How black 'moms' were forced to abandon their babies and breastfeed white babies in the 1600s - The World's Biggest Pride
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How black ‘moms’ were forced to abandon their babies and breastfeed white babies in the 1600s

Wet nursing refers to when a woman breastfeeds and cares for another’s child. The practice is adopted when a mother passes or falls ill during the breastfeeding stages of her child.

In the early 1600s, wet nursing was reserved for low-class paid women or slaves.

By the 17th century, wet nursing by slaves had become very popular in Europe. The practice soon reached America through British settlers.

Even though from the beginning of the slave trade, slaves were bought to work on plantations and serve their masters, the trends took a turn when the whites realized that black babies grew stronger than theirs due to constant breastfeeding.

White women at the time would not want to lose their statures and so will not breastfeed their babies properly. Meanwhile, the children of slaves kept growing faster and healthier.

This is when slave masters decided to add wet nursing to the portfolios of slaves in addition to their plantation duties.

Many female slaves were taken into the homes of their masters to serve their mistresses, cook, clean, and wash for them.

Slaves often worked long tedious hours in the sun with no pay or reward for their hard labor.

Their presence made traders and plantation owners more productive but made their living conditions very harsh.

Now, if a mistress had too many children, the domestic worker was made to help in caring for the child.

Breastfeeding was perceived as self-demeaning and women who were seen breastfeeding were often thought of as uncultured, poor, and often shunned.

According to, doctors at the time were paid to prove that breastfeeding was an unhealthy act for women.

As time went on, white families began losing their children to ill-health whiles the children of the black slaves grew healthy.

This made many westerners force slave mothers to breastfeed their white children so that they could develop better and survive the early months of childhood.

The trend even grew more popular by the 18th century.

Slave mothers were forced to abandon their babies immediately after they gave birth, to breastfeed the children of their white mistresses.

Young and healthy slave women were also forced to breastfeed white babies after doctors discovered that the continuous sucking of a sexually active female breast could result in lactation.

Because slave mothers were not allowed to feed their babies they resorted to the use of concoctions, cow milk, and dirty water for them, which resulted in the high deaths recorded by the slaves.

Going forward, newborn babies of slaves were kidnapped by slave traders which left the mothers with pain in the breasts, leaving them with no choice but to breastfeed other babies who were often white.

Some reluctant slaves were beaten and often milked like cows to feed white babies.

Slave mothers often kept the white babies in their homes until the child’s family felt it was time to take them back.

But the living conditions of the slaves were not the best, resulting in the death of several white babies.

This the whites thought was an intentional way for the blacks to get back at them, therefore they were later forced to move in with the family where they could be monitored.

The death of the children of the enslaved wet nurses caused their husbands to reject them.

Wet nursing also resulted in the increased births of mixed-race babies because slave masters and their sons were sleeping with the slave women who were brought in to breastfeed.

The practice started to die down after slaves were slowly getting their freedom.

Most of the wet nurses were saved by their families or lovers who bought their freedom for them.

However, some slave mothers, even though freed, were still engaging in the act secretly because they were being paid well despite te being abolished.

They were often called prostitutes or shameless women.

History has it that only slave mothers were forced into the act.


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