How the rebellious Queen paved the way for Princess Diana and Kate Middleton to breastfeed

The Queen
(Image credit: Getty)

The Queen broke a royal breastfeeding tradition and in doing so paved the way for Princess Diana and Kate Middleton to follow suit.

The Queen broke a royal breastfeeding tradition when she welcomed the arrival of her children, paving the way for how Princess Diana and Kate Middleton took to parenting.

Her Majesty, who gave birth to Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, with husband Prince Philip, faced a different parenting tradition when it came to feeding her babies.

Traditionally at that time royal mothers didn't breastfeed their babies but all that changed when Queen Elizabeth became a mother and she decided she was going to breastfeed all her babies herself.

Her trailblazing efforts were slightly halted when she was forced to stop breastfeeding Prince Charles after two months because she contracted measles and despite the risk of passing on the virus to your baby through breastfeeding being minimal, the Queen may have been too unwell to continue feeding Charles at the time. The monarch went on to breastfeed all her children.

Royal Historian Amy Licence told The Guardian, "Royal breastfeeding mothers are a relatively new phenomenon."

"Historically, most royal mothers did not always believe that breast was best. In fact, in some cases, it was considered at best an inconvenience, at worst, downright harmful."

The Queen and Princess Anne

Britain's Princess Elizabeth smiles as she is holding on her lap Princess Anne, born 18 August 1950. (Photo by STF / AFP) (Photo by STF/AFP via Getty Images)
(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

As a result of the tradition, the majority of royal babies at the time were handed over to a wet nurse - which is the name given to a woman who breastfeeds another's child - because royal women avoided breastfeeding.

Mrs Licence explained why it was tradition, adding, "Royal women were often little more than symbolic figures, delivering child after child to secure a dynasty.

"This was particularly important in times of high infant and child mortality when the production of second, third and fourth sons was crucial.

"Breastfeeding offers a degree of contraceptive protection, so with their babies being fed by others, Queens were free to resume their duties and begin the process of conceiving the next heir," she added.

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But the Queen having decided to buck the trend meant that she had created her own new tradition for royal mothers.

"Princess Diana insisted on nursing William and Harry herself" Mrs Licence revealed and added that both Kate and Prince William frequently mentioned they were keen to take a "hands-on" approach with their little ones.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)