Breastfeeding History

Public breastfeeding wasn’t legal in all 50 states until JUNE 2018. So where does the current stigma towards public breastfeeding in the United States come from?

This is a really complex question with far too many answers for one social media post, but one cause in the United States is the movement of women into the workforce.

This started in the early part of the 20th century with lower class women moving into factory work, but then accelerated during World War II when it became a woman’s patriotic duty to fill men’s jobs while they were at war.

After World War II, a massive public relations campaign encouraged women to step out of the workforce and back into domestic roles to make room for the men who were returning from war. These extremes in cultural messaging led to the extremes in gender roles that we often associate with the 1950s, but it also sent the message that women are not meant to exist in public space with equal agency as men.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in normalizing breastfeeding and claiming a woman’s right to feed her child in public space. Examining how stigmas started is important when helping to remove them, and I believe amplifying women’s access to choices in all aspects of childbirth and parenting increases women’s ability to safely occupy public space in general.