I love these! And despite living in an age where dresses from the neck past the ankles were the norm, no one was telling these women to cover up or go to the bathroom to feed their babies.
Victorian Women Breastfeeding
At a time when when modesty was considered fundamental in women, the above images depict an unlikely fashion amongst mid-19th century mothers.
According to Gwen Sharp, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nevada State College, ‘The use of wet nurses had never been as common in the U.S. as in Europe, and it became even less popular by the early 1800s; breastfeeding your own child became a central measure of your worth as a mother. ‘Cultural constructions of femininity became highly centered on motherhood and the special bond between a mother and her children in the Victorian era.’
Given that the images are daguerrotypes - the first commercial photographic process - the subjects do not appear quite as at ease as their modern counterparts might. The women and their babies would have had to sit still for approximately ten minutes while the image developed on a silvered copper plate - presumably a challenge with small children involved.