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[personal profile] raffaellasworld
In my studies I found reference to two different contemporary sources of information on what kind of care was expected at the hands of wetnurses in Florence, which extends far beyond just feeding and seems to cover all aspects of child care.

The first are two renaissance carnival songs about wetnurses:
Here we come, balie, from the Casentino,
each one looking for a baby,
and here are our husbands
who lead us on the way,
whoever has a baby, show him to us
male or female, it doesn’t matter.
We shall take good care of him,
and he will be well fed,
that we’ll soon have him standing straight
like a proud knight.
If the baby falls sick
or is a bit run down,
we’ll take such good care of him
that he will soon recover;
but we must help him out
in changing him frequently;
when he’s wet, we must dry him
and wash him with a little wine.
We’re fine in our way of life
prompt and skillful in our trade,
always when the baby cries
we feel our milk returning;
acting with energy and speed,
we do our duty
we take him out of the cradle
drying his little face.
When he has a sore eye
we go clear up to poppi:
a woman puts him on her knee
and gives him back his health,
and then she wants us to hold him
sometimes for days on end, so naked,
behind the bake oven,
playing with him in the sunshine.
In ever matter, we know what to do,
so that the baby grows up quickly;
as long as the stays straight and hard
we don’t mind getting tired;
and he’ll never leave us
until his nursing is finished;
so you can be quite confident
in sending him to the Casentino.

With lots of good fine milk
our breasts are full.
To avoid all suspicion,
let the doctor see it,
because in it is found
the life and being of the creature,
for good milk nourishes
with no trouble and make the flesh firm…
We’re young married women,
well experienced in our art,
we can swaddle a baby in a flash
and no one has to show us
how to use the cloth and bands
while caring for him we arrange them carefully
because if he catches cold,
the baby is harmed and the balia blamed.
We change three times a day
the wool and linen cloths and white bands,
and we never get tired or cross
being with him so he won’t cry….

An intellectual perspective on the duties and expectations of a wetnurse was defined by Bartholomeaus Anglicus in his encyclopedia:
The nurse (nutrix) is so names because of her nourishing (nutriendo) power, since she is suitable for feeding the newborn child. A nurse, says Isidore, feeds the child in place of the mother. Like a mother, the nurse is happy when the child is happy, and suffers when the child suffers. She lifts him up when he falls, gives him suck if he cries, kisses him if he is sick, binds and ties him if he flails about, cleans him if he has soiled himself, and feeds him, although he struggles with his fingers. She instructs the child who cannot speak, babbling, practically breaking her tongue, in order to teach him speech more readily. She uses medicines in order to cure a sick child. She lifts him up on her hands, shoulders and knees and relieves the crying child. She first chews the food, preparing it for the toothless child so he can swallow it more easily, and thus feeds the hungry child. Whistling and singing, she strokes him as he sleeps and ties the childish limbs with bandages and linens, which she adjusts, lest he suffer some curvature. She refreshes his disfigured body with baths and unguents.
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