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10 Interesting Facts About Breasts

For all their popularity, what do we really know about them?

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Now she's on good terms with her body, but not everyone else is as accepting. 

“Every day someone teases me that doesn’t know me. They make fun of me and there’s no reason. I’m human like everybody else. I’m just blessed in different ways than other people.”

7. Getting your goat. The size of a woman’s breasts  doesn't make any difference in her ability to produce milk. In the olden days, though, if a woman couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed she could get a substitute. Sometimes a wet nurse. Sometimes a goat. 

Nicholas Day of Slate cites the tome  The Goat as The Best and Most Agreeable Wet Nurse, published in 1816, by Conrad A. Zwierlein (as cited in Milk: A Local and Global History by Deborah Valenze) saying that infants fed by goats were slid under the beasties on trays. “They were said to do well,” Day writes “and given that many infants not being fed breast milk died from poor sanitation, it was probably safer to go straight to the source, without any germ-infested buckets and pots getting in the way.” Valenze writes that in the 16th century French women turned to goats rather than humans thanks to “the new plague of syphilis.” 

Day lists many instances where “the milk flow went in the other direction” as well. Humans from various places around the world nursed animals, including piglets (New Guinea), baby deer, opossums, monkeys (South America), bear cubs (Japan), and puppies.

8. The return of the wet nurse. Alright, you goats…it’s a tough economy out there, so shove over and make room for some humans in the workforce. According to  AOL’s Claire Gordon, wet nursing is making a career comeback.

That’s not too surprising considering that the “breast is best” meme has latched on. According to the LA Times, the CDC reported in February 2013 that breastfeeding increased between 2000 and 2008 (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommneds breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months). If a new mom can’t breastfeed, she’s still got several options to get human breast milk for her baby. 

“Mother-to-mother milk-sharing networks, like  Eats on FeetsMilkShare and Human Milk 4 Human Babies, have exploded in the last 18 months,” Gordon wrote in January 2012, but the job is quite different than in the bad old days. Gordon reports that wet nurses were,  “usually working class," and "morally ruined" by a baby out of wedlock. With few other options, these women would sell their nursing services to a wealthy family, and abandon their own children at an institution or worse. "They were essentially condemning their baby to death," says Golden. "It was trading the life of a poor infant for a wealthy one."

Modern wet nurses live with the mother and child for at least a year, since an infant’s feeding schedule is every few hours: all that lost sleep, though, sounds like it would be worth the $1k a week Gordon writes is the average wet nurse income. 

9. Milk: it does a body good. So the breast has made a comeback. And it was culture, not quality, that caused it to go away. Claude Fischer of UC Berkley writes in  Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character that while breastfeeding enjoyed a heyday in Victorian times with the “sentimentalization of motherhood” it went out of fashion in the early 20th century for the modern convenience of the bottle and formula. Breastfeeding was for the “primitive and unenlightened women,” and by the middle of the century, 80% of women bottle-fed their babies, a number which has almost reversed today to 75% of women who begin with breastfeeding. 

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