Gillian Clark

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics

Published online December 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI:

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Breast-feeding was a proof of maternal devotion and, according to some philosophers, a good woman's duty (there is a detailed discussion in Gell.NA 12. 1). It was acknowledged to be tiring, but it increased the mother's affection for the child, and the baby was thought to be morally, as well as physically, influenced by the milk it drank and the milk's provider: breast-milk was explained as a further transformation of the blood which had gone to form the embryo (see embryology). Mothers who were unwilling to breast-feed might be blamed for laziness, indifference, or vanity about their breasts. But wet-nursing was a standard practice. The Greek and Latin words for ‘nurse’ (titthē, trophos; nutrix) have the primary meaning of someone who feeds the child; the bond between nurse and nursling was acknowledged to be strong and is often commemorated in inscriptions. There has been extensive recent discussion on the psychological effects of shared child-rearing.

Article.  798 words. 

Subjects: History of Gender and Sexuality

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