There is no greater evil than for a newly born child to be snatched away from the mother’s arms and refused the mother’s breastmilk. More wicked, is for the mother to be forced to use her breast milk to feed another woman’s child.
This was the situation many African slave women found themselves in during slavery. And the practice was called wet nursing. Although wet nursing was practiced and was a means of employment in many countries on Europe before slavery, it was forced on African slave mothers which led to the death of many of the African slave babies.
When slavery began, the African women worked in the plantations and stayed in their quarters. But as slavery continued, they soon proved to be very industrious and strong. They had to be given roles in the living quarters of the slave owners to work, cook and clean for their mistresses. If the mistress had plenty of children, the African slave women were made to help in caring for the children.
There was a general belief in America and Europe at the time, that breastfeeding was messy and would make white mothers lose shape and figure. They wanted to look enticing to their husbands, so they denied their own babies their breast milk and then forced African slave mothers to take their roles. They didn’t care if the babies of the African slave women died. They just wanted to look hot. They didn’t want to be stressed.
Now what kind of people would think in this manner? Right thinking humans? Well, that is strongly doubted.
The initial refusal of white mothers to breastfeed their babies, resulted in many of their children dying. But the babies of the African slave families were healthy and survived the early months of childhood. The mistresses got envious of the African slave mothers and how their babies blossomed. Something had to be done to hurt them and snuff out their joy. And that something was forced wet nursing, leaving the African mother’s babies to die or malnutrition.
The inhumane practice became very popular in the 1800s. Once a slave mother had a child, she was hurriedly assigned to a white mistress and forced to breastfeed her white baby instead of her own. By the 17th century, wet nursing by African slaves had become very popular and rampant in Europe. The practice was then transported to America by British settlers.
Most young, strong and healthy African slave women were also forced to breastfeed the white babies of their mistresses. This was after doctors discovered that the continuous sucking of a sexually active female’s breast would result in lactation.
To fully enforce this practice, slave traders and owners often kidnapped newborn babies from their slave mothers. This was to cause pain in the breasts of the mother and give them no choice than to breastfeed the babies of the white mistresses. These African slave women were beaten and milked like cows if they were reluctant to feed the slave owner’s babies.
In some cases, the enslaved mother’s child and the white child would be raised together in their younger years. Sometimes both babies were fathered by the same man, the slave-owner. And this led to children who were referred to as Children of the plantation. The white child was often kept with the enslaved women until the child’s family felt it was time to take them back. Due to the unfavorable and unhealthy living conditions, many of the white babies died.
This made the slave owners think the enslaved women were killing them on purpose out of vengeance for their abandoned and dying children. The slave mothers were forced to move into the house during this period, so they could be watched and monitored.
One of the negative outcomes of this practice was the disdain with which the husbands of the enslaved women had for them. Some of the women were rejected by their husbands after the death of their own children. This hate for the women, was engineered by the malicious manipulations of the slave masters.
These practices continued throughout the era of slavery, and began to die down after the abolishment of slavery. Some of the women gained their freedom or were bought by their family and relatives.
Many circles in the world would ask us not to talk about these things. They say its in the past, and that those who perpetuated these crimes together with their victims are long dead. But we refuse to keep quiet, because millions of those in this generation know little or nothing about their past.
Yes, they say slavery is not African history. But we say, no, it is a part of the history of our people’s journey. Many of the subjugations our people face all over the world are by-products of the psychology of the slave masters. They passed these to their children and, their children handed it over to the generations after them.
The racism the African Diaspora experience, are not fresh. They are a manifestation of the hatred in the genes of the colonizer. Although not every white person is racist, the system is inherently arranged to maltreat Africans in Diaspora.
No baby should be denied the breastmilk of her mother. This is because breast milk is nature’s and God’s recommended baby food. It contains immunity-boosting antibodies and healthy enzymes.
History and medical studies show that breastmilk protects against allergies and eczema, reduces the risk of viruses, urinary tract infections, inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, ear infections, and respiratory infections.
These were the dangers and diseases the newly born African slave babies were faced with. This was why many of them died.
If we were to truly say it as it is, we might conclude that the wickedness visited upon the Negro race, is so extreme that we will call these slave masters aliens – people of another planet who were bent on reducing the Negro man to rubble.
But this article is not meant for name calling. It is a sincere desire to teach our people our journey through slavery. It is also meant to teach the African Diaspora woman the importance of breastfeeding a child. Every child should be breastfed. Let us abandon this need to feed our babies with cow milk and sorts of supplements, when mother nature has blessed the woman with all she needs to bring up a healthy child.
Do not be shy of breastfeeding your child. Do not buy into the deception of the system.
Article Written By Chuka Nduneseokwu