Breastfeeding in Georgian times 

Breastfeeding in Georgian times in Britain was a common practice among mothers, regardless of their social status. It was seen as a natural and important way to feed and nourish infants, and it was not uncommon to see mothers breastfeeding their babies in public. Two paintings, “A Family Group” by Hieronymus van der Mij (1728) and “Silence!” by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1759), provide a glimpse into this aspect of life in Georgian times.

breastfeeding in Georgian times

Two paintings showing women breastfeeding in Georgian times (from right to light):  “A Family Group” by Hieronymus van der Mij (1728) and “Silence!” by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1759)

In “A Family Group,” we see a mother breastfeeding her baby while sitting in a chair surrounded by family members. The painting depicts a scene of domesticity, with the mother’s nurturing of her child being a central focus. The mother’s breast is fully exposed, which suggests that the act of breastfeeding was not considered taboo or inappropriate at the time.

This painting also highlights the importance of family and community in Georgian society. The mother is not alone in her care for the child; her family members are gathered around her, indicating that child-rearing was seen as a communal responsibility. Breastfeeding was considered a vital part of this communal responsibility, as it was the most natural and efficient way to feed a newborn.

In “Silence!,” we see a mother breastfeeding her baby in a more private setting. The mother is seated in a dimly lit room, with her baby at her breast and a book on her lap. The painting suggests that the act of breastfeeding was not only a biological necessity but also a peaceful and meditative experience for mothers.

The painting also highlights the importance of privacy and modesty in breastfeeding practices during this time. The mother’s breast is partially covered by her clothing, indicating that she is mindful of the social norms and expectations of modesty. The title of the painting, “Silence!,” also suggests that the act of breastfeeding was a quiet and private affair.

These paintings provide valuable insights into breastfeeding practices during Georgian times. They show that breastfeeding was a natural and vital part of motherhood, and that it was not considered taboo or inappropriate to breastfeed in public. At the same time, the paintings also reveal the importance of family and community in child-rearing, as well as the value placed on privacy and modesty in breastfeeding practices.

We have lots to learn from the Georgians…

These beautiful paintings and many more can be seen at Buckingham Palace’s latest exhibition ‘Style and Society: Dressing the Georgians’.

 

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