Between the Lines: Breastfeeding in the 18th century #research #history #motherhood

Often it’s the smallest details that take the most time to research. Evelyn has an infant son whom she is breastfeeding. But my question was, how did she dress in order to do so? I mean, women wore a chemise and stays or a bodice of some sort. There were several layers of fabric to contend with. Today, we have blouses with buttons, specialized bras, and other options for making nursing our children convenient and discreet. But then? What did they wear?

motherhood_thumbIt took some searching, but I finally found what I was looking for. Again, at the Colonial Williamsburg website, one of my go-to sites for 18th-century research. Not only did they include the description of stays with flaps on the breast to make access possible, but they also revealed how they handled diapering – and pinning – the cloth diapers on their babies. There is most definitely a reason why safety pins were invented! I think the most

motherhood1-Colonial Williamsburg
A pin cushion with straight pins was a common new baby gift. Image courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg.

creative idea was sewing on ties so they could fasten the cloth diaper without any pins. And the addition of a pad made of more absorbent material for the night to augment the natural absorbency of the soft cotton.


So, in Evelyn’s Promise, I had Evelyn become creative and sewed flaps onto her gown so she could discreetly feed her son. I was also heartened to read that women in this time period were engaged in feeding their own children unlike subsequent eras when they employed wet nurses instead, not just to fill in from time to time.

Being able to share the details of how women cared for their children and themselves helps me more accurately tell the stories about life in America’s past.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!


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Evelyn's PromiseIf you’re interested in buying your own copy of Evelyn’s Promise, you can find her story at the following links. Thanks!



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