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A Social History of Wet Nursing in America: From Breast to Bottle (Cambridge Studies in the History of Medicine) Hardcover – February 23, 1996

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Editorial Reviews


"...a cogent analysis of the complicated and changing relationships among wet nurses...rich with fascinating details." Journal of Human Lactation

"Janet Golden's history of wet nursing tells an important story....This book is well worth a close reading both for its contributions to the history of medicine and for its illustration of these tensions." Ellen S. More, Johns Hopkins University Press

"Overall, Golden's book is an enjoyable read. Her work provides a thoughtful and detailed discussion of the complexities involved in various wet nursing arrangements....Golden's book is useful for those who are interested in the historical regulation of women's bodies and lives, especially for those who want to learn more about the historical regulation of poor, single mothers." Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association

"One of the more interesting chapters in human history is that of the feeding of infants by breast or bottle [and] Golden has gone a long way in explaining this necessary aspect of human behavior in this well-written and fascinating book." Ray Browne, Journal of American Culture

Book Description

A Social History of Wet Nursing in the United States: From Breast to Bottle examines the intersection of medical science, social theory, and cultural practices as they shaped relations among wet nurses, physicians, and families from the colonial period through the twentieth century. It explores how Americans used wet nursing to solve infant feeding problems, why wet nursing became controversial as motherhood slowly became medicalized, and how the development of scientific infant feeding eliminated wet nursing early in the twentieth century.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in the History of Medicine
  • Hardcover: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (February 23, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052149544X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521495448
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,698,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Formula had a predecessor: the wet nurse. Golden tracks her down during the 18th and 19th centuries in America, and documents in some detail how wet nursing was supplanted by formula and why. This is a great source of information for those who wonder about the early history of formula, and also for those who wonder why we don't have more human milk banks. Golden describes the forces pushing the ages of partial and full weaning down through the nineteenth century in all classes.

It's fascinating to hear how a lot of breastfeeding myths we think come from other parts of the world were alive and well in our own country as long as breastfeeding was alive and well. And at least in some contexts, they weren't myths at all. Breastfeeding women in the nineteenth century, particularly wet nurses who were tandem nursing, needed much better nutrition than the other servants, for example.

The ideas and information in this book deserve a larger audience.
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