Unfit to Nurse: Women, Infants and Breastfeeding Ideals and Prohibitions in Greek Gynecology
Keywords:Breastfeeding, Infant exposure , Wet nurses , Soranos/Soranus
AbstractGreek gynecological and pediatric standards created ideal types. One was the woman fit to breastfeed, another the newborn fit to be breastfed. This study examines the consequences of these standards on human lives. Mothers and newborns who failed to measure up to the ideal were rejected, giving added impetus to wet nursing, infant exposure and infanticide. These were aspects of Mediterranean medicine, culture and religion long before Soranos of Ephesos wrote his gynecological treatise. However, his instructions for midwives made these ideals and standards explicit and authoritative. Carried through by midwives, they altered the lives of women and sometimes ended the lives of newborns. Together these standards contributed to a recursive dynamic of the displacement of infants from birth mothers, infant abandonment, and wet nursing that was favorable to class affirmation and to the maintenance of the slave system of early imperial Rome.
Copyright (c) 2021 Medicina nei secoli - Journal of History of Medicine and Medical Humanities
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.