict the Madonna nursing the Christ child. I hope you will include some of those in the future.

  3. I love them all but since World Breastfeeding Week and Lammas fall on the same week every year I am going with Cornstalk Madonna!

  4. Hi JosieAK – That was me. I’m so happy you remembered my work. It took a lot of hours searching the archives. I may still have those photos in an old blog.

  5. Thank you, JenniferJames! Those photos really made an impact on me. If you ever post them again, I hope you will link here somehow!

  6. My TWO Favorites are both the Inuit Women one dated 1904 and the other 1908. All of the photos are great though.

  7. amazing pictures. more women need to breast feed in public. my favorite is the inuit woman nursing two babies…beautiful. i wonder who the photographer was in each shot…someone else who saw the beauty and love in breast feeding.

  8. Cornstock Madonna and “Mary nursing Jesus”. If you ever get a chance to go to the Louvre, there are many, many paintings of nursing babies and children. In fact I’ve never seen so many bare breasts as I did in Paris ( ok, many were at the Moulin Rouge), and I’ve been a La Leche Leader for 25 years.

  9. I love the Javanese family photo. The way the mother is sitting with one leg up, the child relaxed and nestled in, the father just being present. It’s beautiful.

  10. i love the one of the Mom nursing with the bear because my little one used to hold his stuffed animal many times while we nursed. So glad to see several of these showing older babies nursing. I just weaned my last one as he turned 2 and it was such a special bonding experience to have nursed him so long

  11. Definitely the WPA Poster. Shows that at one point in time, our American society was smart enough to know – and publicize – that breastfeeding has value beyond just nourishment!

  12. I love the first one — the migrant agricultural worker from 1936. If I wanted to purchase a print of that photo, where could I find it? Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>