New Mothers, Nurses, and Breastfeeding
Chapter four continues to explore the contributions and experiences of scientific and medical experts to the history of breastfeeding through an analysis of the roles that nurses played in the process throughout the postwar decades. I argue that nurses remained loyal to the tenets of scientific motherhood to such an extent that even those who experienced breastfeeding as mothers themselves often could not find a way to help others breastfeed within the medical system in which they worked. Despite the vast majority of nurses in the postwar period who remained agents of medical authority over infant feeding, however, some learned to cultivate a new role for themselves as natural motherhood experts. These nurse-mothers offered a unique form of scientific expertise and tacit knowledge which allowed them to serve as intermediaries in the disconnect that mothers often experienced between their desire to breastfeed and their inability to escape from a medical system that supported bottle-feeding.
Keywords: nurses, La Leche League, breastfeeding, Yale rooming-in study, Edith B. Jackson