Authors Name: 
Kate Horgan
University: 
University of Limerick
Category: 
History
Highly commended

Assess the impact of print advertising, if any, on the decline of breast feeding in Ireland c. 1900-1950.

This essay examines the impact advertising and print media had on breast feeding patterns in Ireland from the period of 1900 to 1950. The principle primary sources utilized for this essay were medical journals, newspaper reports, Irish censuses and oral testimonies. Academic research examining the cause for the decline of breastfeeding among Irish mothers in the early twentieth century is still limited in scope. The combined effects of an increased medical and Irish State’s intervention, or lack thereof, during Irish motherhood, in the early to mid twentieth century, has been argued as a reason for the decline of breast feeding in Irish history for the first time since the 1940s'. Thus, the aim of this essay is to examine the role print advertising had, if any, on the decline of breast feeding. During a period when infant mortality was high, print advertising grew increasingly aggressive in its advertorial campaigns from 1900 to 1950, in its’ bid to attract increasingly anxious mothers to feed their babies artificially. From research, it became evident that Irish mothers were under huge pressure to provide the best nutrition for their newborns but the replacement of the local 'handywoman' with a busy doctor, meant that many women were forced to bottle feed their baby. Furthermore, many Irish mothers were actually too starved to naturally produce sufficient milk and had no choice but to bottle feed. However, advertised bottle feeding formulas gave Irish mothers a choice in an area of their lives in which they had very little. It was a new form of modernity which was fashionable and practical. Bottle feeding allowed for fathers and older siblings to play an active role in the newborns upbringing. This essay adds a new perspective in the historiography of breast feeding in Irish society.