[quote="LongingForLight, post:1, topic:197304"]
I was wondering if any of you have elderly relatives who can remember back to the early 20th century whom you could talk to about nursing in public and in general how attitudes towards breastfeeding have changed over the years?
I have the impression that nursing in public, even with the full breast showing, was seen as acceptable behavior even in public in the early 20th century and became less acceptable through the 30's and 40's until it became unacceptable in the 50's and 60's, and then the "pro-breastfeeding" movement started - except maybe for the upper class. Thanks :)
we actually studied this in a family history class, in the 20s-30s with rise of "scientific" child-rearing experts, firm schedules, respect for professional nurses with "systems" there was a move against bf which does correlate with class as it was viewed as a low class (read immigrant) practice. It is no coincidence that the trend correlates with the rise in acceptance and "expert" advice pushing artificial contraception (mechanical, condoms and diaphragms) and acceptance even in religious leadership of those practices.
It also correlates with the trend among middle and upper class, and you can trace it through women's magazines, clubs and the like, toward changing views of marriage, women's roles, and so forth. Marriage as a partnership, women should have civic duties etc. not exempting rite to vote. All good things, but often pushed and advocated by the same groups pushing ill effects. The same anti-immigrant, anti-lower class attitudes (and their underlying anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic biases) are evident in the literature of the day, especially the other concurrent movement, under the general title of "race improvement" or eugenics of whom Margaret Sanger et al were the major players.
There was a resurgence of bf in general and in public after the war with the baby boom, and at least in our middle class neighborhood, all my mother's friends and our parishioners did pbf since it was a common sight at every function where families gathered, but never in church. Cry rooms came up in churches in those years, and ladies lounges with chairs, and that was where they went, but always with toddlers in tow so we grew up seeing it as natural. But "scientific" baby formulas were pushed heavily by manufacturers in those years, and endorsed by doctors and that is a large factor in the move away from bf. When I say we grew up seeing our mothers bf as natural, I mean public in family gatherings, even among close friends, but not out in "public" public--dining areas, theaters etc. And many women still preferred to go into another room if men or older teens were present.
By the time I had my kids, early 70s, there was immense pressure by doctors, nurses and hospitals against bf and against natural childbirth, another emerging trend, and one had to fight strenuously to be allowed either. lamaze and similar classes were just starting (as was la leche) and not available in all areas, but grew quickly. You gals have a lot more support now. Back then if you did bf, esp in public, it was accepted but sometimes frowned upon and seen as more hippy, earth mother, and btw anti-feminist. Now this is anecdotal, but I don't think it is mere coincidence that the same cohort of my friends, fellow students, coworkers, who embraced bf, natural childbirth, cloth diapers etc. are the same people who were ardent pro-lifers in the years before RvW speaking out against the intense lobbying and media blitz that preceeded that decision. these are also the same people who started early pro-life groups like Birthright