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15 March 2021

Breastfeeding is the subject of the Post this week, not breastfeeding as we know it but rather wet-nurses. They have been largely written out of history but Sue Laurence's book The Hand that Rocked the Cradle: The Art of Birth and Infancy (2018) has an interesting section about them. This is Gabrielle d'Estrées au Bain in a 1598 oil paining. The mistress of Henri IV is standing in a bath of milk with a thin piece of material draping her; meanwhile, the wet nurse is feeding the baby, Alexandre de Bourbon. Very sadly Gabrielle died in 1599 after giving birth to a stillborn child – a reminder, if it were needed, how very dangerous giving birth used to be and how brave women were.

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