Nursing Selfies and the Importance of Breastfeeding Art

By Erin O’Reilly, St. Louis, MO

Breastfeeding art serves many purposes. Nursing artwork is meant to reflect, document, and celebrate a human activity, a part of culture, and an experience. Breastfeeding art used to be more abundant in history than it is today. Breastfeeding has always been important to humanity and well-being. Breastfeeding art commemorates and appreciates the nursing journey and health benefits.

“Interior of a jacal.” (Shack) 1853. Édouard Pingret, Oil. Mexico. Mexico City. National Museum of History.
Yamauba breast feeding Kintaro. Kitagawa, Utamaro. Created between 1801 and 1806. Library of Congress.

Breastfeeding art in the form of paintings, statues, plaques, and literature is prevalent in different cultures throughout the world in various capacities. It is common in Europe to see statues and fountains, paintings, plaques, and frescoes, all depicting breastfeeding, while in the United States, there is less breastfeeding art on display.

“Mother with child Phemba,” Yombe Region, Democratic Republic of Congo; Mid-19th century. Museum Rietberg, Zürich.
Francisco Sancha Lengo, 1907 . “De la “alta vida”” [or “The High Life”]. ¡Alegría! (15). From Biblioteca Virtual Madrid.

We need to see more breastfeeding art. We need it to document and celebrate what mothers and nursing parents are working so hard to do! It would be so nice to have funding or grant money to help encourage more breastfeeding art in America.

“Mother and Child” by Gaston Parison (1889 – 1959, French).
The Birth of the Milky Way, Peter Paul Rubens, 1636-1637.

It would be wonderful to see breastfeeding depicted positively in books and movies, nursing art in health care settings, statues in our parks, murals in our cities, and even a postage stamp that celebrates breastfeeding. Breastfeeding art in its persuasive function might even help to increase our breastfeeding rates in the US!

Kai Nielsen’s sculpture Water Mother, 1921, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Palm gardens.
“Mother and Child” by Elin Kleopatra Danielson-Gambogi, Finnish, 1861-1919.

Families can create breastfeeding art to celebrate and preserve the details of their own experiences. Photography is a quick and easy way to capture memories and save them for future reflection when your children are grown.

Family with Mother Nursing Child, Cuzco, 1948, Irving Penn, American, 1917 – 2009, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
“A free lunch.” photographer George Barker, Niagara Falls, New York., c.1890 Library of Congress.

There is currently no concrete manner of recording breastfeeding practices in America, yet breastfeeding is very important for long-term health, and it needs documenting. Breastfeeding photos with your little ones taken throughout the different ages and stages of the breastfeeding relationship, not just newborn period, can help to change that. So do take those photos to keep and share them with your progeny!

Do you have nursing photos of you and your little one(s)? We’d love to hear from you! Share your stories with Kylie at [email protected]


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