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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Mothers and Nurses
By Plutarch (c. 45–120 A.D.)
From ‘A Discourse on the Training of Children,’ in Plutarch’s ‘Miscellanies and Essays’: Translation of Simon Ford

THE NEXT thing that falls under our consideration is the nursing of children, which in my judgment the mothers should do themselves, giving their own breasts to those they have borne. For this office will certainly be performed with more tenderness and carefulness by natural mothers; who will love their children intimately, as the saying is, from their tender nails. Whereas both wet and dry nurses who are hired, love only for their pay, and are affected to their work as ordinarily those that are substituted and deputed in the place of others are. Yea, even Nature seems to have assigned the suckling and nursing of the issue to those that bear them; for which cause she hath bestowed upon every living creature that brings forth young, milk to nourish them withal. And in conformity thereto, Providence hath also wisely ordered that women should have two breasts, that so, if any of them should happen to bear twins, they might have two several springs of nourishment ready for them. Though if they had not that furniture, mothers would still be more kind and loving to their own children. And that not without reason; for constant feeding together is a great means to heighten the affection mutually betwixt any persons. Yea, even beasts, when they are separated from those that have grazed with them, do in their way show a longing for the absent. Wherefore, as I have said, mothers themselves should strive to the utmost to nurse their own children. But if they find it impossible to do it themselves, either because of bodily weakness (and such a case may fall out), or because they are apt to be quickly with child again, then are they to choose the honestest nurses they can get, and not to take whomsoever they have offered them. And the first thing to be looked after in this choice is, that the nurses be bred after the Greek fashion. For as it is needful that the members of children be shaped aright as soon as they are born, that they may not afterwards prove crooked and distorted, so it is no less expedient that their manners be well fashioned from the very beginning. For childhood is a tender thing, and easily wrought into any shape. Yea, and the very souls of children readily receive the impressions of those things that are dropped into them while they are yet but soft; but when they grow older they will, as all hard things are, be more difficult to be wrought upon. And as soft wax is apt to take the stamp of the seal, so are the minds of children to receive the instructions imprinted on them at that age.  1

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