child at the breast

kitenok

Senior Member
Hi all,

I am translating a piece of fiction from Russian and need an English expression. Russian commonly uses a term that might literally translate as "breast child" to refer to infants, the presumption being that they are not yet weaned. The sense of the child being fed from the breast is very important in the scene I'm translating, as the child's mother has just died and the rest of the family is wondering how they will feed it now. The expression appears in a line of dialog, so I need something in English that: a) sounds very natural and concise, and b) conveys this sense that a child is at an age where it is expected to be breastfed.

The line is as follows, minus the expression I'm hoping to find:

"How are we supposed to live now!... How are we going to feed the ________________ now? She's going to die too!"

Does English have a short noun phrase that can do this? I can't think of any, but perhaps the WR community can? Thanks for any suggestions!
 
  • bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Hello kitenok,
    Well, I can't think of a noun or a noun phrase for the baby either. But how about something like:
    Who is going to nurse/breast feed the baby/infant now?.........
    Bic.
     

    lizzyld

    Member
    British English
    I think you could just use the word 'baby', or 'babe' for a more literary feel. I would assume that a baby was not eating solid foods yet.
     

    lizzyld

    Member
    British English
    Biffo - what do you think about a 'suckling babe'? I have read the phrase, but only in older literature. Kitenok, if you want your translation to feel modern I wouldn't use suckling, I think just baby would be enough to convey the meaning that he/she still needs milk.
     

    kitenok

    Senior Member
    Thanks, all! Good discussion. "Nursling" is totally new to me.

    All the archaic and dated phrasings won't really work here, since the dialog has to sound as natural as possible (something a fairly young boy would really say in a serious, crisis situation like this). In Russian, "grudnoi rebenok" (breast child) is that common and natural, but I really don't think English has something like it that also includes the notion of breastfeeding. I'll probably do something like Lizzy's first suggestion: just give up on the "nursing" part of the meaning and say "baby" or "little one" or something like that.
     
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    Tochka

    Senior Member
    I agree with bicontinental that an extra phrase is needed, since modern English idiom doesn't really offer a noun that would work.

    My personal suggestion would be something like
    "How are we supposed to live now?... The baby's not yet weaned! How are we going to feed her? She's going to die too!"
    or alternatively, depending on the rest of the context,
    "How are we supposed to live now?... The baby's too young for solid food! How are we going to feed her? She's going to die too!"

    The former would work for pretty much any time period, with the possible exception of the immediate present. The latter, is the way I might expect a modern parent to phrase it, and so it could sound out of place if the action is taking place more than a generation or two ago -- unless of course the intent is to emphasize the feeding dilemma in very specific terms.
     
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    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Suckling is out there.. Are we all sort of forgetting the basic facts of life? Babies need milk, mothers do suckle/breastfeed their babies..... And the ladies do still talk about it to us men....

    What other words should we use, other than suckling and breastfeeding?

    The media:- "More than 200 breastfeeding mothers descended on a cafe in support of one of their own who claimed she was verbally abused by a waitress for suckling her baby in public." Read more at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2168820/Gang-lactivists-cafe-protest-waitress-told-breastfeeding-mother-Don-t-come-t--again.html#ixzz29m5OLhhf.. If it's in the Dailymail...... it must be right.. splutter..

    GF..

    Don't forget that one of the meanings of weaning is "accustom (an infant or other young mammal) to food other than its mother's milk." See http://www.wordreference.com/definition/weaning
     
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    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    I don't know if you will find this helpful, but, while we have no special word for a baby who is breastfed, we do have a word for a woman who breastfeeds a motherless infant. This is a wet nurse. Of course no one does this anymore, but I assume your story is set in the past, otherwise they'd simply give the baby a bottle.

    Perhaps you could say "Who can wetnurse the baby?" or "How are we going to get a wet nurse for the baby?"
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Of course no one does this anymore, but I assume your story is set in the past, otherwise they'd simply give the baby a bottle.
    Now that is definitely not correct.

    GF..

    http://www.experienceproject.com/groups/Am-A-Professional-Adult-Wet-Nurse/324426
    "Wet nursing is a growing industry too, but a mostly invisible one. Emily, like most of the other women interviewed for this article, requested that we leave out her last name. After all, the idea of breastfeeding another woman's child for money makes many uncomfortable. But not Emily, who within a few hours applied and joined the over 1,000 women on Certified Household Staffing's fast-expanding wet nurse registry."
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Perhaps you could say "Who can wetnurse the baby?" or "How are we going to get a wet nurse for the baby?"
    With this, the speaker is already suggesting a solution to the problem they are facing.
    It is hardly qualifies as a simple expression of desperation.

    You could say 'How is the baby to be fed, with no mother's milk?'
    This clearly implies that the baby is not yet weaned.
     
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    Tochka

    Senior Member
    Perhaps you could say "Who can wetnurse the baby?" or "How are we going to get a wet nurse for the baby?"
    Although we use the term "wet nurse" to distinguish someone who breastfeeds a child that isn't their own from someone who merely cares for another's baby, I've never heard "wetnurse" used as a verb and would find it very strange to hear. (As someone who actually did this, I find the term brings up images of leakage rather than feeding! ;))

    While "How are we going to get a wet nurse for the baby" may be technically correct, I feel that this usage, at least as an everyday term, was probably linked to only certain centuries in the past and could seem anachronistic if used in the wrong period. It could also be phrased, "How are we going to get someone to breastfeed the baby?," but this would certainly sound anachronistic if the time were set too far in the past, since breastfeed is more modern term. I'm guessing that it was not likely used much before the 1950's (or 40's ?) when bottle feeding was being promoted.

    Since the setting for this is most likely in the past, I would suggest just saying, "How are we going to get someone to nurse the baby?"
    The noun phrase "someone to nurse the baby" clearly shows the intent to use the verb "nurse" in its original meaning of breastfeed and avoids the ambiguity that could arise from using the noun "nurse," which, especially to modern readers, could be understood either to mean a wet nurse or to mean someone who merely cares for the baby without necessarily breastfeeding it.

    You could say 'How is the baby to be fed, with no mother's milk?'
    This clearly implies that the baby is not yet weaned.
    I like it! It's clear and the phrasing isn't obviously linked to any particular time period.
     
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