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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, PNP, IBCLC (University of Kansas School of Medicine)
Description: This scholarly work chronicles the social history of wet nursing in America from 18th century through the early 20th century. The intertwining forces of culture, society, economics, science, and medicine and their effect on what happens in the nursery are elucidated. As these forces change, the practice of wet nursing evolves as well. This evolution is described via a wide variety of sources, including first-person accounts from diaries and early texts on childrearing.
Purpose: This book seeks to answer the question "... why Americans rejected wet nursing, assuming that what 'science' produced was superior to what 'nature' provided." The author seeks to look at the broadest framework for the evolution of wet nursing — changes in social class divisions, society's views of motherhood, and the authority of physicians.
Audience: Those wanting to know more regarding the history of infant feeding will enjoy this exploration of one spectrum of childrearing. These might include practitioners in family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, history of medicine, dietitians, nurses, and lactation consultants.
Features: The book is extensively referenced. Footnotes direct one to other sources that provide more detail, as well as making pertinent asides. The index is detailed.
Assessment: This is a well-written and interesting chronicle of a phenomenon not well understood today. Exhaustive research, which includes fascinating vignettes from diaries of families, documents the enmeshment of forces on childrearing practices throughout American history. This book provides a wonderful historical perspective from which to view the profound influence of societal change on infant feeding practices and mothering today. The role played by physicians and the infant formula industry on women, families, and childrearing at the closing of the twentieth century has its roots intertwined in the history of wet nursing so skillfully described by Golden. The book is a welcome addition to the library.