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Leslie

As a 50 some mother that nursed all of her children the last one until he was 3yrs old I think that breast is best but it should be mom's breast.

Tessa

Something about bodily fluids seems so intensely private. It's like spit, you know? Slobbery kisses from your kids(or hubby) are cute, but from anyone else... yuck!

Niki F

I think when this topic first came up years ago when my oldest was a newborn, I was horrified and could hardly imagine a scenario in which this would "work" for me. But after several years, three babies and a nursing experience that is 53 months and counting, I have somewhat changed my opinion. I would have no trouble nursing my niece or having my sister nurse my child. In fact, we have both nursed each others' children on a few occasions when "needed". I know this tends to freak out others out based on all the cultural taboos, but it really is not that strange to nurse a niece or nephew. That being said, I cannot imagine hiring someone to nurse my own children, so I guess I have drawn a few lines of my own.

Dragonfly

I have a friend who nursed her niece (she and her sister had babies within weeks of each other) whose sister had a mastectomy and was having chemo several weeks after giving birth (in Australia). I also know people who did similar things overseas (in developing countries). While it wasn't widely talked about it did happen, generally between sisters or cousins.

JeanMac

My first "little one" was 9'6 and I had enough milk for him and a wee one whose mom didn't want to nurse but wanted him to have breast milk - yes, weird, but I did it for 6 weeks for her baby, not for her.

LovingLynden

After Church I went to the nursery to pick up my son and when I asked how he'd been the woman told me he'd been crying but not to worry, she'd fed him and then he was fine. I didn't understand and said that he was only 3 months old and on breastmilk - and then I understood......... and was totally grossed out. I know she meant well but I think my now 15 year old would be horrified if I told him. Or maybe not?

CodeCrafter

I think the taboo against this is almost entirely social. Our society still has issues with breastfeeding in general so by extension has issues with wet nurses.

I think this could be practical and useful in a number of situations. My only concern would be the medical issues but with the proper testing that could be managed in the case of a hired wet nurse. If I couldn't breastfeed my child it might be something I would consider although it doesn't sound like something I could afford!

I admit when I first heard about milk siblings I was a little grossed out but when I thought about it more it really didn't seem all that weird. I have several close friends who nurse each others children pretty regularly so maybe I just got used to the idea because of exposure to it.

Vicki

A very interesting post... thanks so much for that.

I don't have any issues with understanding that the breast is not only a sexual form... but I do feel that it is (and not just a perception) a bond between the mother and child. If people want to share that bond, I don't see why not. However, it was something I treasured and am not sure would share with someone, especially someone that wasn't close to me.

Now, if I couldn't breastfeed for medical reasons... I'm not sure what I would do... it's not completely black and white.

Love your blog btw! :)

Karen

Interesting topic for discussion / consideration. I think that many of you are right, that our society has conditioned us to be grossed out by wet nurses. Remember the Dionne Quints? Women from all over North America sent breastmilk for them. It wasn't that long ago! Have you read The Birth House by Ami McKay? (If you haven't, you should btw.) Friends all nurse an adopted (orphaned) baby in it. There's a mum at our school - who nursed her triplets till they were all two - whose mother and grandmother were both wet nurses in Croatia and often nursed two or even three babes in addition to their own (due to maternal mortality). Shows how much milk our bodies can make - and think how many women are told they can't make "enough" milk when really babies can just be fussy (fussy does not equal hungry always) and frequent nursing *is* baby upping the milk supply. I would nurse my sister's babies no problem. I would also donate to a milk bank (the one in Vancouver I called once out of my four children and never got follow-up - should have pursued it). With medical testing nowadays and the WHO advocating donated breastmilk before formula I would have to support cross-nursing. Sorry that this is getting long - I'll just say that I think that the formula culture of the last 50+ years has really skewed some of the ways we regard breasts and breastfeeding (here I think of my usually sweet grandmother saying only cows give milk) and that before having children and learning more that I probably would have been a bit squeamish about shared breastmilk. But not now! ;-)

leslie

i thought this was a very interesting post. I don't think i would personally have a problem with it... among friends or family (yes, martina, i'd wet nurse for you). Friends adopted a baby and at the time I had lots of extra milk in the freezer. I donated it to them and gave them any extras I had. They really appreciated it. Would it have been so different for me to put her on my breast? maybe. Thus far I haven't been asked to do so though.

Martina

This was definitely my favourite set of comments ever. So interesting to hear your experiences and opinions. Thanks for sharing them!

Janelle

It's interesting that I came across this post after reading another viewpoint (that I had not considered) not too long ago. As a mother nursing her 3 year old, I'm not sure anymore how I feel about someone employing a wet nurse after reading this: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/09/13/here-tits-the-wet-nurse-and-the-revival-of-mammy/

curious

presuming the breast milk is "clean" and free of any nasty organisms, doesn't nursing from more than one mother present the potential for GREATER antibodies than one, alone?

just a thought.

Just sayin

Technically we all have milk siblings that are cows and for some of us goats and sheep too and we don't seem bothered by it at all. I cant speak for the cows themselves but humans milk cows all the time and that's not frowned upon. I mean isn't there a "sacred bound" between the cow and her calf?? Well ya but we still milk the cow and drink her milk and it's ok I love milk so why shouldn't it be cool if a chick breastfeeds someone eles's baby?? I have a milk brother, but then again it's not really frowned upon to share milk it's actually encouraged. In my society u gain new family members if I share milk so ya.

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About

  • I'm a Canadian doctor with four kids. I spend most days in Vancouver and nights in the quiet of Deep Cove. I value idleness and reflection, which means I work part-time and we're often out of milk.
  • Credentials: BSc, MD, CCFP
  • I do not represent my employer or institution.
  • FreshMDblog AT gmail DOT com

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  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice.
  • Details of patient encounters have been modified to preserve confidentiality.

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