Nursing Someone Else’s Baby

3722042283_5598e961a3_mJennifer Spiegel is suing a Chicago hospital for $30,000 in damages because, one night in 2008, a hospital nurse brought her the wrong day-old infant boy, and she mistakenly nursed him.

Today, Motherlode invites readers to weigh in on the question of nursing someone else’s child: would you?

I can understand Spiegel being distraught at the mix-up, but I have a hard time seeing it as grounds for a lawsuit.

But maybe I’m a little biased. I’m nursing someone else’s baby right now.

My best friend’s 6-month-old daughter is on my lap, nursing contentedly as she falls asleep. I babysit her twice a week so her mom can teach a course at the nearby university, and nursing her is the obvious, easy way to feed her.

I’ve nursed three babies other than my own, and both my kids have latched onto other mamas’ breasts.

This used to be a common thing, but today it’s unusual enough to raise eyebrows. And apparently anxiety-provoking enough to fuel lawsuits.

I’m distressed that this lawsuit is coming from the mom who mistakenly gave some of her milk to someone else’s child. The baby could potentially have been harmed if Ms. Spiegel had a blood-borne infection like HIV or hepatitis, but what harm was Ms. Spiegel exposed to?

It’s not that I think hospitals should be cavalier about passing babies around to any new mom on the ward. But I think women should be doing everything we can to normalize and destigmatize breastfeeding. Suing because The Wrong Baby nursed from your breast hardly makesĀ  breastfeeding seem normal and healthy.

Really, nursing is just a normal part of life. Our breasts make milk after we give birth, and if a baby suckles them, they continue making milk. It’s food for babies, any baby. Breastfeeding isn’t some arcane ritual or the parenting equivalent of sexual intimacy.

Yes, gazing into your babies eyes as she nurses can be a deeply bonding experience, one you may not want to have with a tiny stranger. But it’s also a simple, dare I say natural, means to deliver food to a hungry baby.

The more we can demystify that, the fewer articles I’ll have to write about women being kicked out of shopping malls and restaurants for feeding their babies.

What do you think? Would you nurse someone else’s child? Have you? What would you do if you nursed the wrong baby by accident?

Photo: Summer

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