Thursday, 27 December 2012

What should be the diet of a wet nurse?

Handy advice for nursing mothers. How much beer should you drink?

21.—Q. What should be the diet of a wet nurse or of a mother who is suckling?

A. It is an usual practice to cram a wet nurse with food, and to give her strong ale to drink, to make good nourishment and plentiful milk! This practice is most absurd; for it either, by making the nurse feverish, makes the milk more sparing than usual, or it makes the milk gross and unwholesome. On the other hand, we should not run into an opposite extreme. The mother or wet nurse, by using those means most conducive to her own health, will best advance the interest of the infant. A wet nurse should live somewhat in the following way:—Let her have tea for her breakfast, with one or two slices of cold meat if her appetite demand it, but not otherwise. It is usual for wet nurses to make hearty luncheons: of this I do not approve. If they feel faint or low at eleven o'clock, let them have a tumbler of porter or mild fresh ale, with a piece of dry toast soaked in it. A nurse should not dine later than half-past one or two o'clock; she should eat for her dinner fresh mutton or beef, with a nice mealy potatoe and stale bread. Puddings, soups, gravies, high-seasoned dishes, salted meats, and green vegetables (unless it be, occasionally, a few asparagus heads, or brocoli, or cauliflower), should be carefully avoided, as they only tend to disorder the stomach, and deteriorate the milk. It is a common remark that "mothers who are suckling may eat any thing." I do not agree to this opinion. Can impure or improper food make pure and proper milk, or can impure or improper milk make good blood for an infant, and thus good health? The wet nurse may take a moderate quantity of good porter, or mild (but not old or strong) ale, with her dinner. Tea should be taken at half-past five or six, supper at nine; which should consist of a slice or two of cold meat, or cheese if she should prefer it, with half a pint of porter or mild ale: occasionally a basin of gruel may be taken with greater advantage. Hot and late suppers are most prejudicial to the mother or wet nurse, and, consequently, to the child. The wet nurse should be in bed every night by ten o'clock. It may be said I have been too minute and particular in my rules for a wet nurse; but when it is considered of what vital importance good milk is to the well-doing of an infant, in making him strong and robust, not only now, but as he grows up to manhood, I shall, I trust, be excused for my prolixity.
"Advice to mothers on the management of their offspring" By Pye Henry Chavasse, 1839, pages 35-36.

I love the advice against eating green vegetables. My kids wouldn't need to be told that twice. Turns out a wet nurse could drink a few pints of Mild or Porter a day. remeber that both would have been around 6% ABV in the 1830's.

It'd great to hear my favourite piece of advice repeated. Drink Mild!

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