Is mercenary breastfeeding a risk/protection factor in the survival of the abandoned children in the foundling hospital of Madrid (19th-20th centuries)?

Joana-Maria Pujades-Mora, University of Balearic Islands
Begoña Villuendas-Hijosa, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)
Juan Carlos Martín Díez, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)
Diego Ramiro, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

The foundling hospital of Madrid was established in mid-sixteenth century. Its purpose was to shelter the abandoned children aged between birth and seven years old. The key of Spanish upbringing foundling system was mercenary breastfeeding, basically through wet nurses. This system meant the departure of the foundling child from the institution in a relatively short period since his arrival if his health allowed it.The aim of the poster is to evaluate the effectiveness of the nursing system in the foundling hospital of Madrid between 1890 and 1935 using breastfeeding as part of the factors that could influence the survival of foundlings. During this period, the institution registered more than 40,000 cases (admissions), where more than half had at least one external breastfeeding. Thus, there are a certain amount of factors that we have to consider at work: the number of days waiting for nursing abroad or the number of different wet nurses who breasted the foundling child, the distance between the foundling hospital and the residence of the wet nurse, knowing that 90% of external breastfeeding were in rural areas; could these factors promote or not the child survival of this hospital, based on the idea that “it was generally recognized that the likelihood of survival of the foundling was proportional to the speed with which it could be placed with an external wetnurse” (Ketzer, Sigle, White, 1999: 304) ? For the statistical treatment of these data we will use survival analysis , which involves a set of techniques in which the main variable is' time until an event occurs' (survival), in this case death of the foundling child and the dependence relationship of other possible explanatory variables, number of lactations, distance to the place of lactation and number of wet nurses (Flores-Luna et al. 2000: 242).

Presented in Poster Session 3