“Through the 1800s, it was almost universally accepted that the physical and moral traits of the wet nurse would be transmitted to the child through the breast milk. So if you hired a thief, you’d be raising a thief. One French minister in the mid-1800s went so far as to propose that prostitutes shouldn’t be allowed to breast-feed their own children, lest they corrupt them with a couple of gulps of lewd character.”
This also applied to animal wet-nurses as well. If a sheep nursed a child the child would become docile, a she wolf was not a positive influence and swine were social outcasts. The best animal wet-nurse was apparently a donkey as it had a better moral reputation than goats. Who knew?
“Dr. William Dewees (1768-1841), the Dr. Spock of his generation, recommended that pregnant women should suckle “a young but sufficiently strong puppy… immediately after the seventh month” to toughen and accentuate the nipples, improve secretion, and prevent inflammation.”
Before you say, “That man is insane!” Let me tell you that Dr. Dewees wrote the first American pediatric guide, Treatise on the Physical and Medical Treatment of Children (1825), which was printed in over a dozen editions. Thankfully we now have breast pumps.
“French starting turning to animals for nurturing orphans when a syphilis epidemic first hit Europe in the 1500s; syphilitic babies were frequently abandoned, and it was soon believed that wet nurses working at the foundling hospitals were contracting the disease. Rather than dry-feed them, it was decided that suckling directly from animals was preferred.”
“This practice of animal nurture amazingly continued at French orphanages through the early 20th century, even with the advent of pasteurized milk and reliable infant formula.”
Although I understand why this was going on in the 1500s during an epidemic but through the early 20th century?? That is just a little more than odd in my opinion.
Women were so vain back then. Most of them just gave their children to wet-nurses so they could go back to their original shapes and/or be with their husbands because if you were nursing you weren’t supposed to be with them; this was endorsed by the Catholic Church who endorsed wet-nurses to keep men from being tempted into adultery. Thankfully in today’s time we look more to caring for our own children rather than trying to fit into a 18in corset.
So what do you think? What, in your opinion, would be the positive and negatives of having a wet-nurse?
Odd Tidbits are quoted from An Underground Education by Richard Zacks which can be purchased for $12.21 on Amazon.
This is not a sponsored post and I received no compensation nor review item. I personally find this book fascinating and I thought to share it.