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27 Amazing Old Images of Breastfeeding Throughout History


Who doesn’t love a glimpse into the past? These old breastfeeding images from around the world prove that not only is breastfeeding a tale as old as time, whipping a boob out – even in public – isn’t a big to-do, nor has it been for a long time.

We partnered up with My Brest Friend because they too are timeless (and badass) by supporting breastfeeding over 20 years with their award-winning nursing pillows. They are the # 1 choice of lactation consultants and millions of moms in more than 35 countries around the world. (Mine got me through many a long night feeding.)

Breastfeeding Images Throughout History

It turns out that breastfeeding photographs were popular with young mothers in the Victorian era.

I feel like this woman is running down the list of bullshit chores she has to do later that day. This was taken sometime in the 1850s.

Black and white photograph of mother breastfeeding baby

No doubt this kid peed on her.

Black and white photograph of dark haired mother smiling down at nursing baby
Fulton, New York, circa 1910.

It’s amazing to see that those little grins are timeless.

Just imagine the buttons they had to deal with. This photo is from 1898.

Color retouched vintage photograph of woman staring down at baby while it nurses wearing green robe with lace cuffs

This is from a card in France. It reads: “starting from the baby’s birth, good health for the mother prosperity for the baby.”

Old breastfeeding image depicting dark haired mother staring down at nursing baby in black and white photograph
circa 1900

That sweet gaze.

Two mothers nurse their babies in old French hospital
Photographer: David E. Scherman. Time / Life Magazine.

Mothers nursing their babies while waiting their turn to see the doctor in Paris, France 1946. Check out the wimple that nun is rocking.

Color retouched photograph of Japanese mother nursing baby who wears a floral outfit
Mother and Child ”Studio Shin-e-Do (Kobe, Japan). Photography. 19th century.

Everything in this photo is beautiful, although the latch might make some lactation consultant’s twitchy.

Sepia photograph featuring profile view of mother nursing small baby dressed in white robe
circa 1890s

Proof that the mom bun is also not new to the mothering scene.

Black and white image of woman nursing small baby while toddler leans against her legs
London, circa 1910

I feel like this toddler was given the blue cup instead of the requested yellow cup.

Color retouched black and white photograph of mother looking down at nursing baby
circa 1920

That thousand yard stare tells me this kiddo is about 9 seconds from falling asleep on the job.

Old breastfeeding image depicting mother with short dark hair looking down at breastfeeding baby dressed in white robe
circa 1950

Yes, we are focusing on her breastfeeding but I can’t get over how great her skin looks.

Black and white photograph of woman nursing baby while sitting outside
Village Madonna (Váci Mári, the winegrower’s daughter, and her child) Photographer: André Kertész, September 26, 1920. Taken in Szigetbecse, Hungary.

Check out the sweet baby feet.

Black and white old photograph of Indigenous woman tandem nursing children outdoors in Alaska
Alaska, 1904. Photo by FH Nowell.

Tandem feeding for the win!

Dark haired impoverished woman looking tired while nursing small baby
Dorothea Lange circa 1936

Dorothea Lange took this photograph while employed by the US government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) to raise awareness of impoverished farmers. This is one of six photographs taken of Florence Thompson. On being the very famous “Migrant Mother”. She was 32 years old in this photo.

Woman wearing floral dress and glasses nursing baby while sitting next to two men
circa 1930s

Just a couple of guys not giving a shit that a woman is feeding her baby. Guess men can keep it together after all. Who knew ?!

Several caucasian family members sitting on bench while one woman breastfeeds unbothered
Part of Social Hour audience at Shafter Camp (handwritten on reverse) b) Todd’s favorite picture of an “Okie Family” in Shafter FSA Camp. Nursing babies was the usual thing at camp “Socials.” (typed and attached to reverse)

The only person who seems even mildly perplexed is the young boy in the far right of the photo. I like to think he’s more concerned about her stockings rolling down.

Several people sitting on bench waiting for bus while one woman breastfeeds unbothered
Photographer: Esther Bubley, 1943 for Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Collection (FSA-OWI).

A mother waiting in the Chattanooga bus terminal to travel from Louisville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee on a Greyhound bus.

Young woman smiles and looks at the camera while sitting on bench nursing baby
Photographer: Ralph Morse, LIFE Picture Collection

This photo was taken in April 1946 of a French woman nursing her baby whose father is American GI.

Woman sitting in the middle of a crowd nursing toddler.
circa 1940s

The only information I can find about this photo is that it is from an “outdoor meeting” in the 1940s. Once again, nobody in this photo seems to care or notice that this woman is breastfeeding.

Old breastfeeding image of Spanish woman nursing baby while others stand around her
Photographer: Kati Horna

Woman breastfeeding her child in Vélez Rubio (Almería) in 1937 during the Spanish civil war. I feel like all the women in this photo get shit done.

Black woman looks down a her baby who looks up at her while it breastfeeds
Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt, Time Life Magazine

Beautiful bonding moment. This photo was taking in Greenville, MS, in 1937.

Woman breastfeeds while standing in the middle of a group of people
La Gitane de Sacromonte (Grenade) Photographer: Jean Dieuzaide

Romany woman breastfeeding in Spain 1951. High boob still gets the job done.

Screen grab of big bird watching someone breastfeed
circa 1977

This is a wonderful screengrab from an episode of Sesame Street where Buffy Sainte-Marie explains breastfeeding to Big Bird. “You know, that’s nice”. Yes, it is Big Bird, yes it is. You can watch the whole thing here.

Bedouin Arab nomad woman nursing her baby in 1974. Love the little hand hold.

At first I thought this was a cool photo from the 40s. Turns out it’s from 2014 and it’s a thing in Russia to dress in uniform and take pictures of it. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. I think it’s still a cool photo.

Woman wearing lab coat and viewing slides nurses her baby while working
Found on Facebook

Multitasking at its finest!

If this walk down memory lane has shown us anything, it’s that breastfeeding proudly and publicly isn’t new.

It’s not immodest. It’s not rude. And it’s not by any stretch of the imagination some agenda being pushed by youngins’. Plus, it is legally protected by both federal and state laws in all 50 states. So there you go.

Which of these old breastfeeding images was you favorite?

Let me know in the comments!

My Brest Friend Nursing Pillows were carefully developed with help from new moms, babies, and breastfeeding experts. 50 prototypes and a global patent later, My Brest Friend Nursing Pillows are loaded with features that both parents and lactation consultants adore. Check out their new Super Deluxe Nursing Pillow which was just launched to celebrate 25 years of supporting breastfeeding moms and babies.

Our next recos: Breastfeeding Bingo – How many of these can you check off?



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