Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wet Nursing, Is It Wrong?

Yesterday on Facebook, my friend posted a link to a post on wet nursing by Dr Momma.  This mom nursed another woman's baby during a playgroup, and later she was kicked out of the group because she nursed another woman's baby.

My first thought was how incredibly backward this thinking is!

Then I started to truly think about it.

In the United States (and some other places around the world), breastfeeding is something that women are supposed to do in private.  It's an "embarrassing" act, seen as completely sexual, and we shun the women that dare nurse in public or past one year.  On top of that, the idea of milk sharing is more taboo!  You can't share your milk with another woman, that's just gross!

What makes nursing and wet nursing so disgusting to people?  Is it the idea of nursing in general, or the idea of nursing a baby that isn't your own?

I admit, when I was nursing my daughter, I knew that that was okay, but the idea of nursing a baby that wasn't my own did creep me out.  I didn't have any actual reasons for feeling this way, but I think it has the same basis in why I used a blanket to cover myself to be discreet and why I thought that nursing toddlers was disgusting and creepy.  Breastfeeding, even though I knew it was the best food for my child, was still a little bit gross.  Someone was attached to my body for multiple hours every day, sucking out bodily fluid, and no matter how natural that was, I was embarrassed.

The mother in this playgroup did something that I wish I had had the courage and understanding to do when I nursed my daughter for the first time.  She nursed someone else's child because another mother needed help!

How many of us have had issues breastfeeding, and just wished that we had someone that could help?  When your child is crying and refusing to latch and you are so frustrated, how amazing would it be to have a woman that is nursing her own child come by, give your baby a little bit of milk, and then show you how to latch on your baby while you both are calm!  I was always amazed how tense I could get when my daughter would cry and how much longer it took for me to get a good latch with her.  I was always able to get her latched, but having another woman there to help me would have been invaluable.

When my daughter and I started nursing again (we originally weaned at nine months, and 29 months later we rekindled our nursing relationship while I was pumping and donating milk), the idea of wet nursing felt amazing.  Just like nursing a toddler, the idea of wet nursing grew on me.  Just think, instead of taking time to pump and store milk, the baby can get it straight from the tap!  No freezer, thawing, or bottles, just the ease of that makes it so much more worth it!

I read stories from other countries where women nurse each other's children, where this is normal, and it makes me sad that we don't feel this way in the United States.  We drink milk from cows and goats, and yet milk that women make with their own bodies, milk that is made specifically for humans, we shun.

Just like nursing your own child, nursing another child isn't wrong.  We were made to raise our children in villages, with tons of support, and wet nursing comes with that.  The human race would not have survived this long without the support of other nursing mothers.

Wet nursing isn't wrong.  Wet nursing isn't something to be shunned or thought of as disgusting.  If a mother is nursing her own child and the other mother is okay with the help, no one else should be involved in this.  No one else should be butting their head into this amazingly selfless act.

Just like nursing your own child, it should only be up to you and your baby, not outsiders that don't understand you and your situation.


Sam said... [Reply to comment]

As nursing mother, I get the overwhelming urge to nurse other babies when they are upset/unsettled! It's just a gut reaction to help a baby in need! Motherhood didn't come with a manual so I go on instinct and if my instinct tell me to help out, i would. As it is taboo, I haven't offered, but if anyone asked, I would take the opportunity.

Mama Mary Ellen said... [Reply to comment]

LOL Sam I do too LOL haha Im so glad im not alone in this... In the 7 months my breast have been pouring out milk for my little princess she has shared her milk with 4 other babies. All-be-it through pumped milk but I agree with you Kayce! My husband freaked out when a few weeks ago I got a call from a Doula needing milk for a baby's who's mother was in surgery and I didn't even think TWICE about it! He was grossed out by the fact that I was sharing bodily fluids with other people. I explained to him that, I feel its like a blood doner that has a special type of "fluid" that can only be produced at a certain time and its my DUTY to help if I can! I would wish someone would step up and HELP me if, god forbid, something happened and I couldn't nurse anymore!

Pandora said... [Reply to comment]

It's so hard when you see a baby rooting for a nipple and the new parents have no idea what's going on. Tell them and you're interfering. When my children were small, almost everyone I knew nursed their children. Now it seems like most new moms don't want to or don't have anyone to really teach them. It makes me sad for the babies and the moms.

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