Why did my mother's generation not breastfeed?

(131 Posts)
sushidave Fri 01-Feb-13 14:27:55

I asked my mum why me and my siblings weren't breastfed and she said something vague about how it wasn't 'in fashion'. I've no reason to believe she had other reasons so am genuinely curious as to why BFing was seemingly so rare 40 years ago. Is what she said representative of women at the time?

I'm BFing my 7 week old DD, am fully indoctrinated in the Breast is Best message, and objectively find it hard to disagree with the evidence behind the message. And more simplistically, as mammals surely feeding is what breasts are FOR!

So if anyone has any insight (personal or otherwise) into the polar shift in attitudes and practice of BFing, I'd love to know. Could it be due to the same reasons behind the relatively low rates of BFing in the UK currently: time constraints, embarrassment, lack of support (though that could be a circular argument), perceptions of complexity, lack of family support?

MirandaWest Fri 01-Feb-13 16:39:59

My mum bf my sister and me (born in 70s and 80s). I always assumed that's what I would I'd do. I know my mum (born in late 40s) was bf as well.

ouryve Fri 01-Feb-13 16:47:35

It was all about convenience and being marketed as superior. My mum was born in the late 40s and bottle fed, too, with the National Milk (sweetened sterilised milk) because her mother was expected to go straight back to work while the restructuring effort went on.

notcitrus Fri 01-Feb-13 17:04:16

Two of my aunts did breastfeed, but at 12 weeks weaned the babies which meant not only onto food but off the breast. My mum was very confused when I talked about weaning ds yet still feeding him because she didn't know it was possible. She didn't get the option of bf as I spent 2 months in hospital 30 miles away. Other aunt bottle fed as it was 'clean' and modern.

This is all so interesting. Tiktok, have you got the regional rates to hand? I would love to see that.
My MIL had my DH in 1977 and he was only brought to her every 4 hours, so her supply never got going and she moved to formula a few weeks later sad
My DM had me in 1982 and was determined to BF. She allowed them to take me to the nursery one night so she could get some rest under the proviso that they would bring me back when I needed a feed. They didn't and gave me formula sad She was livid and refused to let me out of her sight for the remainder of the stay. She fed me until 4 months old when she took me to the GP as I was unsettled and they told her that she had run out of milk hmm So she stopped bfing me. I asked if I was put onto formula but she says she didn't trust it, so it was straight onto solids full time confusedshock
It is a bit sad as she has always told the story of her milk suddenly stopping and it's only since I have been a mother that I've realised it was probably just the four month growth spurt sad
Her support for bfing has been invaluable though, I was brought up to absolutely believe that I would breastfeed my own children and I intend to do lots of positive reinforcement for breastfeeding to both my DD and DS throughout their childhoods smile DS was fed until 16 months and DD is still going at 17 months. DS was very miffed the other day to discover that he won't be able to do it when he is a Daddy though grin

CrazyMegOfBedlam Fri 01-Feb-13 18:00:38

Finding this really fascinating, well definitely check out the book!

My mum bf all four of us (1988, 89, 91 and 93) for about 3/4 months when she weaned and from what I can remember of other families, (I am the eldest child) this was what a lot of people did. I went on to feed both my Dses until the self weaned (DS1 8mo and DS2 finished last week at 14 mo), I'd seen mum do it so I never really questioned that I'd do it iyswim
My Nan on the other hand, bottle fed all her daughters (Born 59, 60, 62 and 72) because it just wasn't done at the time so would tie in with what was said up thread. I'm not sure on her feelings about mum bf'ing. I remember DH being told her boobs were too small when she tried to feed bil (would have been the 70's, her parents had died by then so wouldn't have come from them, so maybe hcp at the time perhaps?)
My Dad, I think, was bottle fed and has quite an old fashioned attitude towards it, asking me a lot after 6 months when I was going to give up and if I was going to be 'one of those hippy women who were still feeding the baby at six years old [hmmm] '
It's really interesting how attitudes have changed then come full circle again

CrazyMegOfBedlam Fri 01-Feb-13 18:01:21

hmm even!

tiktok Fri 01-Feb-13 18:15:17

Whispers, all the UK infant feeding surveys are on the web, AFAIK....google is your friend smile

They go back to 1975.

treaclesoda Fri 01-Feb-13 18:19:58

I am a child of the mid 1970s, and my parents were quite old when I was born. I didn't even know that breastfeeding existed until I was about ten years old. Had never heard of it, seen it done etc.

However, I was also raised in a very conservative Christian household, and I think there was a very puritannical horror of body parts, and my parents would have viewed breastfeeding as somehow dirty. At school, the vast majority of my friends came from similar backgrounds, and I imagine their parents would have been the same. I know this is probably a minority experience, but just thought I'd throw it into the mix. My parents are elderly now and are perfectly supportive of breastfeeding now, but again that is probably down to the fact that it has come full circle and is now, quite rightly, seen as the norm.

poozlepants Fri 01-Feb-13 18:38:18

My Mil bf dh in 1969 but it was as regimented as formula. 10 minutes each side every 4 hours. She was in hospital for a week and the baby was brought to her round the clock when he needed fed. She said it was bliss as she left hospital rested and well fed. DH didn't put on much weight. Then she weaned at 12 weeks. She was the only one bfing and thats because she read an article about it once and thought it wasa good idea. She made my life a misery when I was feeding ds as she thought the feeding on demand thing was wrong and would make my baby fat. She kept repeating 10 minutes each side every 10 minutes.
My mother bottle fed as bfing was for regarded as old fashioned and only hippies did it. She was horrified when my aunt did it when I was about 5.

Both MIL and my mother were given pethidine injections without being asked if they wanted it or not- it was obviously standard. Explains when I asked both of them how sore it was they were sort of vague and said it wasn't that bad.

Zara1984 Fri 01-Feb-13 19:27:40

Some of these reasons sound like what I encountered..... In October 2012, at a large "Baby Friendly" maternity hospital in Dublin.

I was told DS had to be successfully bf every 3 hours for 15 minutes or more, or they would give him formula by syringe.

I was the only mum attempting to bf on my whole ward. When I was crying trying to get DS to latch, with no midwife coming to help for over 30 minutes even though I repeatedly pressed the call button, one of the other mums told me not to bother and just give him a bottle sad

FF mums got to sleep at night while the midwives took the babies off them to feed... I was told I had to wait to get help at night latching DS until they had finished bottle feeding babies angry

I saw the healthcare assistant offering to make up bottles for me every 4 hours more than I did any midwives helping me to feed (and I really needed the help, DS wasn't latching)

Midwives and friends generally thinking I was crazy for persevering for 2 weeks bf, until I gave up in exhaustion from trying to get him to latch and pump full time

DS is not very good at eating and sucking generally but is it any bloody wonder DS got a bit dehydrated, I ended up FF after 2 weeks, even though I never doubted I would BF? angry I don't feel guilty anymore about not bf (best choice in the circumstances for us) but I am still fucking furious at the hospital and wonder how I can report them to the WHO for not exactly being bf friendly as they advertise. DH is so angry at the hospital he said he'll never set foot in the place again!

Zara1984 Fri 01-Feb-13 19:30:39

Conversely, my mum always said I was bf - what I know now is that she meant I was fed until 12 weeks, then I was on formula. When I asked why she didn't bf longer than that she looked at me like I had two heads! I think in the early 80s bf past 3 months was seen as seriously weird. Possibly due to attitude of healthcare staff, from what she told me.

Zara1984 Fri 01-Feb-13 19:34:58

44SoStarting your poor mother! Your post made me cry sad she must have been out of her mind with worry.

I was born in the fifties and was ff after a few weeks because DM got repeated mastitis. DSIS was breast fed- don't know for how long. DBRO wa fed with Carnation milk after being bf for a few weeks!

DH was bf for exactly nine months as were his sisters.

I bf both DSs (born in the nineties) until they self-weaned at around 13 months. Would have been happy to continue for longer. Got a lot of pressure from MIL to feed every four hours and wean at nine months, which I ignored.

DM seemed to feel guilty in her latter years for not bf me for longer. This was after she saw me and DSIS successfully bf our own children. Sad that she felt like that.

FiveFlowers Fri 01-Feb-13 19:49:35

My DD1 was born in the early 70s and I intended to BF her. I read all the baby books I could get my hands on and every one I read gave the same advice - "10 minutes each side every 4 hours, or every 3 hours for a premature baby." - And that was it.

In hospital (6 day stay), babies were brought to us four-hourly along with a bottle of formula for topping up after a BF. Only two of us mums in a ward of 16 were breast feeding.

Babies were removed to the nursery where they were given a bottle during the night.

I got no support from midwives or my HV and when my baby cried 'between feeds' it meant my milk wasn't 'good enough' or I 'didn't have enough'

So, surprise, surprise, like every other mum I knew, I failed at BF. I felt embarrassed feeding anyway as it wasn't really considered a 'nice' thing to do - in hospital, the curtain had to be drawn around my bed when I was feeding my baby sad

I had more success with my subsequent babies when I trusted my instincts and BF them at the slightest peep! They were both given solids at 12 weeks or 12 pounds (whichever was earlier) as recommended at the time, so not exactly exclusively BF for very long.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I don't think BFing fell out of 'fashion' nearly as much in Australia (where I'm from) as it did in the UK. Everybody, but everybody, I knew growing up was breastfed and I grew up in the 80s seeing it all the time in public.

That said, misinformation and misunderstanding still abounded. My mum BFed me and had sore and bleeding nipples. She carried on regardless, even following a bout of mastitis, after being told off for not having conditioned her nipples properly prior to giving birth hmm When I was six weeks old she had to go back to work full-time. She had wanted to express rather than put me on formula but said, 'I was stressed about going back to work and it caused my milk to dry up.' When I asked her how she knew her milk had dried up, it was apparently because I had been fussing at the breast and pulling on and off. The nurses informed her this was because the milk supply was dwindling confused

At the ripe old age of 28, I went to a new dentist who commented on how tongue-tied I was - neither I nor mum had any inkling of this previously. It wasn't until I had my own tongue tied DS (when I was aged 33) that the penny dropped as to what had happened with me as a baby and mum. Mum was gutted when we made the connection sad

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 01-Feb-13 20:13:57

I'm a child of the 70s, and although mum BF my siblings I have a tongue tie that made my latch excruciating. Apparently SMA Gold was "the thing" to feed back then, almost a status symbol, and mum was seen as a bit of a hippy (she's so not!) for BF the others

My mum breastfed all four of us, oldest brother is 38 now. I was fed for the longest - 14 months. My mum is very pro breastfeeding.

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 01-Feb-13 20:16:56

Elphaba, just seen your post (crossed with mine)

I never know whether to be pleased that a sensible doctor diagnosed my tongue tie at 6 weeks and let my mum move to a bottle for me without enduring significant pain to feed me, or cross that the useless doctor didn't recommend a simple snip to enable my mum to continue to BF me how she wanted

Rosevase Fri 01-Feb-13 20:17:40

70s baby. My mother had home births and did extended breastfeeding (and when my sibling was born, tandem feeding too!).

She thought that was what was better.

She didn't have that in her background. She had been brought up by maternity nurses and nannies.

ceeveebee Fri 01-Feb-13 20:17:42

My DM bf my older sister for a few weeks, me for a year (bottle refuser), my younger brother for a few months but bottle fed my younger sister (think that was just the pressure of 4 under 5 rather than thinking ff was superior). I was born in 1976.
My DM told me that she didn't have enough milk as she had to feed me every two hours - I did try to suggest to her that this was probably normal but she had been told by the midwife and the doctor that she must have a low supply.

cochonette Fri 01-Feb-13 20:20:20

I was BF til 10 months (1979), and my DSis (1982) til her 4th birthday - my mum definitely found herself in the minority with that at the time!!
My mum was breastfed by her mother for a matter of days, (1947) and then fed on condensed milk, which was absolutely common thing at the time (this was in France).
Interesting how accepted methods of feeding babies have changed through the generations.
I was brought up believing I would BF my own babies - and I did with DS to 12 months.

Chottie Fri 01-Feb-13 20:22:26

My DC were born in the 70s and 80s. They were born in a small cottage maternity hospital. I knew all the midwives it was really cosy and supportive. I was in hospital for 10 days with DC1 and 5 days with DC2. The babies went into the nursery at night, but they came and got you when the baby woke up. I fed both my DC for 9 months. The midwives were very encouraging and supportive.

My DSis had two DC in the 90s and BF both of them

We were born in the 50s and were fully BF
My mother was one of 7 (all BF)
My DH was one of 7 (all BF)
DD is now pg with DGC, I have not mentioned feeding to her, but she has told me that she wants to BF too.

Do you think some breast shapes are easier to BF with than others? We all live or lived in south London

deleted203 Fri 01-Feb-13 20:23:50

I'm 45 (Child 5 out of 8) and my mother breast fed all of us. Don't think it was uncommon, was it?

stargirl1701 Fri 01-Feb-13 20:24:06

My Mum tried to bf me (late 70s). She was given pethedine (sp?) during labour. As I was sleepy she was told her baby had no sucking reflex and was told she had to bottle feed - where I presumably sucked!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now