12 Facts About Wet Nurses, Who Sacrificed so Much for Other People’s Children


Wet nursing was one of the first occupations in history to generate income for women. For several millennia, girls chose this career to nurture other people’s children and often played a more important role in their lives than the parents themselves. That said, these women rarely feature in historical novels or movies, even though some aspects of their lives were just as fascinating as some of the facts about monarchs and aristocrats.

In Ancient Egypt, a wet nurse was chosen for the smell of her milk

There have been references to families hiring women to care for their children since ancient Egypt. Due to the local climate, liquid meals were critical for the children’s survival. Therefore, parents tried to provide in the best way they could and took great care in selecting a future nurse.

These ladies were treated with the utmost respect and almost worshiped. Images of wet nurses can often be found in ancient Egyptian documents, and they were usually depicted in the image of the goddess of fertility. Royal wet nurses were even invited to ceremonial feasts.

A wet nurse was chosen for the smell of her milk, as the quality of this was extremely important. If the milk exuded had the aroma of manna, then it was perfect for the child. Bad milk smelled like fish. There were several ways to resolve this problem.

For example, fish bones were heated in oil and then this liquid was rubbed on a woman’s back. The milkmaids were kept on a strict diet so that their milk wouldn’t spoil. Only young and unmarried women were hired for such work, and a girl could only breastfeed one child at a time.

  • In Roman times, a wet nurse’s hair color was significant

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