The weird and wonderful history of breastfeeding

Long before formula was invented, thousands of generations of mums have been feeding their babies with the essential nutrition they naturally have on hand – whether that be from their breasts or other methods.

However, the process has actually changed and evolved quite considerably over the years.

“Nurturing babies is an issue inextricably bound to all species in nature. In prehistoric times, breastfeeding was the first priority of mothers until later in infancy,” says the Journal of Paediatrics and Neonatal Care.

Here’s a look back at the weird and wonderful history of breastfeeding…

Mother is breastfeeding her baby.

The weird and wonderful history of breastfeeding

Babies drank wine in Ancient times (YES, REALLY!)

In Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome most mums nursed their child, although some fed their babies wine and honey.

At the same time in Europe, archeologists discovered some parents chose to feed their infants using terracotta pots with long spouts – some of which have been excavated in baby graves.

Indian children in the second century AD were also fed diluted wine, as well as soups and eggs at the age of six months.

“In Byzantine times, the duration of breastfeeding was set at around twenty months,” it states in the journal.

“[Breastfeeding] was considered unsuitable and for the first days of life honey was given to newborns instead.”

Animal suckling in the 15th century

The practice of an animal feeding a little one was introduced in the 15th century.

Women relied on their children suckling cows and goats when wet nurses were cast out of favour following a breakout of syphilis across Europe. However, this method didn’t last very long.

Wet nursing throughout history

Throughout history, if a mother died in childbirth or was unable to breastfeed, another women would usually step in to feed the baby.

It wasn’t until medieval times that wet nursing became popular among the middle and upper class.

Artificial methods were developed in the 18th and 19th century

In the 18th and 19th century, some women had to go to work so artificial methods such as cow horns with leather nibbles were brought in to feed babies. Wet nursing was also still in practice during this period.

Formula was created in the late 19th century

bottle fed new born baby

‘Dry nursing’ has been about for centuries but it wasn’t until 1867 that German-born chemist Justus von Liebig developed the world’s first commercial infant formula.

Between 1920 and 1930, evaporated milk was used to feed babies but it wasn’t until the 1960s that formula experienced a revival, with many commercially produced products appearing in stores.

Breastfeeding saw a resurgence in the 1970s


Breastfeeding saw a resurgence in the 1970s, and since then leading health organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, has been urging women to breastfeed their babies over using formula.

In 1981, WHO introduced a code for all formula companies to provide statements on their packaging labelling breastfeeding as the best way to feed a baby and encouraging women to see a health professional before reverting to formula.

Who knew that breastfeeding had such an interesting history?

You can get more details at the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website.


Meanwhile, don’t forget The Healthy Mummy Smoothies ARE safe to consume while breastfeeding. Find out more info here. 

The smoothie range has been formulated by leading nutritionists, dieticians and with input from Monash University and it offers an excellent source of essential vitamins, minerals, nutrients and important antioxidants.

It’s also free from any weight loss accelerants, caffeine, contains no wheat ingredients, no fructose, is 96 per cent sugar free and is dairy free.