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LaurieB's Avatar Jump to comment 58 by LaurieB


Here is the Wiki paragraph on wet nursing. I'd like to get you a better source but I'm on vacation and far from the comfort of my personal library.

From Wikipedia:


Renaissance to twentieth century Wet nursing was reported in France in the time of Louis XIV, the early 17th century. It was commonplace in the British Isles: For years it was a really good job for a woman. In 17th- and 18th-century Britain a woman would earn more money as a wet nurse than her husband could as a laborer. And if you were a royal wet nurse you would be honored for life.[6]

Jane Austen mentions the practice in her novel Emma. Women took in babies for money in Victorian Britain, and nursed them themselves or fed them with whatever was cheapest. This was known as baby-farming; poor care sometimes resulted in high infant death rates. Dr Naomi Baumslag[17] noted legendary wet-nurse Judith Waterford: "In 1831, on her 81st birthday, she could still produce breast milk. In her prime she unfailingly produced two quarts (four pints or 2.3 litres) of breast milk a day."[6] Wet nurses were common for children of all social ranks in the southern United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Steven Pinker speculated that Sigmund Freud's theories about the Oedipal complex were the result of Freud being raised by a wet-nurse, rather than his mother, because this dissociation from his mother would have prevented the Westermarck effect from taking hold.[18] Wet nursing has sometimes been used with old or sick people who have trouble taking other nutrition. Following the widespread marketing and availability of artificial baby milk, or infant formula, wet nursing went into decline after World War II and fell out of style in the affluence of the mid-1950s. Wet nurses are no longer considered necessary in developed nations and, therefore, are no longer common.

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The part that I'm most interested in is the statement on the high death rates. See it? It was known that those babies often died when sent out to the wet nurses. I'm not saying that those mothers knew that on a conscious level exactly. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't but what I think they knew was that they were in over their heads with hoards of screaming babies that they couldn't take care of. I'm assuming that they didn't have any way to stop the pregnancies and you know that the church was adamant about doing their "wifely duties" and all. What the hell could they do about it?

I'll try to find something on the drop off orphanages.

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 19:38:57 UTC | #948643