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\Welcome to Episode 224 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that goes behind the curtain and into the real life and history of William Shakespeare.

Commercial baby formula wouldn’t hit the mass market until the 1800s, but Shakespeare’s lifetime still had to deal with babies who needed to eat but were unable, for a variety of reasons, to nurse and drink breastmilk. Here this week to help us take a look at baby formula, baby bottles, and the role of wet nurses in Shakespeare’s lifetime is our guest and author of multiple articles on the history of baby formula, Carla Cevasco.

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Carla Cevasco is a scholar interested in food, the body, material culture, gender, and race in early America. She is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Her first book, Violent Appetites: Hunger in the Early Northeast (Yale University Press, 2022), explores how Indigenous peoples and colonial invaders confronted hunger in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She is working on a second book about feeding infants and children in early America. She received a Ph.D. in American Studies and an A.M. in American History from Harvard University, and a B.A. in English and American Literatures from Middlebury College. Her scholarship has appeared in Early American Studies, New England Quarterly, and Journal of Early American History. Her public writing has been featured in The Atlantic, TIME, Nursing Clio, Common-Place, The Junto, and The Recipes Project. She is a former editor of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies. https://carlacevasco.com/ 

I’ll be asking Carla Cevasco about:

  • What were some of the reasons babies would need to drink something other than breastmilk in infancy for the 16th century?
  • In the 16th century, were wet nurses the first alternative for women who were unable to breastfeed?
  •  Were there any recipes for artificial breastmilk or homemade infant formula used in the 16th century?
  • …and more!

Resources Carla Cevasco Recommends:

Here’s what’s inside this week:

  • Bronze age baby bottle
  • 18th C woman breastfeeding an infant.
  • 17th century woman with a breastfed baby
  • 16th century wet nurse
  • 16th century family with a woman who just gave birth and is being visited by a wet nurse
  • Resources on the history of infant formula feeding
  • Portrait of son of a royal’s wet nurse in 16-17th century Afghanistan
  • 1577 medical manual detailing how to breastfeed an infant and how to express milk
  • 17th century “bubby pots”, used for feeding babies formula
  • c. 1700 nursery with a wet nurse visiting an aristocratic family
  • 16th century family with an infant
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