World Breastfeeding Week 2019

World Breastfeeding week is an annual event which has been held every year since 1992 and is organised by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). This year it is taking place from 1st-7th August 2019. World Breastfeeding Week aims to promote the benefits of breastfeeding, and to provide support for those who want to breastfeed, and health care professionals who are helping them to do so.

I am going to use this blog just to highlight some of things in our collections which relate to breastfeeding, of which there are many!


Poster 7
Photograph of a midwife instructing a woman on how to breastfeed her baby, circa. 1940-1950


Advice on Breastfeeding

One of the things I was interested to find in the collections is advice on breastfeeding and just how different it can be to now.

For example, in the 1930s, women were advised to feed on a strict schedule of 3 hourly, 4 hourly if the newborn was big. They were also advised not to feed a baby between the hours of 11pm-5pm (or 11.30am-5.30am in the Mothercraft text), as can be seen in these two examples below.

In contrast, the lecture notes below, taken by a training midwife in c.1900, suggest feeding a newborn every 2 hours.

lecture notes 1937 (1)lecture notes 1937 (2)

lecture notes 1937 (3)
Lecture notes written by a trainee midwife in 1937

Mothercraft (1)

Mothercraft (2)
Section on infant feeding in ‘A Key to Mothercraft’ from 1934.

lecture notes 1900 (1)lecture notes 1900 (2)lecture notes 1900 (3)lecture notes 1900 (4)Lecture notes written by a trainee midwife c.1900


One interesting suggestion both the 1930s sources have is to stop breastfeeding at 10 months, with the 1937 notes suggesting gradual weaning between 10 and 12 months and by the Mothercraft booklet even suggesting it is bad for the baby to continue after 10 months.

However, one thing that is consistent between these sources however is that breastfeeding is the best form of sustenance for an infant.

Breast Pumps

Instruments for extracting breast milk to feed babies have been in use for hundreds of years. They have been used by women who are having trouble feeding or are unable to breastfeed or by women wishing to give their babies breast milk when they are not there, for example when at work.

Definition of ‘Breat Pump’ in the Midwife’s Dictionary
Example of a glass breast pump in the museum collection
Nursing Notes, December 1914
Advert for a Double-ended feeding bottle, often used with pumped breast milk. There are examples of these bottles in the museum collection.



For more information on World Breastfeeding Week please see the following:

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