‘Unfortunate creatures’: The hazards of syphilis in wet-nursing

Tomasz Sioda,

Virginia Thorley

While the selection criteria for wet-nurses had little changed across two millennia, other aspects of their occupation were far from homogenous, changing under the diverse infl uences of culture, current threats to the health of wet-nurses and the babies they fed, contemporaneous medical knowledge and healthcare. Fears of the transmission of the prevailing infectious diseases of the times led to medical involvement at all levels, from selection and inspection of applicants for wet-nurse positions to treatment of illnesses that arose in the child. The article discusses the implications of syphilis, the most serious disease transmissible through wet-nursing before the discovery of antibiotics, and the preventive measures and treatment used by the physicians across fi ve centuries, according to the knowledge of the time. The period covered extends into the early-twentieth century.
Słowa kluczowe: breastfeeding, history of medicine, occupational diseases, syphilis, wet-nurse
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