1688: French doctor urges against red-haired breastfeeding

Writing in The Diseases of Women with Child, first published 1688, French doctor Francois Mauriceau provided comprehensive instructions for breastfeeding children. In the chapter titled ‘Directions for choosing a nurse’, Mauriceau took aim at red-haired mothers and wet nurses:

“The necessary conditions in a good nurse are usually taken from her age, the time and manner of her labour, the good constitution of all the parts of her body, and particularly of her breasts, from the nature of her milk [and] from her good manners…”

She must not be red-haired, nor marked with red spots… She ought to have a sweet voice to please and rejoice the child, and likewise ought to have a clear and free pronunciation, that he may not learn an ill accent from her, as usually red-haired [women] have.”

Mauriceau went on to advise that wet nurses should not have “a strong breath” or “stinking nose” or “bad teeth”. “Her breasts ought to be pretty big… but not big to excess” and “not flaggy and hanging”. And again, she must not have red hair, for:

“Their milk is hot, sharp and stinking, and also of an ill taste.”

Source: Francois Mauriceau, The Diseases of Women with Child, 1688. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.