Victorian Era Breastfeeding Photos Didn't Spark Controversy Then, But They Do Now (Of Course)

breastfeeding victorian eraLet me ask you something: If you were going out for ice cream, would you rather go to a shop that only sold vanilla, or would you prefer to go somewhere that carried vanilla, strawberry, chocolate? Probably the latter, right? Because choices are good. Choices allow for more people to be satisfied and for more people to do what works for them. Life isn't one-size-fits-all, we know that by now. So why do people jump down a mom's throat every time she chooses between two or more options? Aren't options good?

Recently, photos of mothers breastfeeding their babies from the Victoria era surfaced, and naturally, now -- hundreds of years later -- the photos have sparked controversy. (Feel free to peruse the comments section on The Huffington Post article that originally featured the pics.) At the time, do you think anyone batted an eyelash at these photos? Or at a mother nursing her child? Doubtful. Because breastfeeding was the only option.

See what I'm getting at here?


Before bottles and formula were introduced, there was no controversy over nursing. Mothers had one choice and one choice only: Breastfeeding. Options in motherhood have evidently turned us against each other, when in reality, they should be uniting us. We can all be happy! We can all do what works for us! There's something for everyone!

Think about some of the most controversial topics in motherhood: Vaginal birth or C-section; breast or bottle; cosleeping or crib. They all have pitted women against one another. Simply because someone is choosing to do something that differs from the way someone else does it. Why is that? Have we really become that close-minded? Do we simply want to feel superior by cutting others down? Or are we a group of women who just love fighting? Whatever the answer, I think it's not a good example for our children.

If a woman posed for photos like these now (and, yes, posted them online), there would be an uproar. (Remember Jamie Lynne Grumet on the cover of Time last year?) And conversely, the same goes for bottle feeding. You would have thought Beyonce was tangling Blue Ivy from the Empire State Building after the backlash she received for posting a photo of herself feeding her daughter from a bottle. Options. They should be working for us, but clearly they're working against us. Perhaps we can't handle them?

The next time you see a woman giving her baby or bottle or nursing in public and you have the urge to judge, try taking a step back for a moment. Remember that it isn't your life and it's her choice. She may not being doing what you chose to do, but honestly -- who cares? Certainly not the ladies of the Victorian era.

Do you judge other moms for doing things differently than you?


Images via Schlesinger Library/Harvard

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