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.
1 Mom Of Two Fairfax Media Archives/Fairfax Media Archives/Getty Images
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.
2 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.
3 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.
4 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.
5 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.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
9 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.
10 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. 11 Friends & Babies John van Hasselt - Corbis/Sygma/Getty Images
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.
12 Learning 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.
13 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.
14 Multitasking 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.
15 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.
16 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.)
17 Sleepy Feeding ullstein bild/ullstein bild/Getty Images
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.
18 Breastfeeding Moms Still Need Support ullstein bild/ullstein bild/Getty Images
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.
19 Multitasking 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.
20 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.
21 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.
22 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.
23 Exhausted 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.