Modern Mothers, Modern Babies: Breastfeeding and Mother’s Milk in Interwar Britain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In 1938, an obituary of Frederic Truby King announced that the founder of the Mothercraft Training Society in London in 1918 had ‘hypnotise[d] thousands of mothers into the belief that breast feeding is theimportant factor in infant care…’ (Mother and Child, March 1938: 454). Truby King was an influential figure in the promotion of ‘scientific breastfeeding’ in the interwar period, and this article investigates the position of breastfeeding in infant welfare and infant care advice directed at middle-class mothers in the interwar period. Historians have explored how the infant welfare movement targeted working-class mothers as it developed from the late nineteenth century onward, but scholarly work that focuses on infant welfare and middle-class mothers remains limited. Yet after 1918 there was a growing infant welfare concern about reaching middle-class women too, who, according to contemporary observers, were less likely to breastfeed than working-class mothers. Positioned as the ‘natural’ way of feeding infants, breastfeeding was concurrently represented as the ‘modern’ and ‘scientific’ way of ensuring babies’ survival beyond the first year and long-term healthy development. This article explores the development of the ‘science of breastfeeding’, which centred on the practice of breastfeeding and breast milk as a substance, and investigates how middle-class mothers constructed their maternal experiences in relation to it.


© 2019, Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The attached document (embargoed until 15/01/2021) is an author produced version of a paper published in WOMEN'S HISTORY REVIEW uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1157-1176
JournalWomen's History Review
Volume28
Issue number7
Early online date15 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2019

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