Initial Care: The admitted children received clothing. For
infants, this consisted of a bonnet, short shirts, a sleeved undershirt,
and swaddling clothes made of linen or wool. The swaddling were
preferred by the wet nurse and other caregivers because the babies
wrapped in the swaddling took up less room, and they required less
attention than the freely moving ones. The children were also examined
by the hospice doctor, who determined if they were healthy or ill
the morning after admission. The healthy children stayed in the
nursery or the dormitory, while the sick children went to the infirmary.
Also on the morning after admission, all children were baptized.
Care Prior to the Wet Nurse: Prior to being assigned to
a wet nurse the infants in actuality received very little care.
They were fed usually about once a day either with breast milk or
with cow or goat's milk. The children did receive care when they
were sick by the resident doctor.
With the Wet Nurse: Once the child was in custody of the
wet nurse, she was fully responsible for the child's care. Sometimes,
the child received wonderful, while at other times the child was
neglected and merely used to receive money from the state.
Artist unknown. Nourricerie Modéle. 1887.
To view whole picture, click image.
Feeding: In the hospice the infants were either fed by a
wet nurse, or given either cow's or goat's milk. However, there
were never enough wet nurses to go around for the infants, so the
doctors recommended artificial feeding through bottles an animals
milk. The question was what animal was the best. Doctor Parrot in
1882 stated that the milk was a she-ass was the most suitable because
it was the most similar to breast milk since it had a high level
of lactose, a low amount of casein, and was less "buttery"
than other types of milk (Guardia). In actuality though, she -ass
was not the milk most commonly used because the price rose way above
most women's means. The doctors said that the second most preferable
option was goat's milk. The best goat milk came from those which
were, "white, hornless, two years old, tall but with a short
neck, quite plump, with large teats, a light step and thick trotter"
(Guardia). There were also problem with the goat milk. As imaged
the specific goat needed was a problem, but also the milk could
only be taken from the goat for four months during the year. So,
in practice, cow's milk, which was the least easily digested milk
by the infant, was used most commonly. Sometimes this milk was given
to the child through a bottle, but infants also commonly suckled
straight from the animal itself. This was done for several reasons
including that the wet nurse was unqualified for the position and
received the job through abuses in the
system, the wet nurse was afraid of contracting a disease from the
infant, or the wet nurse was overburdened with children. Suckling
from an animal though was a good alternative to breast milk because
it prevented the adulteration or cooling of the milk and it allowed
a possible return to the breast (Guardia).
Attention with the Wet Nurse: Problems with wet nurse: Sending
children to wet nurse who were unhealthy, had no milk, or cared
for more than one child was the result of an increase in the number
of abandoned babies while the number of wet nurse remained the same
(Fuchs 15). Wet nurses for abandoned children received very low
pay, that is one reason so many looked for individual families (Fuchs
185). In the country, everyone in the household who was able to
work, was expected to work. Therefore, during the day the wet-nurses,
"...left the nurslings in the house all day, either alone or
in the care of an older child who was often not more than six years
old and thus too young for labor in the fields (Fuchs 216).
link to wet nurses
Link back to previous
Link back to poor home
Created by Devon Hill,