Sunday

nursing other people's babies

My friend Leslie pointed out this fascinating article to me. It's about WOMEN NURSING other people's babies.

I would far rather have a close friend or family member nurse my baby in a pinch than give my breastfed baby bottles of formula. And in fact, my sister and I have, in the past, nursed one another's babies when one or the other of us had to run out to the store or went to a movie or whatever.

I think it happens more often than women discuss because, just like nursing toddlers and preschoolers, it's frowned upon in our culture at this moment in history. But in certain, specific circumstances, it just makes good sense.

Your mileage may vary.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

perhaps it is frowned upon because it is unsafe with all the potential pathogens in bodily fluids.

Anonymous said...

meh, don't listen to the above poster. More than likely your baby will receive more antibodies to build it's resistence.

Anonymous said...

It was commonly done here in the past (wet nurses) and is done in other cultures. Kate's grandmother was nursed by another woman. Her grandmother, as an infant, was sent to relatives in the country to escape the 1918 flu, which her mother contracted, but survived. Kate's grandmother and the unrelated woman who nursed her and the woman's child (who was also being nursed) remained lifelong friends.

mamalife said...

I think if you are letting a stranger nurse your child (which of course would not happen) then yes, there are risks of illnesses being passed through breastmilk. If it is a known friend or family member and you know they don't have these illnesses to pass (true, they could and not know they do but when you are pregnant they typically test you routinely for these illnesses anyway - being Hepatitis and HIV and Katie's sister is currently pregnant so presumably they both know for certain they have no illnesses to pass to the others baby) ... then how wonderful that they are able to do this for each other. I'm guessing they are not just going to randomly nurse each others babies all the time, but if they are babysitting and baby is hungry, and they are both comfortable with this, then what a beautiful bond for all 4 involved (2 mamas and 2 babies). Yes, like nursing toddlers (of which I am "guilty" of nursing my baby until 2 1/2 years old and stopped only because I had to for topical chemotherapy for pre-skin cancers) I suppose people think it "odd" mostly because it is not commonly done or if it is done people are hesitant to say so as not to endure the comments of their presumed oddness. I tried not to hide the fact that I was still nursing my toddler - I figure the more open people are about this, the more it will hopefully be accepted. When I have mamas come into my practice and they sheepishly admit they are still nursing a baby over a year of age I tell them good for them, don't think they have to be sheepish in this admission, and I tell them I did the same thing. It is a beautiful thing to know others are on your side!

Anonymous said...

no its not "odd" or "gross"...its simply unsafe. Maybe in certain situations its a crapshoot...probably the chance of infection is so remote its on a par with the safety risk of getting in a car. HOWEVER I believe Katies sister is a nurse. She could have been exposed to something that very day and not know for months. Yes she is nursing her own baby but somehow there is some difference between your own baby and someone elses in there. As far as the wet nurses: so what. This was a century ago and many many things were done that were not terribly safe because there was no other option other than certain death. Because someone chose something that had a chance for survival over certain death in an era of primitive medicine speaks nothing to us today.
And most of the people I have heard confess to this its been with friends. And how many of our friends have little things in their pasts that maybe they dont tell anyone about like that one night stand a few years ago with a guy who was probably bisexual? I am sorry....I would not take this chance all for the end of keeping formula out of my kids mouth. And like I said, I managed to nurse my son till he was over two without resorting to this OR cramping my lifestyle terribly much OR giving him formula.
This is like when we were kids remember people would do these "blood pact" things. No one would do that today because of the risks. Today we know to be very careful with other peoples bodily fluids, even those you think you know very well.

Anonymous said...

I guess a pump is out?

ChrisLewis said...

First many breastfed babies won't take bottles. Mine never would. Second my Mother contacted Hep C from a blood transfusion when she was a teen and never knew till she was in her late 40s because the test wasn't avaliable. She breastfed me for nearly 4 years and I do not have Hep C and it is a blood disease just like HIV. When we asked her doctor how this is he said just because people warn that you "could, in theory" get a disease from breastmilk doesn't mean people actually do.

Laura said...

the link you provided does not work so i could not read the article.
as a mom who nursed four of my five children i must comment...
and i will use my name and blog link proudly too.
i did nurse a dear friend's baby and would have hoped she would reciprocate for mine if the need ever came. i know she was grateful for what i did for her.
i also donated my milk to athe human milk bank and yes my "stranger's milk" was used for critically ill babies, pediatric patients and for micropreemie babies whose families could afford the exhorbitant out of pocket expenses when isurance would not cover it for them because it was not medically necessary. i can assure those who curl their lips in disgust that a starnager's milk is wrong and not safe that it is so. the stringent testing nursing mother who donate must go through is even far more stricter than blood banks as is the criteria for pumping and storing the donated milk not to mention the motivation of these nursing moms to keep their supply up for more than just their child. i donated for over a year nd everytime i gave apatient banked milk i wondered if it might be mine. banked milk saves preemie babies lives i can assure you and is well worth it. i gladly accepted bank milk for my 24 weeker 1 pound baby boy we adopted for 3 months of his nicu stay because i knew first hand what it protected him against. i thank god everyday for the strangers who did submit to all the rogorous screening and testing just to provide the liquid gold to sustain my medically fragile child and i thank him for these moms today as i feed other tiny, fragile babies with their precious milk because their moms can't produce milk fo medical rasons or because of stress and trauma from their baby clingling to life, not produce enopugh for their babies.

Anonymous said...

My son would not take a bottle either. HOWEVER I still managed to get out without resorting to using other people as wet nurses.
The fact that you did not get Hep C from your mother says nothing. You were lucky. I know many many people who have engaged in very very risky behaviors and "got lucky". That doesnt mean I would say ah go ahead because they were fortunate you will be too. I think its called Russian roulette. The very fact that your mother had Hep C and it was undetected for years should in fact be a warning about using other people as wet nurses. Its bad enough if you have something you pass along to your child unknowingly HOWEVER if due to some fiendish need to prove some kind of point by letting other people nurse your child something was transmitted to them...there is something just very very wrong about that. And think how the wet nurse would feel...it would be painful enough to have passed something onto your own kid but if you had gone along with this group breastfeeding thing to prove a point and you gave someone elses baby some disease, I know I would feel horrible. Maybe Katie and family wouldnt because, you know, breastfeeding trumps all. And someone doesnt have to have a "history" to be at risk. A lot of people have gotten illnesses unknowingly from medical procedures. Or if they work around bodily fluids its a daily risk. And like I said, I believe Katie's sister is a nurse so right there that would be reason enough that I wouldnt let my babies lips anywhere near her nipples. And all to avoid a few drops of formula. I dont get it because I got out A LOT and my son wouldnt drink from a bottle either. It almost seems like she wants to do this just for the sake of doing it and spiting people who disapprove.

Anonymous said...

Katie's sister is NOT a nurse. She's a former teacher and social worker, now mostly stay-at-home mom, who also teaches birthing classes.

Anonymous said...

my mistake. I assumed she was a medical professional because she is teaching medical classes at a hospital.