Child-care during the first 12 months is a herculean task. More so if the mother is unable to spend ample time with her little baby. These moments often demanded the need for special assistance. Interestingly, early physicians believed in spreading motherly love to children by means of another mother-figure called Dhaatri.

Dhaatri or a wet-nurse was someone who could extend the care and love a child needed, especially if the child was without a mother. Most often, she would be raising her own children and nursing other babies simultaneously. Experts also said that a Dhaatri would also breastfeed her own baby and the baby from another mother at the same time. Moreover, this ensured that the bond between the wet-nurse and the baby grows stronger in the days that followed.

The ideal wet-nurse

The Dhaatri had to possess certain qualities to be eligible to carry out the procedures:

1. The milk that she fed the baby played a significant role in the baby’s development and growth. Hence, she had to hail from the same race and caste as it would strengthen the relationship between the child as well as her family.

2. The Dhaatri must be at an age when she can reproduce. She should be healthy both physically and mentally.

3. She should be pleasant, generous, open and righteous.

4. She should perform all tasks in a hygienic manner

5. The Dhaatri must consume nutritious food

The world today

The well-being of the Dhaatri is the primary concern of a Paediatrician. This is because the changes in health affect the baby.

Today, the practice is merely a topic of academic interests. Breastmilk is often collected and stored using localized preservation methods. However, Ayurveda doctors say that in the absence of breastmilk, the services of the wet-nurses are the ultimate cure for the problem associated with lactation.

Dr Elizabeth John has been working as an Ayurveda doctor for over 25 years and holds an MD as well as a PhD in Ayurveda. Presently, she is the Professor and Head of the Department of Shalya at the Karnataka Ayurveda Medical College (KAMC), Mangaluru, Karnataka, India.