Feeding their babies: Infant feeding advice received by Queensland women in the postwar period, 1945-1965

Thorley, Virginia (2000). Feeding their babies: Infant feeding advice received by Queensland women in the postwar period, 1945-1965 M.A. Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Thorley, Virginia
Thesis Title Feeding their babies: Infant feeding advice received by Queensland women in the postwar period, 1945-1965
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2000-07-13
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 197
Language eng
Subjects 11 Medical and Health Sciences
210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Formatted abstract
This thesis examines the advice on infant feeding received by Queensland mothers in the postwar period, 1945-1965, using qualitative research. The material was drawn from books and booklets, newspapers and magazines available in Queensland, manuscript material from the Lady Cilento Collection, the better known medical journals, and interviews with 48 Queensland women who were mothers and nurses during this period. The majority of women interviewed were from Anglo-Celtic backgrounds though women who identified Aboriginal and immigrant backgrounds are also represented.

Advice given to postwar Queensland mothers was influenced by the development of an infant welfare movement in the preceding decades. The rise of the expert, and the dominance of the Truby King system of baby management, made it normal for women to turn to the advice of professionals. The Notification of Births Act of 1932 and the Health Act of 1937 ensured that they did so, as they required that local Maternal and Child Welfare baby clinics be notified of all new births so that staff could contact the mothers. In Queensland, unlike in the southern states, government policy discouraged the involvement of voluntary organisations in infant welfare, though one such organisation, the Mothercraft Association of Queensland, found creative ways of contributing. Health services and written materials promoted breastfeeding but the rigid rules for its management served to artificialize and undermine the success of what should have been a natural process. Evidence for more physiologically appropriate breastfeeding practices was available but largely failed to make an impact on the established system and its rigid rules. This thesis highlights this disparity, citing medical research and opinion from the period. Maternity hospital practices were affected by underlying issues such as the hierarchical structure of nursing, low educational standards for Queensland nurses, and chronic understaffing, especially just after the war when it coincided with overcrowding from the postwar baby boom. Mothers recalled the rigidity of the rules, felt powerless to alter the system and were essentially unaware of what was being done to their babies in the central nursery. Though most mothers attended baby clinics at some stage, there was no consensus on levels of compliance, though mothers tended to adapt the advice as they rained confidence.

This thesis, then, provides a perspective on the lives of Queensland women as mothers through examining the sources and content of the oral and written advice they received on infant feeding and their experiences in relation to this advice.
Keyword Breastfeeding -- Queensland.
Infants -- Nutrition -- Queensland.
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

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