Have Attitudes About Breastfeeding Changed?

First of all, I’d like to thank all of you who left a comment on my last post. You wouldn’t believe how very encouraging they are. I can keep digging for photos when I know you’re reading. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Most of you have probably heard about the big Facebook virtual nurse-in that happened over the weekend. Tens of thousands of nursing moms are upset that Facebook bans nursing photos, but they have no qualms about showing pornographic ads to their users.

Well, this disdain for nursing — public or otherwise — is certainly not new. Check out this image from July 12, 1950. If you have been following my work for awhile now you have seen this photo before. I thought the imagery is especially potent now given that moms are still expected to hide behind partitions, so to speak, when they breastfeed.

The caption on the photo says: Hilda Kassell, E. 53rd St., New York City. Mother nursing baby.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division: Gottscho-Schleisner Collection (Library of Congress), [reproduction number, LC-G613-T-57610 ] Photographer: Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographer.

7 thoughts on “Have Attitudes About Breastfeeding Changed?”

  1. Wow. That picture speaks a thousand words. Is that her husband? and is that an open door behind the partition? There’s a window right there, too. But hey, as long as that man can’t see anything…

  2. This is amazing. IF that’s her husband, hasn’t he seen her breasts before?? What makes nursing breasts so different than her breasts at other times? Is he afraid that he will get turned on or something? I wonder also if this is a bit staged? The man is sitting really close to the TV and at an odd angle, it seems to me. And the open window and door behind the screen struck me as odd too. That’s crazy, I tell you, CRAZY!

  3. I’m not sure that’s a TV–it almost looks like a fan or a radio with a strange speaker. And yes, that man is sitting very stiffly. Maybe he’s the grandfather of the baby…? It’s an odd picture either way though.

  4. Yikes! What a horribly, hilariously accurate encapsulation of an era! Suppressed sexuality and double standards. . . The man is probably her husband but probably sitting stiffly since he knows he’s being photographed. (God forbid anyone SEE him sneaking a peek at–gasp!– his wife’s breast!) (And, yes, that really is a TV. My grandparents had one like it–though it looks like “Dad” is watching a test pattern)

    Jennifer, thanks for finding such fascinating documentation of our society’s relationship with breastfeeding!

  5. I am not completely comfortable breastfeeding in public. I can do it covered up, or in my car where I think no one is looking. But this photo… this photo makes me want to walk right out into the middle of my street, pull up my shirt and feed my baby girl – right there for everyone to see!

    I have looked at a number of blogs about breastfeeding today, and this is one of a couple that I will be subscribing to. I enjoy these photos you have dug up, and they resonate with me a bit, knowing that my grandfather does genealogy. These seem like photos he would find while researching our family.

    Thanks so much!

  6. I love your site! Thanks for being an advocate for breastfeeding.

    I breastfed eight babies on demand, and I never left the room to do it. It was a very natural part of my life. From the moment my first baby was born, I wore two piece outfits. No more dresses. Often, people thought the baby was merely sleeping snuggled up next to me, when in fact, it was nursing. It IS possible to be very discreet without disrupting everything. I would never have breastfed if I had had to leave any room to do it. I kept my babies with me wherever I went.

    After five babies, my friend had twins, and the hospital gave her information on nursing clothing. She passed it on to me, and that was the best find ever. The company is still in business, and specializes in discreet clothing that allows even the most private person to breastfeed anywhere. The clothing is in style, and comes with a 100% guarantee of satisfaction. That’s where I found my baby sling, which was priceless. (Motherwear.com) They also put their 800 number on the tag of each item of clothing. They are extremely supportive, and the openings are in the right place, and the right size. It’s hard to find good nursing clothing, but these people have the engineering down.

    Thanks for the priceless pictures. I was surprised to learn that early in our history, it was no big deal for a woman to open her blouse and feed her baby. I would never do it that way.

    Thanks for the enlightenment.

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