Women’s breasts are a bone of contention in most cultures; revealing the nipple in some societies is even considered a taboo. Over-sexualizing breasts has led to enormous debates in recent years on whether or not a woman should be permitted to breastfeed in public. Arguments against allowing public exposure of breasts for a child’s nutritional need include indecency and relating breasts to be sexual objects. However, many experts and even the general population agree that the nutritional value of breastfeeding is significant.
Women who support public breastfeeding- particularly in American and European cultures- argue this stance is hypocritical. Walking down the streets, you see more breasts in advertisements than Kentucky Fried Chicken ever imagined. A study from the US Attorney General analyzed data from a national public opinion survey in 2001. Although the overwhelming majority agreed that breastfeeding was important for a child, 57 percent of US adults believed women should not have the right to breastfeed in public places and should even be kicked out of stores and restaurants if caught.
This mindset of not exposing breasts in public may seem like a “traditional” value, but I’m here to show you that stigmatizing breastfeeding is a very recent fad. In fact, during the Victorian Era, there was a craze of women posing for photos while breastfeeding. Sometimes, breastfeeding mothers were even featured on postcards- without an envelope! Gasp! The following photographs were taken during the 1840s-1890s and show that breastfeeding in public and private was once considered a beautiful part of life and motherhood.