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 Tatten-hall in the County Palatine of Chester.

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


In which are mentioned the Common Plea's for Nursing Children abroad: Together with the Insufficiency of them, and the true Causes thereof represented.

§1. I Come now in the last place to remonstrate, that the Causes for which the generality of those Mothers, that are capable and able, refuse to Nurse, are so far from excusing, that they more evidently demonstrate and aggravate to their fault in so doing. For whatever Pleas are framed for them, they may be resolved into some of these three Sins, Luxury, Covetousness or Pride.

§2. First, some of them proceed from and convince them of Luxury. For hitherto it is reasonable to reduce the pretended Fears of diminishing their Beauty, and prejudicing their Health by the disturbance of their Rest, and other Toils incident to the Care of an helpless Infant. For I dare appeal to any one, who impartially considers it, whether any thing but Luxury dictates this Pretence. For first, There is neither Reason nor Experience on their side, who pretend Nursing to be the Decay of a Womans Health or Beauty. The contrary is generally observed, That it helps the Appetite and Digestion, which is more likely to preserve both, than destroy either. I find it confirmed by the Experience of Learned Physicians, that oft Consumptive Persons have been cured by Nursing their children; and such as at other things have looked Meagre and Pale, whilst they have Nursed have been Plump, Fleshy, and of a vivid Complexion. Whereas on the other hand, in drying their Breasts, Women very commonly run apparent Hazards of destroying not their Health only but their Lives. The unnatural stopping up of these Fountains, occasions the corrupting of the Milk, and that corrupted Milk infecting the Blood, oft raises such a Ferment as produces a Fevor, or some other Fatal Distemper. And none can think it Prudence to throw themselves into immature Death to avoid Wrinkles.

§3. Again Secondly, Granting that the Nurshing of half a dozen Children should decay the Glory of the Face a Year or two sooner, How could Beauty be better bestored, than in such a Work of Piety toward her own Family and Posterity? Nor do I see how those Ladies can justifie themselves against the Charge of Vanity and Luxury, who prefer the colour of their own Face before the advancing of such important Interests. Did you ever see a vain Fop so enslaved to his neat Cloaths, that he declined Business most proper and necessary, for fear of some little spot falling on them, or any rude Motion to disorder his Garniture? There is as much Vanity in being a Slave to a fair Skin, as to a gawdy Suit. The Miraculous beauty of Sarah in her old Age, and of the Blessed Virgin in Youth, were neither so overvalued, as to deter them from being Nurses. So that those may be concluded to value too highly the Smoothness and Superficial Glory of their Skin, who prefer it before the greatest Good of their Posterity.

§4. And Thirdly, For such as decline Nursing, For fear of having their Rest disturbed, or being other ways overloaded, there needs no other Argument than their own Apology to convince them of Softneß and Luxury. For what would any one judge of a Mother, whom he should hear wishing that some one could undergo the Sickness attending the Conception, the Toil of bearing her Child in the Womb, and the Throes of Travel in her stead? Would he not conclude, That such an one had deeply imbibed the Counsel, which Epicurus is said somewhere by Arrian to have given his scholars, to enjoy the Pleasures of Marriage, but by all means avoid the trouble of Children. Now if such a Wish argue too much Sensuality, How can they avoid that Imputation, who by throwing off as much of the Pains of a Mother as they can, make it apparent, that it is only from the Necessity of Nature that they decline no more? One that turns off her Child to be Nursed by a Stranger, for fear of taking Pains with it by Day, or being disturbed by it in the Night, evidences thereby, that she carried it in the Womb Forty Weeks, and underwent the Pangs of Child-birth, only because Nature in those cases could not admit of a Substitute. There is no Vertue in enduring those Pains for your Child which you cannot avoid: And there are some Pains God hath so contrived, that they may be avoided (these I mean that attend the Nursing o it) that by a voluntary undertaking of them, you may make it appear how little you value your Ease, when it stands in Competition with your Duty. For doubtless she loves her Ease too well, who will not undergo those Labours for her own Child, which he expects another should take for Wages. Our Holy Religion, as it requires the greatest Charity in all its Possessors, so it prescribes Labours of Love; and consequently allows not of that over-great Tenderness to our selves, which is inconsistent with a Laborious Charity; especially to the most natural and nearest Objects of a Mothers Charity, her own Children.

§5. Lastly, The Pretence of Inability to Nurse, is oft reducible to this Head of Luxury. It is the common Plea of those Mothers, who put their Children out to Nurse, that either they want Nipples or Milk: And though this may be really the case of some few, yet I am persuaded, not of all that pretend it. Such dry Breasts, as one observes, are like the Gout, which is frequent among the Rich, but a stranger among the Poor. Few of those Women who are too Poor to hire a Nurse, but they are able to Nurse themselves; and I may no question but many of our Rich and Honouranle Dames, who pretend to want Suck or Nipples, would have had both if their Fortunes had been less. Now in all such, Luxury is the real Motive, though a Natural Inability be the Pretence.

§6. But that those Ladies, who have no better Pleas for the Neglect of this Duty, than these which so evidently convict them of Luxury, and too great a Fondness of their own Ease, will by a Serious Reflection upon this Consideration, persuade themselves rather to discharge this Duty for the future toward their Children, than to expose themselves to just Censure, by such Apologies for their Neglect. For (to conclude this first Cause) what is the true difference between a Modest Wife and an Adultress? But that the first desires to bring forth a Child to the World, to be a Servant of God, a Citizen to the Commonwealth, and an Object for her Charity and Diligence; whilst the latter aims at no more than the gratifying of her leud Inclinations and base Lusts. And I need not to say, how near those Mothers come to this latter Character, who after the Consummation of Marriage, and the Birth of a Child (as if Lust were all they intended) decline the Labour and the Charity it gives them an opportunity to exercise towards it, and transfer them all upon another.

§7. Secondly, There is another Plea used for the declining of this Office, which is the result of Avarice, as the former is of Luxury, and made use of by the Trading part of the Nation, as those by the Gentry. The Nursing of a Child is looked on as too great a Confinement to the Wise, who by her Inspection over the Houshold Affairs, or Attendance in the Shop, may save her Husband much more than the Hire of a Nurse amounts to. But granting this, if (as hath been shewed) Nursing be the Mothers Duty, no prospect of gaining by the neglect can supersede her Obligation to it. And if I understand the Nature of Covetousness, it is such a Love of Gain as this, that draws one to the neglect of any Obligation, which is not consistent with his Profit. The Question is not, Whether it may be as Conducive to your Temporal Interest, but whether it be as Consistent with your Duty, to put our your Child to a Stranger, as to Nurse it your self. And if Avarice be excluded from the Consult, you must conclude, that other business ought to give place to this, which is so properly the Business of a Mother. For unless you love your Child too little, and your Gain too much, you will be sensible, that if your Infant be spoiled, or suffer any Prejudice in Body or Mind, you can be no Gainers, though your Domestick Business, or your Shop should be better attended.

§8. Lastly, I humbly recommend it to the Consideration of all Mothers, especially Persons of Quality, whether by adhering to this unnatural Custom, they do not shew themselves, Guilty of a great deal of Pride. You think it below you to stoop to the Office of a meaner Mother, and therefore, as a piece of State, and Punctilio of Honour, turn off the Drudgery of Nursing to another. For if this were not a very prevailing Motive, the Great and Honourable would not be so universally conformable to this unreasonable Custom. But may they not as reasonably conclude it too great a Condescension to become a Mother as a Nurse? For there is the same equality between the most Honourable Lady and her Child, as between the meanest Beggar and hers; and there is no more reason why the best should think Scorn to Nurse her own at her Breast, than to bear it in her Womb. Let then those whom God hath advanced into a Superior Rank in the World, learn to have Modest Thoughts of themselves, and they will be ashamed to let such vain Punctilios of Honour and Greatness influence them. Let such remember that the Laws of God and Nature equally oblige the Lady as the Beggar, the City as the Country Dame; and they will resolve not to plead the Fantastick Privilege of their Quality, against the Good of their Children and their own Duty. God expects that the greatest Lady, when she becomes a Mother, should do the Duties of a Mother; and she certainly thinks of her self more highly than she ought to think, whoever is so Vain, as to fancy it below her to do her Duty. And if Luxury, Avarice and Pride, be the true Causes of this Customs Universal Prevailence, whatever are the Pretences, it must needs be concluded inexcusably Sinful: Which was the last thing I undertook to prove.

Project Canterbury