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Breastfeeding At Any Cost: Weird Or Creative?

By Danielle Sullivan |

breastfeeding, wet nurse, bottle feeding, breastfeeding someone else's baby, breastfeeding debate

How would you feel about another woman nursing your baby?

It goes without saying that most moms will do whatever they can to give their baby the best start in life. Many agree that this often starts with breastfeeding. But what happens when pumping just doesn’t work out for you? Would you go to great lengths to ensure that your baby is consuming breast milk?

New mom Sarah Hastings was at her wit’s end when her six-month-old daughter was still nursing but she needed to go back to work and her daughter wouldn’t drink pumped milk from a bottle. One day she came into the room and saw her nanny nursing her baby. The nanny said the baby was crying and wouldn’t stop. Since she was already breastfeeding her own child, it just seemed like a natural thing to do.

Rather than being horrified, she was relieved and set up an arrangement that allowed her baby to receive breast milk and enabled her to go back to work. The nanny was more than happy to comply and Hastings’ mind was at ease.

Wet nursing is nothing new. Dating back to ancient times, it was an easier way for women to have several children. Between the 16th and 18 century, it was actually unfashionable to breastfeed your own baby. Well, things have certainly come full circle since then and now it seems strange for another mother to breastfeed a person’s child.

If I’m being totally honest, I gotta say I would not be alright with it. I’d probably feel the whole gamut of jealousy that might naturally occur in that situation. I realize the choice is not as easy for other mothers. I was lucky enough to be able to work from home when my kids were infants.

Still, I have no problem with anyone else choosing to do it. In fact, I say more power to them. Like I said, it’s nothing even remotely new and something women have been doing for hundreds of years. And just think of the irony of choosing a cow to supply your child’s milk over human breast milk.

I guess the question is one of personal growth, and I guess I’m not there yet because I still would not resort to another woman breastfeeding my baby.

Would you let another woman breast feed your baby if you couldn’t? Have you?

Image: Stockxchng



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About Danielle Sullivan


Danielle Sullivan

Danielle Sullivan writes for Babble Pets. She is also an award-winning parenting writer, who authors a monthly column for NY Parenting and ASPCA Parents blog. You can read more of her work at her blog,Some Puppy To Love. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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30 thoughts on “Breastfeeding At Any Cost: Weird Or Creative?

  1. Suzie says:

    Only if I was seriously ill or something.
    I find this somewhat offensive. First daycare/having a nanny for an infant, then pumping while you go away from the baby for hours and hours and now, having someone else nurse the baby? One has to wonder why these women even have babies.
    The fact that “they did it in the olden days” doesn’t make it any more appealing to me. Slavery was common, too, at one point in time, along with all sorts of other social structure things we find inappropriate (or even immoral) today. Children worked in factories all day, for example. The linked article is particularly gross noting wet nursing was common “especially among the upper class”–gag!
    Having someone wet nurse your baby isn’t “breastfeeding”…it’s giving the baby breastmilk. They’re two different things.

  2. goddess says:

    Nope=- but then again, I didn’t breastfeed them myself. I’d say that IF you truly were 100% pro-breastfeeding to the point I see some, you’d be hypocritical to give your child what you consider far inferior if it didn’t come from your own breasts, especially if it were jealousy instigating your choice.
    Personally, the only way I’d over let someone else breast feed is if I couldn’t and there was absolutely NO formula to be had. last ditch, last choice,.

  3. Suzie says:

    Maybe she wants to hire someone to have sex with her husband, too? Since she’s so busy!

  4. Andrea says:

    I would totally allow it and would much prefer my baby receive human milk than cow’s milk. This was never an issue for me as I was at home with my baby or had him/her in a sling right next to me for the first 18 months, but given a choice between a bottle of chemically enhanced cow’s milk and another woman’s breast, I would unthinkingly do what is best for my baby and choose human milk. I can’t imagine feeling jealous. Because your baby is getting milk from another woman? I’m pretty sure the only thing I would feel is gratitude that she would be willing to give some of her baby’s milk to mine.

  5. KateThree says:

    I was thinking about this the other day when I was watching my bestie’s 7-month old. Her mom had pumped and left me with a bottle for the little, but I was kinda wondering what would happen if the errands had taken longer than expected. It’s a moot point, since my kids stopped nursing years ago, and I would NEVER nurse someone else’s child without asking first, but I thought, yeah, I would be OK with that. And I would be OK with her nursing my child. But this is someone I’ve known for almost 20 years, we eat similar foods (and avoid similar foods), I know her medical history, etc. I would not be OK with a nanny nursing my child (especially without asking!).

  6. Scarlet of Family Focus Blog says:

    Without asking- totally out of the question!
    I would have to give it some thought before I could get comfortable with that.

  7. Shawna Woodson says:

    Wow. I think that she made the decision that was best for her baby’s health, even though it was a hard one. We don’t know why the mother was working. Perhaps she did not get paid maternity leave and had to go back to work to pay the bills. I know I did. I think it was a selfless decision.. However, I’m sure there would be a great deal of jealousy to work through, being that it is such a bonding experience that your child is sharing with another woman.

  8. Andrea says:

    I don”t get this at all. Women understand that by leaving their babies in daycare they are forclosing the opportunity to bond with them – working is more important than bonding with their babies. But they don’t want their babies to bond with anyone else? Surely when you leave your child alone for 8 to 9 hours a day, you want them to feel loved, even if it’s not by you (which it obviously ISN’T). Working mothers want their babies to feel alone and unloved. No bonding with their real caregivers? Seriously? That is beyond disgustingly cruel. If you are not going to care for your child yourself, you should at least alllow them to have some love for the women who are raising them. Why even have children if you want them to grow up unloved?

  9. Taz says:

    um, if without discussing it with me i discovered someone breastfeeding my baby my first emotion wouldn’t be jealousy over her bonding with my baby…it would be fear, like hand that rocks the cradle inspired fear! i think this is so out of line! and even if she discussed it with me first i would have to say that not knowing about the persons health, diet, lifestyle, habits, ect i would not be very comfortable. but i’m not all about breastfeeding being the only way to feed a baby- i honestly would rather feed my baby formula that i know is safe/fda approved than someone elses breast milk (except maybe my sister’s/sil’s/best friend’s someone i trust and have known for a long time)

  10. Betty says:

    I would NEVER allow somebody else to breastfeed my baby or use “donor” milk – I would choose formula without hesitation! And yes, I exclusively breastfed all of my children for the first year. Way too many diseases can be transmitted via breastmilk including HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, CMV, etc. – plenty of people with these disease show no symptoms in the early stages.

  11. jack says:

    i think its a great one… keep going… great job

    human milk bank

  12. B says:

    Re the 1st comment. “First having daycare…” – what kind of comment is THAT?

    My baby is in daycare because we can’t afford for me to stay home. It has nothing to do with why we had her. Welcome to the 21st century. Please feel free to take yourself and your Self righteous narrowmindedness back to the 50s.

  13. kelly says:

    “One has to wonder why these women even had babies.” “Working mothers want their babies to feel alone and unloved.” Do you people say this crap in real life, not just under the anonymity of the internet? Surely you have at least one friend out there that is a working mother. Do you say this to her? Or have to completely isolated yourself and your family in your delusional world of self-superiority? Anyway, I would totally let someone else breastfeed my kid if I knew them, and I would do it for someone else’s baby too. Sometimes it takes a village, not just ideals.

  14. Priscilla says:

    I have to say that the events that took place in this story are so totally inappropriate. It makes me cringe to hear this in fact. While donor breast milk that is given to high risk newborns in a hospital setting is pasteurized and screened for communicable diseases; this nannys breast milk was not!! Unbelievable that anyone would put their baby at risk like this. I have to agree with the above comment about wet nursing being acceptable just because they did it in the 18th century. Really people…?

  15. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    With my youngest, I had 2 close friends wiht babies the same age, and we all breastfed each other’s babies/toddlers, shared milk, etc… I really liked it because my child would not drink out of a bottle (he never did it, not even once and went striaght to a sippy cup, which he would not drink milk out of, only water).

  16. Suzie says:

    While it’s not for me–the breastfeeding of each other’s babies among friends–I don’t find that offensive or “bad.” What I don’t like is the class issue of having someone you hire, or someone (no matter how nice you are going to try to be about it) beneath you/your social class nursing your baby for you because you have “more important things to do” like your hotshot job or something and they are just a lowly nanny. The class thing is really repugnant. Read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Maid to Order”…or Google it. There are great excerpts online. Shunting off traditional female work to other (lower class)women isn’t feminist. Doing it yourself, even though you could earn money doing something else, indicates a respect for these “traditionally female” “jobs.”

  17. Lisa says:

    I am a professional nanny who has cared for children who have been breastfed. I have supported mothers in all types of health and nutritional standards. I can think of so many ethical boundary crossing in all of this regarding the nanny just doing it in the first place.

    I too get the history behind wet nurses. But I also have worked for moms who have pumped at work, or in the mornings or evenings. I have followed their directions on then giving their children bottles.

    I wouldn’t nurse my employer’s child to many things wrong with that. I would quit working for someone who asked me to.

  18. kat says:

    I think it’s fine, I would totally let someone I was close to nurse my baby if they needed it. It’s never happened, but I think it’s fine. I do think it would be weird to do without asking, but I think doing something selfless like that for a hysterical baby is totally understandable and I wouldn’t be too mad about it. I nursed another baby I was watching once, the mom had given me permission and I thought it would be better than the baby crying and being sad and missing his momma. I only did it once, and it’s something I would consider doing again (but not on a regular basis as a substitute mom/wet nurse.

  19. Jenn says:

    I’d have been uncool with a nanny – I don’t know her or her medical history. But if it’d been my sister or my best friend, who I know well and know their medical history… I’d have been ok with it were I not around to nurse him myself. A nursing Mom is generally quite careful with what they put into their bodies, at least the mothers I know, so as long as I had a preexisting conversation with the Mom… eh, it’s nothing new.

  20. Megan says:

    When my first was born I was so sure I was going to breast feed that I did not even own any bottles. It did NOT work out. I had lousy supply and he had a lousy latch — a vicious cycle, I know. This was my first baby so I did not know what a good latch was supposed to look or feel like. And he didn’t know what he should be getting in order to demand more. I kept thinking that if I could just nurse a more experienced baby and he could nurse from someone who had a worthwhile supply — even just once — maybe we could both get a clue. Is that so far out there? The lactation nurses looked at me like i was nuts when I said that. (But they were pretty convinced I did not love my baby and was secretly slipping him — gasp! — formula on the side. No, when my doctor told me I had to start supplementing him because he was starving to death I had to go buy some!). Breast feeding never did work for me, even after three kids. But I tried every time.

  21. Amy says:

    When you pick a photo for a story, try a little harder to depict a good latch, not a poor one. It’s so hard for moms to breastfeed successfully if they are given examples that are not good models.

    I couldn’t make enough milk, and I let other women breastfeed my babies and provide donor milk. People who had any illness never asked to give me milk- people are generally not idiots.

  22. Sherrina says:

    My brother was adopted, and didn’t do well on formula. I would run him down the street to a wet nurse and he would receive nourishment there. (We lived in the Philippines at the time). I was only 6 at the time, but it was something that stuck with me. That woman was a wet nurse because she produced so much milk. She helped keep other babies healthy and fed when their mothers could not. Why is this practice looked down on? And shouldn’t a child’s health be put first instead of social stigmas? Kudos to that mother for making a healthy decision for her child instead of going with popular cultural norms.

  23. nicole says:

    When my daughter was born the wrong box got checked on her cart and while I was 100% intending to breastfeed, like my other children, the nursery fed her a bottle without my knowledge. After that ONE bottle, she absolutely refused to nurse. We tried starving her into taking my breast and I pumped and we tried a supplemental nurser, we tried spoon feeding her breastmilk.. NOTHING made that poor little girl stop wailing except a bottle. From that moment on, I pumped and fed her milk from a bottle. The only problem was that I couldn’t pump more 24 oz per day. Fenugreek, pumping every hour, and any other things I could find to try just didn’t work. I was desperate but refused to ever feed my child a manufactured formula. I went on Craigslist and posted an ad. A wonderful woman, who overproduced, came to my rescue and between her and myself, my daughter was exclusively on breastmilk until she went on solids at 5 months. Thanks to that wonderful amazing nursing mom who shared her precious “gold” with my daughter, we were able to give her breastmilk until about 15 months when I weaned her onto regular milk. I am 38 weeks along with another little girl and I will do the exact same thing this time around if need be. (Hopefully the hospital will be less stupid this time)

  24. Sarzi says:

    Well said B and Kelly… Where do you get off, Suzie? I HAVE to go back to my work when our son is 1 (and my maternity leave ends) so that we can continue to provide a comfortable life for the child we very dearly wanted… Not only do I make a great wage, BUT the company I work for has full-benefits that my husband’s work (small carpentry company) does not provide… you know, those things that make giving your child proper medical and dental care possible.
    Perhaps you need to get your head out of your entitled, self-righteous cloud and remember that not everyone may have the life options you have been provided with.

  25. Krystal says:

    I have wet nursed my friends baby. There is nothing wrong with milk sharing in my opinion. As long as the wet nurser is healthy and disease free then its great!

  26. Deb says:

    I am the higher income earner in my home, and I married my husband for LOVE not money. So I do not love my children and I should not have had them because I had to “leave them unloved” all day at an early age? Nothing could be more close minded, unfair, or unsupportive of other women.. or further from the truth! I work (at my own business no less so I could not let it crumble in my absence) because I HAVE TO and want to provide for my children, who I love more than life itself. This mom chose what works for her, as do we all. If only ALL MOMS would be supportive of each other instead of bashing, all the children in the world would be happier.

  27. Whozat says:

    I have pumped for a friend’s baby, and would have been happy to nurse her (I was babysitting her regularly while mom worked; mom was struggling with milk supply and pump output) if her mom had been comfortable with it, but she wasn’t.

    When my daughter was younger I would have happily taken donor milk over formula if needed, and after it took 6 weeks for her to learn to nurse after being forced to give her bottles of pumped milk (long story) if I’d been incapacitated or something after she started nursing I probably would have preferred cross-nursing over pumped milk by bottle, because I was so worried she’d start refusing to nurse again if she had a bottle.

  28. Mamaof3 says:

    I nursed all 3 of my children for 2 years each.

    If I walked in on a nanny/babysitter breastfeeding my child, I would have called the police. How dare someone think that is ‘ok’ to nurse someone elses child w/o asking? I find that very disturbing.

    I do not find it disturbing if it is discussed & BOTH parties have agreed prior to the first nursing.

  29. Lisa Lacroix says:

    HIV and hepatitis C can both be passed through breast milk. Enough said

  30. jen says:

    yes If I can not do it and someone else can why not let them…it is much better then putting them on cows milk :)

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