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28 Vintage Breastfeeding Photos Full Of Love & Strength

Some things never change.

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While breastfeeding is becoming more normalized with each passing year, and many mothers are embracing breastfeeding in public without feeling embarrassed about it (as they should!), it wasn't always this way. In the past, breastfeeding was often seen as something that should be done behind closed doors (or hired out), and that's part of why these vintage breastfeeding photos are so special.

Any kind of mother-child bond is beautiful and lovely, but there is just something about breastfeeding that can really intensify those feelings. From refugee camps to disaster zones to their own homes, women have, for literal centuries, been breastfeeding their children however and whenever they can. There is zero shame in formula feeding (and breastfeeding isn't inherently better, nor does it make you a better parent), but with the stigma attached to nursing a child, seeing these photos can really make you feel powerful and strong.

Part of normalizing breastfeeding is seeing other women do it, so these old photos should leave you feeling inspired, and in awe of the amazing things your body can do. And if anyone tries to shame you for breastfeeding, just think of these 23 women, who couldn't care less about what anyone says — when baby's gotta eat, they gotta eat — and find moments of bliss along the way.


Nursing During The Great Depression

Heritage Images/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This photo by American photographer Dorothea Lange features the same 32-year-old migrant agricultural worker featured in the artist’s famous piece, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California from 1936. At the time, Lange was hired by the Social Security Administration during the Great Depression in an effort to provide aide to struggling farmers.



Joel ARPAILLANGE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Here’s a beautiful portrait of a mom in Sénégal nursing her baby in 1986. Her giddy smile says it all.


Park Playdate

Barbara Alper/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Here a mom breastfeedings her baby on a bench in Riverside Park in New York City. It’s unclear if she is part of the mom troop in the background — perhaps she’s just savoring a quiet moment with her child or excused herself from the group for the sake of privacy. Either way, it enforces something we’ve known for a long time — a park is a great place to make new playdate friends and meet up with your tribe.



William KAREL/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

In this photo from 1976, we see a Palestinian woman and her child waiting to cross the Israeli-Lebanese border in 1976.



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In this photo from Germany, we see a smitten mother breastfeeding her newborn. The photo was taken in 1978.


Mom Of Two

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Taken in 1989, this photo shows mom Jennie Barnard, 35, breastfeeding her 4-month-old son Timothy and her 2-year-old daughter Sophie. The Getty caption states that Barnard made it a point to breastfeed her son in public, and once said, "People aren't going to think positively about breastfeeding if they don't see it around." She noted that she did not breastfeed her daughter in public because she felt there was disapproval about a woman breastfeeding an older child.


Mom & Baby

Micheline PELLETIER/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

This beautiful black-and-white photo was taken in 1980 in a camp for Cambodian refugees run by Médecins Sans Frontieres in Aranyaprathet. The expression on the mom's face while baby is pulling at her nipple feels so real and raw to me, and seeing the other helping hands on baby and knowing where they are makes it feel even more intense.


Breastfeeding Portrait

H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Taken in 1975, this is such a beautifully posed photo that you have to wonder if someone has it framed and hanging in their home somewhere. Look at the way mom gazes down at her little one — it's moments like these that make the tough breastfeeding journey feel worth it.


After Birth

Denver Post/Denver Post/Getty Images

It looks like this black-and-white photo was taken while mom and baby are still in the hospital shortly after mom gave birth. Mom looks thrilled (and maybe even still a little sweaty, but who can't relate?) and baby is clearly brand new with those adorable tiny fists.


A Helping Hand

Hulton Deutsch/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

A powerful image, this photo was taken in 1946 and shows a Jewish woman breastfeeding her baby in Cyprus — she had previously been interned in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Her journey is unfathomable, but this moment is so recognizable. While many breastfeeding photos make breastfeeding look effortless, this one captures the reality of a mom using her own hand to help the milk flow more freely.


During A Conversation

Historical/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

This photo dates back to October 1935, and shows a woman breastfeeding her child in a sharecropper community in Pulaski County, Arkansas. It looks like this mama is mid-conversation while breastfeeding her baby. Again, it's really relatable to see her using her hand to help baby get as much milk as possible, and it's also a nice reminder that breastfeeding isn't always lovingly staring down at your baby in a comfortable bed.


Nature Feeding

Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This black-and-white photo was taken in September 1969 and shows a mother nursing her baby during a Monday Night Class picnic at Mt. Tamalpais in San Francisco, California. It's so lovely to see her looking so happy and peaceful with no one else around her giving her a second glance.


In The Hospital

Dean Conger/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

This vintage breastfeeding photo from 1975 shows a mom who probably just gave birth to baby, and they're still in the hospital just getting to know each other. Every mom can relate to sitting in their flimsy hospital gown, engorged breasts aching, giving baby their first meal. It really is beautiful.


In The Nursery

Hulton Deutsch/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

This one is dated all the way back to 1930. The slightly distracted and far-off look on this mom's face as she feeds her child is so relatable, and it's nice to see a breastfeeding photo where the child isn't just a teensy tiny newborn.


Triple Trouble

Viviane Moos/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

Look at this mom breastfeeding two of her triplets with one on each breast. What a rock star. The third tiny one is lounging on the bed, maybe sleeping after a nice meal of their own. Now that is one inspiring breastfeeding journey — I only wish this photo had more details about how she did it.


Friends & Babies

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Taken in 1981, this photo shows two women and their children in an El Salvadoran refugee camp. These two moms look like they might be similar ages, with babies who are also close in age.



Jennie Woodcock; Reflections Photolibrary/The Image Bank Unreleased/Getty Images

It looks like this mom just recently gave birth and is learning how to properly breastfeed with a lactation consultant or a nurse. It's a beautiful capture of such a common situation.


A Quiet Moment

Bettmann/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

Taken in the 1950s, this vintage breastfeeding photo shows a mom nursing her 5-month-old in a perfect little knitted sweater. This photo is a great example of those perfectly quiet and peaceful moments that sometimes happen while breastfeeding: mom can sit staring at baby while baby happily gets the nourishment they need. These moments don't always happen, but they're super special when they do.



Peter Turnley/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

Taken in the early 1980s, the Getty description for this image details a traveling family inside a van with four children. But really all I see is this superhero mama squeezed in a car with her family, feeding a toddler.


On The Move

Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images

Dated from 1923, this photo shows a Kikuyu (a Bantu ethnic group in Kenya) mother and child. Who needs an Ergobaby carrier when you can just basically make one yourself? This mom is clearly on the move but is managing to feed baby just fine while they walk.


In The Rocking Chair

Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Don't expectant parents buy rocking chairs exactly for moments like these? This photo was taken back in 1950, and shows a newborn baby who looks happy and comfortable while mom helps him along and smiles down at him. It's another one of those special moments that is so nice to have on film. (Now I need to know if this rocking chair was passed down through the family.)


Sleepy Feeding

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Every mom can relate to the slightly exhausted look here. Taken in 1973, this is a photo of American actress Barbara Hershey breastfeeding her 8-month-old son Free, whom she had with actor David Carradine.


Breastfeeding Moms Still Need Support

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How sweet is it to look at this photo of a brand new family, snuggled together on the couch while mom gets the hang of breastfeeding and baby gets a nutritious meal? This was taken in Germany in the 1980s.



Valerie WINCKLER/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

The caption for this photo dates the image to "circa 1900." This mom isn't just breastfeeding her newborn — she's also reading a book to two other little ones and keeping them entertained. Moms: multitasking through the centuries.


With Family

Robert Natkin/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Taken in Mexico in 1949, this mom appears to be surrounded by family members as she breastfeeds her child. "It takes a village" has been a saying for a reason.


Sweet Moment

George Marks/Retrofile RF/Getty Images

This lovely black-and-white vintage breastfeeding photo is another one of those sweet, picture-perfect moments.


Breastfeeding In Style

Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Doesn't this vintage breastfeeding photo from 1970 kind of look like it belongs in a magazine? It seems like this was taken during a baptism or christening, with baby in a lacy white dress and mom all dressed up as well.



Sergio Dorantes/Sygma/Getty Images

In this photo, a clearly exhausted and overwhelmed mom rests on a bed while her newborn baby breastfeeds. The photo was taken after a devastating earthquake in Ecuador in the 1980s. This is just as beautiful as those sweet, picture-perfect moments, but in a different way: it shows that being a mother doesn't stop when things get tough. Moms are always persevering, and always doing what's needed for their babe.

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