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Review article

Breastfeeding as a Social Phenomenon: From the First Civilizations until the End of the Eighteenth Century

Anđela Runjić Babić orcid id

Full text: croatian pdf 174 Kb

page 89-104

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This paper examines breastfeeding as a social and cultural phenomenon from the dawn of human civilization until the end of the eighteenth century. Ancient peoples were aware of the importance of mother’s milk, and breastfeeding was the societal norm. However, the upper classes always showed inclination toward hiring wet nurses. Although physicians advocated breastfeeding, social attitudes had a particularly great impact on the practice of breastfeeding. Also, the Church – and later the scientific and moralist elite as the main historical centers of social power – directly shaped social attitudes toward breastfeeding and thus influenced the outcome of the practice. The eighteenth century represents a turning point in the context of breastfeeding, as mothers were appointed the nursing role, and breastfeeding became the mother’s moral and civic duty. This brief historical review attests to the social construction of breastfeeding, whose meanings are always shaped within a specific socio-cultural and historical context.


breastfeeding, wet nurses, culture, infant feeding, maternal breastfeeding

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