Project Canterbury

The Compleat Mother.
Or An Earnest Perswasive to all Mothers (especially those of Rank and Quality)
to Nurse their own Children.

By Henry Newcome, A.M.
and Rector of Tattenhall in the County Palatine of Chester.

London: Printed for J. Wyat at the Rose in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1695.

Chapter II.

Wherein are manifested the great Mischiefs which Mothers by transferring the Nursing of their Children to other Women, threaten their Families with; both in point of Succession, and that Mutual Affection which ought to be among the several Branches of it.

§ 1. MY proposed Method leads me now to the second part of my undertaking, viz. To consider and represent the Mischievous Consequences which frequently result from Mothers exposing their Children to be nursed by other Women, and cannot otherwise be so surely prevented, as by discharging this Office themselves. And they either respect the family or the Child.

First, The whole Family may suffer great prejudice by this unreasonable Custom: And that both in point of Succession, and that mutual Affection which ought to be among the several Branches of it, and is necessary to its flourishing Prosperity.

§ 2. I. The Families of the Great and the Rich especially are in danger to be injured hereby in the Succession. None are so much concerned, as Persons of Honour and Estates, to preserve the Succession of both to their own Off-spring, nor are any in so much danger as they to be injured in that way. The poor Man needs not fear a Suppositious Brood; for who will be desirous to obtrude a Child on him to inherit Beggary? But if a poor Tenant have a fair Opportunity to thrust her own or Friends Child into the room of her Landlords Heir, or can contrive to make him pass for the Son of a Wealth Tradesman, it requires a deal of Honesty to withstand the Temptation. Now if it be considered how mutable the Countenance of an Infant is; what Alterations a few days make in the Lineaments of its Face, it may be judged no hard thing to deceive the most Critical Mother after a Months absence. So that either if the Nurse have a mind to make her own Child, or be hired to make some others a Fortune; or if she have Overlaid her Nursery, and to conceal the Crime, cloath some other about the same Age in its Spoils, perhaps the most curious Inspection may not be able to discern the Cheat. I am sure the boorish and degenerate Rudeness of some, who pass for the Children of very Polite, Ingenious and good humoured Parents, give too much cause to suspect them Changlings. Nor is this a bare Supposition without any Instances, for Valerius Maximus tells us, That in the Reign of Augustus, one pretended to be the Son of his Sister Octavia, affirming, That by reason of his great Weakness he had been changed for the Nurses own Son. It's true the Cheat succeeded not, yet Octavia's putting of her Son off to be Nursed by a Stranger, gave an opportunity to attempt it: And perhaps the reason that so few Nurses are detected in such like Attempts, is because they frequently succeed better, being detected only where they fail. Yet one remarkable Instance more there is, How Arthebar, or (as others call him) Artabanus King of Epirus was more successfully imposed on, having his Child changed at Nurse, and the Son of a mean Knight introduced into his Family. Which Treason the Nurse at length, though too late discovering, occasioned a Bloody War, wherein both Pretenders were slain, and the Kingdom it self Usurped by Alexander the Brother of that Olympias, who was Alexander the Great's Mother. And to prevent such Supposititious Bastardies, Lycurgus the Famous Spartan Law-giver enacted, That the noblest Spartan Women, even their Kings Wives, should at the least Nurse their eldest Son. And Plutarch reports, That the second Son of Themistes the seventh King of the Lacedemonians, succeeded his Father, only because he had been nursed by his own Mother, whereas the eldest had sucked the Breasts of a Stranger. Now as the Mothers Nursing her self is a sure way to prevent any such Cheat of the Nurse; so it is a Security to the Husband, that she hath not her self, to escape the Infamy of Barenness, consented to the introducing of anothers Child into his Family. And it is the Note of St. Chrysostom upon Gen. 21. 7. "That therefore Sarah gave Suck, to make it more credible, that she was truly a Mother, least any by reason of her Age should have suspected the Child to have been Supposititous. For the Milk in her Breasts might satisfie the most Distrustful, that Isaac was her genuine Offspring, and that beyond all Expectation she was become a Mother." Hence I conclude, that the Quality of any Woman is so far from being a reasonable Excuse from undertaking this part in the Education of her Child, that it rather increases her Obligation. For the greatest Care ought to be taken in preventing the Obtrusion of a Spurious Issue on the Families and Successions, where there is the most Danger.

§ 3. 2. I come to shew Secondly, that as it is necessary to the Happiness of every Family, that there be mutual Indearments between the several Branches of it: So the putting of Children out to be nursed by others, is a very likely way to hinder them, and the contrary to promote them; which I shall manifest in these three Particulars, viz. In respect of the Mothers Affection toward the Child, The Childs towards its Mother, and The Children of the same Parents towards one another.

§ 4. First, It is very unlikely that those Mothers, who transfer the Nursing of their Children to others, should ordinarily love them as tenderly as those that make them their own Care. When the Infant is exil'd from its Mothers sight, that warmth of Love, which receives new Vigor from the frequent view of its Object, cools by degrees and languishes; whilst the Interposition of other Objects soon weans her from that poor Exile, who becomes abroad almost as much forgotten, as if it had been laid in the Grave. It is not rare to observe, That Foster-Children are more dear to their Nurses than their Mothers; and Mothers for the most part are fondest of those whom they have nursed themselves. And it is too common an Observation, That some Ladies shew a greater Fondness toward their Dogs than their Children, "Shewing those to all Comers, when in many days Converse one shall hear nothing, whence it may be known that they have any Children." [Ladies Calling, Part 2. Sect. 2.] Concerning which we have a remarkable Story in Plutarch, How that Cesar once seeing some Strangers at Rome, who were People of Quality, carrying up and down with them in their Arms and Bosoms young Puppy-dogs and Munkies, and hugging and making much of them, took occasion to ask, Whether the Women in their Country were not used to bear Children. By that Princely Reprimand gravely reflecting upon such Persons as spend and lavish that Affection and Kindness (which Nature hath implanted in us) on Brute Creatures, though it be due and owing only to Humane Nature, those of our own Kind. Now there can no account so likely be given of any Womans greater Fondness of Brutes, that of their own Children, but that these being nursed abroad, their Dogs are more conversant with them than they. I must confess (what Learned Man objects) that many Ladies, who place their Children abroad, are very tender of them, and sometimes more Fond than Women of meaner Birth and Fortunes, who for the most part Nurse themselves: Nor would I therefore be understood to intend the foregoing Censure for all Mothers that decline this Office. In some, nay in many, I hope, Duty and natural Affection triumph over this Temptation. However it is a Temptation that prevails on too many, and they that are Wise, will for that reason conclude it best and safest to avoid it. St. Ambrose made this Observation, That Mothers generally love those best whom they have Sucked at their own Breasts. And Plutarch concludes this the principal Intention of Nature, in giving the Mother a Capacity of being a Nurse, and in placing her breasts so conveniently for the embracing of her little Nursery, that she may receive fresh Endearments every Moment from those intimate Embraces. And if this be granted as a most likely means to increase the Mothers Love to her Child, she that exiles her little ones, takes the way hugely to cool, if not quite extinguish it.

§ 5. Secondly, This is the way to alienate the Childs Affections from its Mother. Some Grammarians derive the Latin word Lac (Milk) from lacio (to allure) as concluding no way so likely to allure the Child to love its Mother, as Nursing it with her Milk. She performs indeed but half the Office, and consequently earns but half of that Love which otherwise is due to a Mother who only bears her Child and then turns it off. And I never yet met with any one Instance to contradict the Observation of a Learned Prelate to this purpose, viz. That many cruel Tyrants have killed their Mothers, yet none ever offered Violence to his Nurse. And this shews that bearing in the Womb is not so inviolable an Obligation to Love, as Nursing at the Breast. We read of one of the Gracchi returning to Rome from his Victories in Asia, that he presented his Mother with a Jewel of Silver, and his Nurse with a Girdle of Gold; giving this reason for the preference of the latter, That when his Mother, after his Birth, cast him off, his Nurse took him forsaken as he was to her Breasts, and cherished him in her kind Embraces. This is manifest, that Love descends more strongly than it ascends, so that it is not likely that the Childs Affections towards its Parents should exceed their towards it. And therefore such a Mother hath reason to expect the least Love from her Children, who hath shewed the least toward them. Perhaps whilst she is in Prosperity, and stands in no need of their Love, Interest may oblige them to carry civilly toward her: Yet it is to be suspected that they have no such grounds in Nature, as well maintain a constant Fervour of Affection against the Frowardness or Misfortunes of an Unnatural Mother. I do not affirm this to be a constant Effect of that Cause, for sometimes perhaps the Mothers After-care may make amends for the first Unkindness: Sometimes extraordinary good Nature in the Child may conquer the Resentments of this early Neglect, or the Influences of Divine Grace may triumph over this Temptation. It is enough for my purpose that it is a Temptation, a Temptation which oft prevails on a Graceless Child, to require his Mothers Rejection of him with the like Unkindness: And this is reason enough to oblige all Mothers to prevent it by their early Care and Tenderness in Nursing.

§ 6. Thirdly, as the Happiness of Families very much depends upon the mutual Love of the several Branches of it among themselves; so the Mothers refusing them that common Nourishment which were likely to promote it, is too justly chargeable with the Mischiefs which result from their mutual Unkindnesses. We read of Scipio Asiaticus, that though he rejected the Importunity of his Brother Africanus, in behalf of ten Soldiers who were condemned for offering Violence to the Vestals; yet he pardoned them at the request of his Foster-Sister: And being asked the reason why he did more for his Nurses Daughter than for his own Mothers Son, he returned this answer, I esteem her rather to be my Mother who brought me up, than her that brought me forth and then forsook me. Which shews both that his Nurse had more of his Love than his Mother, and also her who sucked the same Link, than he who had lain in the same Womb. I remember Plutarch reports of Cato, that wise Roman, that as he obliged his Wife to give her Children Suck with her own Breasts, so also to let the Children of his Slaves Suck her too, that by partaking of the same Nourishment, a Natural Affection might be instilled into them toward his Son. And the frequent Instances of many great Persons Kindness and Liberality toward their Foster-Brothers, is an Argument how prevalent this Method is, of propagating the Streams of Love from the common Fountain of the Breast among all the partakers of it. And the too common Observation of Fraternal Discords, as it is matter of Melancholy Consideration, so it ought to oblige Mothers to neglect no means any way likely to prevent them; especially to joyn them all at her Breasts, that they may be more united in their Lives.

§ 7. Thus have I demonstrated how much the good of Families obliges all Mothers, especially Persons of Quality, to Nurse their own Children, that they may more surely prevent all Opportunities of wronging their own Heir, of alienating themselves from their Children, or their Children from them or from one another.

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