Wet-Nursing

Author: 

Sal
Lactation Consultant, Researcher, Herbalist, Nutritionist
naturalchoiceee@yahoo.com

 

DISCLAIMER: The following is a brief write up of my personal experience on the subject of human lactation along with a collection of others who have made contributions in this area.  

This is not intended as medical advice in any way, shape or form. Please seek competent medical advice for your personal situation.

- Sal

FEW ARE the days that go by that I don't hear these words spoken to me;

"My breasts ache ooohhh so badly to nurse an army of hungry men, women and children. Show me, how can I accomplish this erotic fantasy that is driving me crazy. I desperately want to be a wet nurse !"

I just quickly put this page of info together which I hope will answer many of your questions about wet nursing. It may not provide you with the hungry mouths to feed but it will give you background as to why you ache to nurse. Please forgive my typing errors.

I wish I could snap my fingers for you to make it happen. But I can't.  It's really up to you to do it.  It may not be an army but you can start with one person and grow from there. Large breasted women "seem to have a very powerful maternal instinct, especially as they get past their 40s and especially if they never nursed of nursed for short periods. Don't ask we why !  Are the breasts going through some unknown changes or is it the maternal instinct that is re-awakening?

Before you can take on any task you have to know the how what where and when, a bit of history on the subject. WET NURSING is no different.  It has a million year old history. One legendary wet nurse was Judith Waterford who in 1831, on her 81st birthday, could still produce breastmilk.  In her prime, she unfailing produced two quarts of breastmilk a day year after year.  Some Wet nurses have and can still produce as much as 6 and even 8 quarts per day.

The highest on medical records is nearly 2 gallons per day, a Russian lady about 60 years ago.  A Japanese virgin of 21 years was producing 6 quarts daily for over 2 years. A virgin!!!!!!!  Her milk was somehow induced.  Any woman can lactate even virgins if the proper stimulation is applied.

The roots of donor milk banking reach back to earlier times when children were either breastfed by their mothers or breast fed by friends, relatives or strangers - a practice referred to as "wet nursing".  Evidence of the support for "wet nursing" is present in the Code of Hammurabi from 2250 BC where the attributes needed for good wet nurses are described.  If a man gives his child to a nurse and the child dies in her hands, but the nurse unbeknown to the father and mother nurse another child, then they shall convict her of having nursed another child without the knowledge of the father and mother and her breasts shall be cut off.

In the old Roman Empire wet nurses gathered in Rome in the Via Lattaria (Milky Way) to sell their milk fresh straight from the breast, in clay bottles, or the buyer could milk it out him or herself. Babies were brought to nurse as were baby animals especially prized puppies. The wet nurses positioned themselves in a spot were the wealthy men walked by on the way to the baths.  The men would stop by and suckle their milky breakfast, considered by many to be a milky fountain of youth.  The younger the wet nurse, the more perfect the titties the more powerful the boost. Unfortunately, little was known about disease!

In those early days, children were thought to inherit the physical, mental and emotional traits of their wet nurse through the breast milk so selection of the nurse was felt to be very important. In the 13th century, European women made more money working as wet nurses than any other occupation open to women.  By early in the twentieth century, awareness of the possibility of disease transmission, difficulty finding wet nurse particularly in North America and an increasing number of artificial feeding products unfortunately resulted in increasing interest in artificial feeding.

Brazilian mail carriers deliver more than just the mail.  Over six thousand mail carriers and firefighters are part of a nationwide project to collect human breast milk at the homes of lactating women and bring it for pasteurization to the country's hundred and fifty milk banks. The Brazilian Ministry of Health implemented this program in the early 1990s; today, Brazil has the most effective milk bank network in the world, a network which is one of several projects designed to offer the benefits of breastfeeding to women who cannot do so on their own.

It is commonly believed that lactation only occurs following conception an birth, but this not necessarily so. Certain species such as elephants and foxes lactate and suckle young without ever giving birth. For humans, continued suckling over a period of time is the only requirement to stimulate milk production -- pregnancy is not necessary. Many women who have breastfed can begin again by simply initiating sucking (with either a baby or a pump). Women who have never given birth, but wish to breastfeed can do so by having their nipples sucked on frequently with either a pump or a child/adult nursing regularly.

Krantz JZ, Kupper NS. reports that, Cross-nursing, or the breast-feeding of an infant not one's own, appears to be an increasingly popular, if not well reported, practice.  The physical and psychological effects are not well documented, but may be quite different from those of the institutionalized wet-nursing of the past. Three mothers who cross-nurse were interviewed; the practice appears to have had no ill effect on them or their infants.  Cross-nursing is a logical and practical extension of the resurgence of breast-feeding and may, in turn, increase the incidence of breast-feeding by making it more attractive to employed mothers.  Before the practice can be properly evaluated, however, more data are needed, particularly with regard to possible physical reactions in the infants. In the meantime, pediatricians should be aware that their breast-fed patients may be participating in a cross-nursing situation, and suggest prudent considerations.

Here is a brief writeup through which I will try to get you onto your learning curve.

This is a book I highly recommend for those interested in learning more about wet nursing in America.  But don't forget the world is much bigger than just America! (If you go to this site you will find a garden of other books that will also teach you a lot about breastfeeding.)
http://www.kellymom.com/writings/bf-history.html

A Social History of Wet Nursing in America: From Breast to Bottle. - book reviews
By Janet Golden (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. xii plus 215pp. $54.95).

The structure of wet nursing that prevailed in the nineteenth century established a hierarchy among wet nurses, as well as a two-tiered system of infant care. The highest ranking wet nurses, in terms of pay, were unmarried mothers who worked for private families. The lowest were women living in almshouses who suckled abandoned or orphaned babies. Wet nurses who took into their own homes the infants of working-class mothers (including other wet nurses) stood in between.

Doctors did not gain control over the organization of wet nursing until the end of the nineteenth century. Even then, Golden notes, "inherent moral and managerial problems (p. 129)" meant that wet nursing could never be fully medicalized; wet nurses were judged by the standards of domestic service as much as medicine. Employers worried about the impact of disease, diet, moral character, and heredity not only on the quality of a nurse's milk, but on relations within the household. As bottle-feeding became safer, the inefficiency and risk of a wet nurse seemed to contrast with the more convenient and scientific alternative of artificial feeding.  By the early twentieth century, families hired wet nurses only as a last resort, after formula feeding had failed. Something that should be mentioned is that in order for many women to hire themselves out as wet nurses they had to do something about their own child. Usually infanticide was the answer. Occasionally some smart wet nurses managed to kill the baby they were hired to nurse and switch it with their own.  Therefore they actually nursed their flesh and blood while the hapless other child was murdered.

Wet nursing all but disappeared by the mid-twentieth century, as breast milk was pumped, bottled, and sold as a commodity. The bottling of human milk increased the physical and psychological distance between producer and consumer (especially since milk banks pool the milk of a number of women), and toppled the association between milk quality and the personal characteristics of the nurse.  NOTE: BREAST MILK WAS BOTTLED AND SOLD !  In Germany it was sold in health food stores for years.

Bottled breast milk remains a necessity for a small number of (mostly premature) infants, yet today most breast milk (like blood) is donated, not sold. Now that breast-feeding is popular among the middle class, it is considered immoral to sell mother's milk to save the life of a child.

A Social History of Wet Nursing in America raises many questions for future research, particularly on the regional and ethnic/cultural variations in wet-nursing practices and policies. This pathbreaking book is a must-read for historians of medicine, the family, and women's work.

Molly Ladd-Taylor York University
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Two distinct groups paid for wet nurses' service in the United States at the end of the nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries.  Physicians hired them both to suckle babies living without their mothers in foundling homes and to supply human milk to sick babies in hospitals. Well-to-do families also hired them - usually via the family doctor - as live-in servants when a mother would not or could not breastfeed. Although there was no question that the human milk provided by wet nurses not only benefited babies but in many instances saved their lives, employers constantly weighed the troublesome aspects of housing a wet nurse against a baby's need for her milk.  As one Chicago pediatrician warned, if the infant in question was healthy "the balance is not always on the side of the wet nurse."

Another good pieces can be read in;
Midwife Health Visit Community Nurse. 1979 Aug;15(8):302-6. Related
Articles, Links The rent breasts: a brief history of wet-nursing.
Osborn ML.

Selling Mother's Milk :   The Wet-Nursing Business in France, by George Sussman

Milk, Money and Madness, by Naomi Baumslag and Dia L. Michels
It is an invaluable guide to the culture and politics surrounding breastfeeding.

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Most of this is based on history. Then we read about wet nursing as it is now;

Wet-nursing makes a comeback in Hollywood
By Martin Patience
2004-02-18

A Beverly Hills, Calif., company has revived the obsolete practice of wet-nursing, renting out professional sucklers to mothers who are unable to breast-feed their children themselves--sometimes because of implants.

The Web site for Certified Household Staffing appears like a throwback to Victorian times, when the moneyed classes hired teams of servants.  The site sports images of butlers with bow ties, nannies in black and white uniforms and gamekeepers dressed in tweeds.  But the agency offers another service associated with times long past: wet nurses.

Robert Feinstock, 65, the owner of the Beverly Hills, Calif., company, believes his business is one of the few in the United States that offers wet nurses, or women who suckle other peoples' children.  He says he provides a needed service to mothers who want their children to thrive on breast milk but for whatever reason are unable to perform the task themselves.
http://www.jrn.columbia.edu/studentwork/cns/2004-03-15/525.asp
(I hope this web site is still active)

Based on the success of this company, women aching to become wet nurses may have a big paid future ahead of them.
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HERE IS AN OLDER WRITEUP I DID A YEAR OR TWO AGO

Here is a brief on wetnursing that I'm researching.  It was in places like these that some women nursed several babies daily. Some due to infections that were around chose to be milked by hand several times daily. You may find this short piece interesting.

Each year in Europe in the centuries of the modern period, many tens of thousands of babies were abandoned and made their way into the highly developed system of foundling homes. Torn away from their mothers, the infants faced difficult odds in surviving in a world where artificial feeding generally meant death.  Their only real hope of living to see their first birthday was to find a woman able to nurse them and willing to put them to her breast.  And so it was that wherever there were foundling homes, from Portugal to Russia, Italy to Ireland, foundling home officials devoted much of their energies to recruiting lactating women to nurse their little wards.

In most places at most times, the foundling homes sponsored a dual system of wetnursing, one based inside the foundling home itself and one outside it. The goal almost everywhere was to place the infant with a lactating woman in the woman's own home, typically in the countryside. The only alternative was to keep the children in the foundling home, but this was deemed undesirable for a variety of reasons. First of all, it was impractical. In foundling homes such as Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, Vienna, Milan, or Florence, where thousands of babies were abandoned each year, the prospect of keeping them all in the foundling homes was unrealistic. Finding lactating women willing to serve as internal wetnurses to multiple babies was always difficult, and indeed, expedients were sometimes relied upon of forcing unwed mothers to serve periods of servitude as internal wetnurses. Officials also recognized that hygienic conditions in the foundling homes were inferior to those outside; the large number of babies sharing a limited number of wetnurses quickly passed diseases around.  Moreover, officials complained that the poor women who could be induced into wetnurse service in the foundling homes lacked the robust and healthy condition necessary to insure adequate nutrition for the infants.

As a result, efforts were made to find women willing to take the abandoned babies to their homes and able to nurse them.  In order to keep the child alive until such placement could occur, a limited number of wetnurses were lodged in the foundling home itself, often nursing two or more infants at a time.

The consequences of not being able to place the infants with external wetnurses can be seen from those cases where few such placements were made. A dramatic example comes from Naples, one of Europe's largest foundling homes in the modern period, yet one which often lacked the financial resources (or political resolve) to pay for what would have been a massive system of foster child placement. Between 1801 and 1840, 81,758 children were left at the Naples foundling home; of these 81% died before reaching their first birthday.  Even in the best of cases, however, keeping the abandoned children alive was a desperate struggle, and typically the foundlings suffered an infant mortality rate twice as high as the already high rate found among the rest of
the population.

Well aware that the survival of the foundlings was linked to their ability to place the children quickly with women in their own homes, foundling home officials devoted a great deal of their efforts and a significant part of their large budget to recruiting external wetnurses. The incentive provided was a monthly wage that the foundling home paid such women. The wage attracted women from poorer rural households where the extra money - especially in its regularity and its cash form - was most welcome. Foundling homes continued to pay the women to keep the child even after the period of wetnursing (typically 12 months) was completed, although the monthly payments declined after the child was weaned.

Women from the countryside were almost everywhere preferred over city women, for rural communities were regarded as healthier for children and life there less corrupt than the city. Although desperate to attract such women, foundling home officials were also concerned that any woman who asked to take in a child be closely examined to make sure that she would be suitable. In the foundling homes of Italy (referred to as ospizi), women needed to bring a variety of documentation with them, including a certificate of good moral standing provided by their parish priest, and either a death certificate of their most recently born child (indicating their lactational status) or their most recent child's birth certificate indicating that the child was old enough to be weaned (foundling homes frowned on women nursing a foundling in addition to their own child, fearing that former would suffer). Finally, a foundling home physician performed a physical examination of the woman, both to ensure her general health and nutritional status, and to specifically examine the quantity and quality of her milk.

For protection from the many diseases that were present, many women would rather be milked several times daily than to put infected babies to their breasts. This is where local goat farmers were hired to use their experience to milk these women. In order to be accepted as a milker, the women were picked based on breast and nipple size.  A woman with plenty of milk yet with small nipples was turned down by the milkers. Milkings were done as often as 4 times per day depending on availability of the number of milkers men or women. Some women milked themselves or were milked by their husbands then took the milk to the foundling homes.

Remember, these women were paid with much needed cash.  So many households had mothers and daughters employed as milk givers.

Did you know that the wetnurses in history commanded a lot of power in the household?  They were given the best rooms, clothes, and food along with helpers.  The helpers made sure that the wet nurse obeyed the rules, they helped care for, milk and massage the wetnurses titties. The helpers were to make sure the milk was always fresh, therefore they had to milk or suckle the titties dry after each feeding.  The breasts were washed and cared for like babies themselves.

On occasions, more than the baby the helper and the man of the house fed on those busy tits.  One wet nurse fed the guest baby, the man of the house, the gardener, the butler and whoever happened to get a hold of her titties.  It was not unusual for these women to produce several quarts daily.  One is said to have nursed 7 babies for over 3 months.  Talk about big busy titties!

In the French , Italian and German Foundling homes most wetnurses were able to nurse at least 2 or 3 babies regularly.  A doctor was on hand at all times to treat cracked nipples, torn areolas, mastitis and to milk the tits as needed.  I read a brief about a Dutch doctor 23 years old who supervised some 60 young wetnurses. I dare to guess his dick must have been in need of milking a few times daily!!!!!!!!!!

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I'd be pleased to hear from any readers input or answer any questions.

Sal
Lactation Consultant, Researcher, Herbalist,
Nutritionist
naturalchoiceee@yahoo.com

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Article reprinted with permission by the author.  Thank you Sal! 

 

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