Nursing was once the only option when it came to nourishing a baby in order for it to thrive. It was the norm; it had to be. Of course, with the changing times came a change in views, along with a change in the wants of a woman and her partner. Like anything else, these changes in views brought about many opinions, some wise, some well-meaning and some, well, asinine advice that came on the heals of lining someone’s pocket. Here are the ones I find most intriguing.
1. Redheads can pass on their hot temperament to their nurslings.
Yes, you read that right. Back in the early 17th century, French obstetrician Jacques Guillemeau publicly stated that “the wet nurse should not have auburn hair because redheads were known to have a hot temperament that was harmful to their breastmilk.” Guillemeau was very adamant that the child be nursed by his/her own mother, during a time where wet nurses (women employed to nurse another woman’s child) were often used, especially by people with money. However, he felt that if a mother could not nurse, then of course a wet nurse should provide the child with the nourishment of another woman’s milk. He warned, though, that if a wet nurse is used, the following could happen: “1) the child may be switched with another put in its place, 2) the affection felt between the child and the mother will diminish, 3) a bad condition may be inherited by the child, and 4) the nurse may transmit an imperfection of her own body to the child that could then be transmitted to the parents” (Stevens).Some mothers produce poisonous milk.
2. Some mothers produce poisonous milk.
In today’s modern world, colostrum is considered to contain some of the most important nutrients for a newborn; it’s often referred to as liquid gold. Colostrum is extremely easy for an infant to digest and it’s high in protein and in important antibodies. Yet, in ancient Greek and Rome, mothers would wait to suckle their babies, not bringing them to the breast until the milk came in, skipping the colostrum altogether (Wickes 151). In some places, it was thought that not all mother’s milk was good. In fact, in Samoa, there is a milk testing custom where “an official milk taster, usually an elderly woman” puts a sample of milk in a dish with a little water and two hot stones. “If curdling occurs the milk is pronounced poisonous and suckling is further delayed BUT a suitable bribe usually results in the test proving satisfactory“(Wickes 151). Wow. A money making scheme that takes advantage of new mothers and that impacts an innocent newborn – can you imagine 😉
3. Diluted wine is a supplement of choice.
Today it’s common practice that woman are advised NOT to drink alcoholic beverages while pregnant or nursing, yet Hippocrates actually advised mothers to feed their infants wine diluted with water and he wasn’t the only one! Soranus of Ephesos who lived in second century AD advised that at six months of age, diluted wine be introduced to the diet (along with egg, soups and breadcrumbs) (Wickes 154).
4. Breastfeeding is unfashionable.
During the Renaissance period, “it was unusual for aristocratic women to breastfeed because the practice was considered unfashionable and because the women worried it would ruin their figures. Breastfeeding also prevented many women from wearing the socially acceptable clothing of the time, and it interfered with social activities such as playing cards and attending theater performances. The wives of merchants, lawyers, and doctors also did not breastfeed because it was less expensive to employ a wet nurse than it was to hire a woman to run their husband’s business or take care of the household in their place.” Many seventeenth century writings show that “mothers objected to breastfeeding because it was troublesome, it soiled their clothes and it made them look old”(Weinberg). Unfortunately, for some women, this train of thought has survived through the years to today, with some mothers still not willing to nurse for these same reasons (Stevens).
5. Consuming powdered earthworms helps with lactation.
Being that I have no knowledge of this, I cannot say that this won’t work. Who knows, maybe earthworms would make a great addition to the other ingredients used in lactation cookies of today. In 1546, Thomas Phayer wrote that this powder of earthworm should be taken in the broth of cow’s tongue and would help a nursing mother’s milk to come in quicker. Phayer also recommended fennel cooked in chicken broth and eaten with butter to encourage a greater milk supply (Wickes 157). All three of these are recommended today to either enrich milk or to increase supply and back in the day chicken broth was usually more of a bone broth and milk was grass fed, making them great options. So, there very well may be something to this earthworm powder. Any takers?….
6. Extended Breastfeeding can cause epilepsy.
In 1942 it was recorded by a physician’s attendant that the reason his patient become epileptic was due to her nursing her child for three and a half years (Wickes 151). I’ll be approaching the three and a half year mark in just four months with my youngest. I’ll let you know how I fair :).
There is one thing I do know for certain when it comes to nursing. Some mothers (me) do cry over spilled breastmilk, especially a mother who doesn’t make so much (as happened with my first child). Had I had this milk-saver, I would have cried a lot less – check it out!
Stevens, Emily E, Thelma E Patrick, and Rita Pickler. “A History of Infant Feeding.” The Journal of Perinatal Education 18.2 (2009): 32–39. PMC. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
Wickes, Ian. “A History of Infant Feeding.”Part 1: Primitive Peoples. 1952.
Do you know someone just starting on her breastfeeding journey? Here’s some great tips to share: Breastfeeding Tips for Mamas.
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