Our 12 week series touring the world of Breastfeeding

through Infant Feeding practices

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Tour of the world of breastfeeding

Episode 103 Part 1 Infant Feeding and Wet Nursing

I am going to take you on a little tour…… the world of breastfeeding from many moons ago to the current state of breastfeeding.  I will save all the references I used and put this in the show notes at the end of this whole series in Week 12. I love learning about the history of infant feeding practices partly because it gives us a window into society during years that we did not live through and we get to see what the breastfeeding culture was like. back in the day… like thousands of years ago.  It might surprise some to learn that years ago,  not all mothers wanted to breastfeed, or could breastfeed their babies.  On todays show, we learn the definition of wet nursing and we discuss why some mothers might choose to have their baby fed by another mother.

Episode 106 Part 2 Infant Feeding and Wet Nursing in Europe 17 and 18th century

Last week we ended by talking about Judith Waterford, a legendary breastfeeder who was written up in medical journals because she was what I would say a life long wet nurse who was still going strong at 81 years of age. I can only imagine what eyebrows Judith would raise in the year 2016.

In case you missed the first show of this series, you will want to go back and listen to show # 103

We are going to talk about the practice of wet nursing and while I am going to begin with talking about European Countries, you will notice that the information is not the same for each country as breastfeeding habits varied from region to region. Like I will talk about wet nursing in Britain in the 18th century and then in London around the same time and the practices can be markedly different. People and their religions and their customs and personal finances and living arrangements were as different then as they are now. This means that all customs do not fit in the same box and all wet nursing experiences and habits were not all the same for thousands of years. Listen to the show for the full story.

Episode 109 Part 3 Infant Feeding and Wet Nursing

The next country on our breastfeeding tour is England.  Records show that the pattern of wealthy married women hiring wet nurses in France, was quite the same in England also.  Historians came to this conclusion based on the stark difference in birth rates between English upper and working class women.  The wealthy women gave birth every year and the working class women had longer intervals with births about every 3 years.  While not 100% accurate, women who were wet nurses experienced a suppression in ovulation, which made wet nursing a relatively reliable contraceptive.  I find this so interesting as the wealthier women, who should have enjoyed a healthier life were not so healthy largely because of the number of pregnancies and births they had which were commonly between 12 – 18 by the time they were less than 40 years old. They spent a better part of their married life pregnant, while the lower class women who were busy nursing babies and having fewer babies, enjoyed a healthier life.

Episode 112 – Part 4 Infant Feeding and Wet Nursing

Currently, moms with a low supply are doing all kinds of things to help increase their supply.  Some people think they are crazy for the lengths they go and for what they eat and drink in order to boost their supply. Just as in wet nursing and how it became a paid profession years ago and how it is becoming one in modern times and how society now looks down upon what was happening years ago, the same goes for what moms do to make more milk.

I was reminded of  even more similarities that make me realize that the way things were centuries ago, are really not that much different then they are now.

Episode 118 – Part 6 Infant Feeding and Wet Nursing

Wet nurses, which use to be viewed as a well respected and well paid profession, and enabled women to be self supporting for many years, saw the demand for their services decline and this meant led to jobs in poorly paid positions or prostitution, which led to the damage of their health and their dignity.  Over time, wet nursing went by the wayside and both doctors and commerce paid a key role in this change.

Episode 127 – Part 7 Infant Feeding and Wet Nursing

Wet nursing drastically decline near the end of the 19th century.  It never disappeared though and as a matter of fact in the early years of the 20th century, wet nurses could be seen and employed by hospitals.  If a mom could not breastfeed her baby, then a wet nurse hired by the hospital fed her baby.

Lori J. Isenstadt, IBCLC

Lori j Isenstadt, IBCLCLori Jill Isenstadt, IBCLC is a huge breastfeeding supporter.  She has spent much  of her adult life working in the maternal health field. Once she became turned on to birth and became a childbirth educator, there was no stopping her love of working with families during their childbearing years.  Lori became a Birth doula and a Postpartum doula and soon became a lactation consultant.  She has been helping moms and babies with breastfeeding for over 25 years.  Lori founded her private practice, All About Breastfeeding where she meets with moms one on one to help solve their breastfeeding challenges.  She is an international speaker, book author and the host of the  popular itunes podcast, All About Breastfeeding, the place where the girls hang out.  You can reach Lori by email at: [email protected] or contact her via her website:  allaboutbreastfeeding.biz/contact

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