In Georgian times, for example in Jane Austen’s family, they sent the children to be looked after by a wet nurse. This would be a poor woman with her own baby, who then breastfed both her baby and the baby of another family.
A child would stay with the wet nurse and be fostered for anywhere up to five years, though the child’s family would visit. Sadly, before modern medicine, especially antibiotics and vaccines, one-quarter of infants died in their first year of life and around half of all children died before they reached the end of puberty.
Picture: The Visit to the Wet Nurse by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) National Trust Image