From Wet Nurses to Milk Banks: A History of Breastfeeding in Brazil


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


History and Romance Languages and Literatures


For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2018-2019


This project examines the history of breastfeeding in Brazil from the late nineteenth century to the present. Understandings of this seemingly natural practice underwent enormous transformations in this period, moving from being considered menial labor, routinely displaced onto enslaved women of color, to being lauded as a uniquely fulfilling experience of motherhood, deserving of legal protection. “From Wet Nurses to Milk Banks” traces changes in infant feeding practices as well as transformations in the ways in which people constructed, challenged, and redefined the meanings of breastfeeding, breast milk, and maternal and infant health. This project thus uses breastfeeding as a lens onto broader transformations in ideas about gender, race, labor, the body, motherhood, and public health.