A Social History of Wet Nursing in America: From Breast to Bottle

A Social History of Wet Nursing in America explores how Americans used wet nursing to solve infant feeding problems, shows why wet nursing became controversial as motherhood slowly became medicalized, and elaborates how the development of scientific infant feeding eliminated wet nursing by the beginning of the twentieth century.

Janet Golden’s study contributes to our understanding of the cultural authority of medical science, and the role of physicians in shaping child rearing practices.

It is in this book that there is paraphrasing from Margaret Mead’s autobiography, Blackberry Winter (1972), that talks about Mead’s concerns in 1939 that she might not be able to breastfeed her own child. If this was the case, Mead remembered that she decided she would investigate hiring a wet nurse. Janet Golden suggests that Mead may have found hiring a wet nurse in 1939 a challenge because the practice was sharply on the decline due to the upsurge in infant formula use.

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