Modern Maternities: Medical Advice about Breastfeeding in Colonial Calcutta brings to light rare textual and visual materials on medical opinions about breastfeeding by memsahibs (European women), dais (indigenous midwives and/or wet nurses) and the bhadramahila (here the focus is on ‘respectable’ Bengali-Hindu women). With the help of archival resources, the author discusses themes like:

  • modernity, maternities and medicine
  • intersections of ‘race’, gender, class, caste, community and age in diet
  • artificial foods versus wet nursing
  • ‘cleanliness’, corporeality and culture
  • ‘clean midwifery’ versus ‘dirty midwifery’
  • customary breastfeeding practices
  • child-mothers and childcare
  • breastfeeding, mothercraft and modern clocks
  • exhibitions, baby shows and baby weeks
  • colonialism and anti-colonial nation-building

The book offers critical insights into social histories of medicine, motherhood and childcare in nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial Calcutta. It is intended for anyone interested in the book’s interdisciplinary focus on the regional, national and global resonances of childrearing advice. In particular, it will interest scholars and researchers from modern Indian history, global history, health history, medical anthropology, gender studies and South Asian studies.

chapter |26 pages


chapter 1|42 pages

Tropicana Milk*

chapter 2|39 pages

Dais, Midwifery and Wet Nursing

chapter 3|46 pages

‘Indian Mothers’ and Modern Childcare

chapter 4|35 pages

Child-Mothers and Mother India

chapter 5|45 pages

The Child Welfare Exhibition, 1920*

chapter |4 pages