Natural Parenting in Art

I am always delighted when I stumble across natural parenting in historical photos or art. It seems to affirm a strong belief of mine- that society’s discomfort at public breastfeeding and other intuitive forms of parenting is a modern phenomenon.

(I wish I could say phenomenon without following it up with a musical “doodoodidodo phenomenon doodoodidoo” it would make me feel a lot more like a grown up but I can’t so…)


Allow these breastfeeding images to be a salve on the wound caused by the public shaming of breastfeeding mothers. Some of history’s best artists and the world’s most sohisticated fine art deal with the beautiful act of nursing – try fitting the word “tramp” in to some of these situations.

Come and take a stroll through some of my absolute favourite natural parenting paintings by some of my favourite artists…

La Maternite
Auguste Renoir

I love the everyday scenario of a mother perched on a wall to respond to her baby’s need. I feel like her eyes have the oxytocin glaze, that relaxed kind of high breastfeeding can sometimes produce.

Artist Stella Mertens says “Renoir – eternal continuity- this flesh remains bound to this flesh; monument to hope and love created by your genius.”

The Three Ages of Life: Detail
Gustav Klimt

Oh, Klimt. A hero of mine depicting a passion of mine. Look at the connection between mother and child here! The vulnerability and the trust between them. There is a peace here in this deepest of sleeps; the contentedness of cosleeping.

Mother and Child
Jose Orozco

One of the first things strangers often remark when they see my large baby on back is “Gosh, you must have a strong back!” As if it is a hardship. I love this picture as it perfectly shows that babywearing is no hardship, no maternal sacrifice. There is pleasure here. A woman able to work, to create, while nurturing a child. The child is intrigued – mother is opening doors to the world and the child is in the perfect place to discover it all.

Young Mother Giving Milk to Her Son
1753 – 1806 (Woodcut undated)

This baby is guzzling like a champion and he has that look on his face that nursing babies often get – a sort of pride at nailing this breastfeeding business. I love the delight on the mother’s face and I love that these are expressions that have crossed the faces of millions of nursing mothers and babies over the course of history. Utamaro, what a legend.

What is your favourite natural parenting image?

This entry was posted in Attachment parenting, Babywearing, Breastfeeding, Cosleeping, Parenting and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Natural Parenting in Art

  1. Elizabeth says:

    A great roundup of breastfeeding artwork. I was not familiar with the works of Jose Orozco, so I’m really happy that you introduced me to his beautiful painting.

    And yes, I also have to follow the word phenomenon with the same tune in my head (at least most of the time it’s in my head, although it is a tune that lends itself to being sung outloud, isn’t it)

    Have a good day,

  2. Yael says:

    I couldn’t help noticing two things:
    1) none of theses babies wear a nappy.
    2) the baby in Utamaro’s painting is doing this nearly unbearable thing of playing with the other nipple…! How realistic.
    Yael recently posted…אני מכורה לבדיקת אימיילMy Profile

  3. Laurenne says:

    I love all of these, but particularly the last one because it’s just like my littlest at the moment. At 1 she loves nursing sitting up in the day so she doesn’t miss anything and she’s always trying to do a bit of that nipple twiddling! :)

    I need to get some artwork like this around my house, what healthy images for my girls to see as they grow up :)

    L x
    Laurenne recently posted…Homemade Chalk Paint RecipeMy Profile

  4. ThaliaKR says:

    Oh, deLIGHTful!

    I have a Pinterest board full of such things (hm, *we* have? are you a pinner to it too?):

    And I imagine many will have seen this BuzzFeed community post on historical images of breastfeeding? So eye-opening about how normal it must have seemed, even in days of lots of clothing and covering, for people to be happily photographing and photographed.

    I also love that paintings of Mary breastfeeding Jesus are common enough to have a name – Maria Lactans. Ooh, someone has a board devoted to these!

    And this is fascinating – sketch of an LDS church meeting in 1871, woman in front row feeding.
    ThaliaKR recently posted…Ten Books, Four Words Each: Childhood FavesMy Profile

  5. Oh yes, playing with the other nipple! This one is driving me a bit mad with my two and a half year old now!
    Leslie Kendall Dye recently posted…Baby TalkMy Profile

  6. Kevan Yates says:

    Thank you
    I must admit that reading your “posts” is a bit of a guilty pleasure. After all I missed the boat on raising my children in such a (what’s the right word) great, happy, positive way. Anyway they are old enough now to know that I always tried to do my best for them. With the granddaughter being 25 days old and now weighing 4lb 1oz (she was 8 weeks early, but doing well)I hope that my daughter will enjoy the journey ahead as much as I did.
    Which is why today’s post is so welcomed as it coincides with this headline and article in today’s Daily Mail (I know, should get a better paper but my dad likes the crossword) You can’t breastfeed here because it could offend other patients, nurses tell mother with newborn baby in hospital waiting room
    So please carry on the sterling work that you do.

  7. jessica says:

    Hi! This is my first time commenting on your blog! I read it all the time in my feeder :) Love all your posts and especially this one! You’re fantastic! I’m a fellow babywearing, EC practicing, co-sleeping mom :) Love your adventures! Much love!!

  8. Anna says:

    Ah, these are all so beautiful, Thanks for sharing! x
    Anna recently posted…Parenting: the Jumble Method*My Profile

  9. a) thanks for the brain worm

    b) modern phenomenon, or marketing phenomenon? ooOOoooooo!!

    c) I could never pic a favourite, but I adore the old photo that Beautiful Breastfeeding page on Facebook uses as a profile picture –

    There are just no words for the beauty in that photo, that mum is shining!
    Tasha Batsford recently posted…Breastmates – An Awesome Kiwi BusinessMy Profile

  10. Emma Clement says:

    I love the Renoir – just look at how juicy and plump those baby legs are! X
    Emma Clement recently posted…Moving House – The Fear!My Profile

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