Breast or Bottle? A Victorian Debate

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post is contributed by Jessica Cox and examines Victorian debates about breast feeding.

Breast or Bottle? A Victorian Debate

In twenty-first century Britain, women are more likely to breast feed if they are educated beyond the age of eighteen, work in professional occupations, and live in less deprived areas. This marks a distinct shift from the early to mid-nineteenth century, when women from higher socio-economic groups often eschewed the practice of nursing their own children – though the relatively common practice of employing wet nurses meant many of these children were still breastfed. Queen Victoria is a case in point: she refused to nurse her nine children herself, and was disgusted when her two eldest daughters elected to breastfeed. In a letter to her second daughter, Princess Alice, she wrote:

[A] child can never be as well nursed by a lady of rank and nervous and refined temperament – for the less feeling and more like an animal the wet nurse is, the better for the child

Continue reading

Pregnancy, Childbirth & Motherhood in Prison

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post is contributed by Dr Mary Rogan, head of law at Dublin Institute of Technology.

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Being a Mother In and From Prison under International Human Rights Law

All over the world women go to prison in far fewer numbers than men, but the numbers of women in prison is rising. It is not known how many children have been born or who have spent time with their mothers in prisons around the world.

International human rights law has given some attention to the question of women prisoners who are pregnant or who have children, though bespoke standards for women are still something of a novel development. The European Prison Rules contains a section on women prisoners, and states that prisoners shall be allowed to give birth outside prison, but where a child is born within a prison the authorities shall provide all necessary support and facilities.[1]

Continue reading