Accounts of infant-feeding advice received by mothers: Queensland, Australia, 1945-1965

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Virginia Thorley *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Virginia Thorley |


In the period 1945-1965 most women in the state of Queensland, Australia, gave birth in hospitals and thereafter they used a variety of services and individuals for advice on infant feeding. The services available were similar throughout the period. As mothers rarely worked outside the home, being good mothers was important to their identity. In this historical study, telephone interviews and written responses involving 44 mothers and former nurses from every region of this geographically vast state were used in order to investigate sources of personal advice on infant feeding used during this period, mothers’ experience relating to this advice, and the extent to which they followed the advice. The free, nurse-run well-baby clinics and related services conducted by the state’s Maternal and Child Welfare service were the most commonly mentioned services. However, the uptake of advice from this source showed considerable variation as women also drew upon family members, their general practitioners, advice columns, radio broadcasts, other mothers and their own judgment. Only rarely was a specialist pediatrician consulted. A minority of mothers was advised by pharmacists, private baby nurses, or entered residential mothercraft facilities. An important finding is that attendance at the baby clinics did not necessarily equate with compliance, especially as mothers became more experienced.

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Author Biography

Virginia Thorley, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland

Honorary Research Fellow