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The employment of women to breastfeed the infants of the upper classes was an old custom that continued to flourish in the early modern period, but which had become unfashionable by the mid‐19th century. Wet‐nurses were also regularly needed for orphans and abandoned babies, and the practice has been called ‘a forgotten cottage industry’. Some rural villages around London specialized in providing wet‐nurses. Recent local research has identified some of these places, as well as using the evidence to discuss the relationship between breastfeeding and ovulation. See Valerie Fildes, Wet Nursing: A History from Antiquity to the Present (1988), and the bibliography therein.

Subjects: Medicine and Health — History.

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