Back in the day, breastfeeding was the only way to go because formula was not a safe option. In fact, the rates of death were somewhere between 50 and 90 percent, and the concoctions were something like bread broth, crumbs cooked in milk or water, or even milk with eggs and spices and sugar. Yiiiiikes! So the babies who did live on artificial food usually weren't exactly thriving.
In the industrial 18th century in the UK, there was a drop in breastfeeding, likely because more women went out to work. The amount of women in the workforce seems to be directly related to the drop in breastfeeding. It's not like they had laws to provide them with time and a place to pump breastmilk. I'm sure they didn't even have good breast pumps.
This detail was put together by researchers at Oxford University. They recovered 162 skeletons from a graveyard in Spitalsfield, London, and ran a bunch of tests on them. Of the 72 child skeletons, 32 were babies who died before their second birthdays. By looking at levels of isotopes in the bones using a method called 'stable isotope analysis,' they were apparently able to see which babies were breastfed for certain amounts of time and which were not, along with seeing cultural trends in breastfeeding as well.
This is all fascinating, but sad that even today, far too many new moms face obstacles when they want to breastfeed, particularly when they go back to work. With all the progress we have made since the 18th century, being a working mom still presents some of the greatest challenges.
What kind of changes do you think need to be made for working moms?
Image via nordiska museet/Flickr