Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Childbirth in Regency England

From Historical Hussies:
Once the mother was in labor, the birthing or lying-in rooms were heated and completely shut up to prevent the flow of air. Fear of drafts causing the mother to catch cold created the practice of building up the fire, putting blankets over all the windows and doors, and covering every crevice. Not only would have that been uncomfortable and not allowed for adequate oxygen but it would have been a breeding ground for bacteria so it likely caused the very problem they were trying to prevent.
Many accounts report the mother lying in bed directly on her back, while only a few cite having the mother lie on her side. Apparently, the upper classes were more likely to lie in beds more than the poor who are generally depicted sitting in birthing chairs. This may have been due to the desire to keep the lady more modestly covered but certainly would have made it difficult to push effectively. (Read more.)
And here is an article on breastfeeding in Regency England. To quote:
 Generally, wet nurses were paid to feed the babies of the wealthy. Much thought and care went into their selection, and their milk was examined for texture, color, viscosity, and taste. Some thought that aspects of a wet nurse’s personality could be passed through her milk, and therefore her character had to be impeccable. Cassandra Austen, Jane Austen’s mother, sent all her children to the nearby village of Deane to be nursed in their infancy.  Although Cassandra Austen visited her babies daily, they did not return to the family fold until they were around 18 months of age.

The popularity of wet nurses stemmed from the fact that royalty often wanted large families. Wet nurses were hired to feed the newborn so that the royal mother would soon regain fertility and become pregnant again. When royals stopped breastfeeding their children, other women from wealthy families soon followed suit and began to farm their babies out to wet nurses.  This practiced continued until the end of the 19th century, when it largely died out. (Read more.)

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