“Maternal Solicitude,” or, how to avoid both infanticide and suicide!

babydos&dontsFrom the very first paragraph of Mary Watkins’s Maternal Solicitude, or Lady’s Manual (New York, 1809), h/t to my graduate student, Clarissa:

WHEN a mother does not nurse her own infant, she, in many instances, does violence to nature; a custom unknown among the most polished in the purest ages of Greece and Rome.  The sudden check given to this great natural evacuation of milk, at a time when her weakly state renders her unable to sustain so great a shock, is often of the worst consequences to herself; and the loss to the child is much greater than in commonly apprehended.  A woman in this case, runs the imminent risk of her life from a milk-fever; besides the danger of swellings and imposthumes of the breast, and such obstruction in them as lay a foundation of a future cancer, (7).

Yes, a 205-year old breastfeeding manual on the first page threatens the reader with both the loss of her child and CANCER!  But let’s not get too smug today.  Maternal Solicitude is almost as subtle as modern pro-breastfeeding propaganda.

Happy Mother’s Day!  Try to avoid both infanticide and suicide, you powerful, fearsome monsters!

5 thoughts on ““Maternal Solicitude,” or, how to avoid both infanticide and suicide!

  1. The alternative to cancer, the great natural evacuation of milk and overall weakly state associated with child birthing and feeding don’t sound so excellent either. I don’t think women can get out of the bind on this one. There is a “u’re doin’ in wrong” card for every decision a mother makes.


  2. Pingback: Spam attack thwarted! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  3. Re: that movie. OMG indeed. Even “do what’s right for you” is a loaded sentiment.

    I plan to adopt “great natural evacuation” into my everyday usage. It fits a lot of activities.


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