By Sünje Prühlen
Hygiea Internationalis, Volume 6, Issue 2 (2007)
Introduction: Who was the appropriate woman to care for a nursing infant: the wet nurse or the biological mother? This was a very important question for parents in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Times. Parents found themselves amidst the conflict of theological and medical views and their own opinions concerning thoughtful baby care. These opinions might have been influenced by books about childcare especially addressed to parents in their language, marriage guides, or variously formulated statements in several other treatises. The following presents preliminary results of a larger research-project focussing wet nurses in the German-speaking Europe.
In the European medieval universities a discussion was carried on about women who breast-fed infants they had not born for remuneration. Many of these arguments were raised in Latin but were in large degree repetitions of those discussions originating in ancient times. This discussion was diverse and had been taken up by doctors, philosophers and theologians. Of these sources only those which seem of greatest importance or which present special circumstances can be considered in the following exposition. The inclusion of additional sources would go beyond the scope of this article.