Babble has a lovely essay up today about nursing other women’s babies. Nursing a friend’s or sister’s baby is a time-honored tradition, but it’s also contentious. When it happens by mistake in a hospital setting, women have been known to sue.
There’s something intimate about breastfeeding; it can feel a little weird to pick up a new baby and put her to your breast.
I should know. I’ve done it plenty of times.
In my community of moms, cross-nursing and milk sharing are pretty normal. I nursed my best friend’s daughter many times when she went back to work. Other friends’ babies have been fed from my breasts when I babysat them for an evening or their mom was sick or struggling with milk production. Similarly, my babies have nursed from other mamas.
Since Eats on Feets made news last summer for helping moms coordinate milk-sharing on Facebook, I’ve been hearing more and more about cross-nursing, the practice of nursing another mom’s baby. It’s great to see this really positive essay about it after all the fear-mongering about it from doctors.
There are potential health risks, of course. But in a community of friends and family, when the women involved know their status for HIV and hepatitis, cross-nursing can be a boon. It makes life easier for babies and mamas. It’s been beautiful to see and experience the special bonds that arise between babies and the women who nurse them.