If you need to be away from your baby, most breastfeeding moms think of pumping or perhaps using donor milk. But what about having another mother breastfeed your baby? It’s called wet nursing or cross nursing and it’s been around a lot longer than breast pumps- that’s for sure. What’s the history of wet nursing in the United States? And how are moms using it today? Real moms share their real experience.
The Boob Group
Wet Nursing and Cross Nursing: Breastfeeding Other Children
Episode 173, Sep 7, 2016
Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.
SUNNY GAULT: This Episode of Boob group is brought to you by Rumina Nursing-wear. Hands free pumping and nursing tanks and bras to support your breast feeding goals. Visit www.pumpandnurse.com and save 20% with promo code BOOBGROUP20.
SUNNY GAULT: If you need to be away from your baby, most breastfeeding moms think of pumping or perhaps using donor milk. But what about having another mother breastfeed your baby? It’s called wet nursing or sometimes cross nursing, and it’s been around a lot longer than breast pumps-that’s for sure. What is the history of wet nursing in the United States? And how are moms using it today? Real moms are here to share their real experience. We are The Boob Group.
SUNNY GAULT: Welcome to The Boob Group! We're here to support all moms who want to give their babies breast milk. I'm Sunny Gault! Thanks so much to everyone who has listened to our show and uses our free apps! I think it is the best way to listen on the go. If you are listening through those apps, or perhaps through iTunes, Spreaker, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Music, or on a iHeart Radio and more, than please take a couple of moments to leave us a review! We really appreciate it! This is how other moms find out about our show.
If you want automatic updates about all the new episodes we release, then please subscribe to our show. You can also sing for The Boob Group newsletter and we will email you updates every time a new episode is released. And I have a little bit of a teaser for everybody out there. Next week, starting next week, this is a pretty big move here at The Boob Group, we are switching things up again, and I will be introducing you to a brand new host for The Boob Group.
Now, don’t freak out! I am still part of the shows. I will still be producing all the shows. And you will still hear me on lot of the episodes. But it is really important for me to kind of pass the baton to someone else completely qualified.
I am so excited to re-introduce you to Priya Nembhard. She actually has been on the show quite a bit. She is the creator of Moms Pump Here. She has an app which helps moms find great places to pump and breastfeed, throughout the country, throughout the World. And she is just a great breastfeeding and pumping advocate and we’ve actually become really good friends over the last 6 months or so.
So I am super excited to introduce her to you guys again as the host of The Boob Group. So that will happen next week. And she will take over all of the hosting responsibilities. But we will still have moms on the show and have great ways to feature the content that you guys give us. And so look for that next week.
SUNNY GAULT: So before we kick off our conversation today about wet nursing and cross nursing, we do have a comment from one of our listeners. And whenever we release a new episode, I always post the episode to Facebook. And it is where a lot of you comment on the shows. And I do read those comments. And one I just really liked, because it just meant a lot to me. The episode itself means a lot to me and it is the one we released last week about breastfeeding guilt and how do you deal with that. And Suz, who has submitted some comments to us in the past. Suz, thanks so much! She says:
Thank you!! I needed to hear this - especially today - to know that I am not the only mama who struggles every single day to feed my child!
And the reason I love that comment so much is because it is so real! We hear a lot like "the struggle is real"! And it is so true! And I just love that we can be a little bit vulnerable with each other, with this situation that we are all in as moms that want to do the best thing for their baby whether that’s breastfeed, or you know, feed out babies another ways, or pump for our babies and share breastmilk, and do all the amazing things that we do, because we love our children.
And it is not easy to get up every day and do that. Especially when there are so many other things going on in our lives, right? So I thing Suz really hits the nail in the head here. And I really do appreciate her comment. Feel free to comment any time we release something on Facebook. If you are, you know, not already following the page, please do. You can also email us through our website at www.newmommymedia.com.
SUNNY GAULT: So today we are talking about breastfeeding other children besides our own. And there are a couple terms we are going to be using today, wet-nursing and cross-nursing. So wet-nursing is the complete nursing of another child, sometimes it is for pay. And cross-nursing is when you occasionally nurse someone else’s child in addition to your own. So you are still lactating, right? And it is usually in some sort of childcare situation. And we are going to talk more about cross-nursing in the second half of our show. And we are actually going to talk with an IBCLC and also a mom who have cross-fed other children. But first, let’s talk more about wet-nursing and its history here, in the United States.
Doctor Janet Golden is a professor of History at Rutgers University. She specializes in women's and children's history, and American social history. And she also wrote the book The Social History of Wet-Nursing in America. Doctor Golden thanks so much for being with us today! I want to give everybody an overview of where we’ve been in the United States when it comes to wet-nursing. Right now, I think in today’s society, it seems like this distant thing that happened a long time ago. So I really want to explore where we’ve been. So from the beginning in the United States, has wet-nursing always been a part of our culture?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: Well, I would say that humans have always been involved with wet-nursing because of course in many instances women died after giving birth. In order to feed their child, the child would be given to another woman to suckle. And that might be a paid wet-nurse, it might be another nursing mother in the community.
So wet-nursing has always been with us and in the United States that was the case as well. From the colonial period up until today, although of course people couldn’t always get another woman to nurse the child and so they might depend on animal milk, sort of other concoctions that they’ve put together of milk and water, and other things. So we could say that we’ve always had what we might call artificial feeding and wet-nursing as part of our human history.
SUNNY GAULT: And how did we see this plays itself out in the United States? I mean, what were some of the earliest examples of wet-nursing in the United States?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: Oh well, there were so many, you know, colonial women who dies in childbirth, or who couldn’t nurse, who had infections after birth. So they might put an advertisement in a local newspaper even, a colonial newspaper and find a woman who would come and nurse their child. Or they might put their child out to be nursed, that was another thing that people sometimes did. That was more common in France for example where women living in the cities who had to run shops put their children to the countryside to be nursed.
But that would happen here, again, on slave plantations sometimes women would be wet-nursing other women’s babies so the women could go to the field. You can just imagine it has always been a part of our history. What really start to happen in the 19th century is physicians and companies begin to promote what we would call artificial infant feeding, or formula feeding. Creating products to be bought and sold rather than maybe mixing some goat milk with water and feeding that to a child throughout a [inaudible] And that comes to us in the second half of the 19th century and I think as we all know we still have a lot of people creating infant foods for us today.
SUNNY GAULT: So is that when we started to see wet-nursing kind of taper off, as when the formula was introduced?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: I think yes, that’s true. There are two reasons we see sort of a decline in wet-nursing. Three reasons really. One is that for middle class and upper class women who can afford it, these commercial products come on the market. Secondly, as we get better transportation of milk from the countryside in the cities, milk as an alternative becomes more available and becomes safer once we start pasteurize it.
And then the third reason would be that physicians begin to get invested in concocting you might say infant formulas that women would mix themselves of basically a sugar, a water and an animal milk. And it sort of like physicians becomes the experts because they were the ones that would tell you what formula to feed to a child at a certain age. And of course wet-nursing was a very fraud profession when it involved women moving into your home to nurse your child.
On a one hand they are servants, they are probably from a different ethnic group. People worried about that. They didn’t like having servants. They didn’t like paying for servants. And at the same time there was some thought that maybe the trades of the women who wet-nurse would somehow get into the child. So people would say oh, she had an Italian wet-nurse and therefore her child grow up to be very secretive. It is something I read once.
Or she had an Irish wet-nurse, so the child grow up liking to drink. So there was this sort of assumption that heredity was not fixed, but fluent, literally, and came through the milk, through the personality of the woman who was nursing. So for all those reasons people began to see it as safer perhaps in some way to go to an animal mouth product or to a formula.
SUNNY GAULT: Ok, and so you are talking a little bit about, you know, the class of people that were involved with this, so the first question I have is: were women typically paid for this? Or was it something, you know, you mentioned the slave period and stuff, I would imagined the slaves weren’t paid, they were just expected to just do this. Or maybe they got some extra benefits? How did that work?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: Traditional wet-nurses were basically poor women hired out of alms houses, homes for the poor. And because of that, in order to be a wet-nurse, you had to take your own baby and give it to another woman, pay her to raise it while you make a little more money wet-nursing. And often what that really involved was exchanging one life for another-the wet-nurse’s own baby would die because she was away nursing another woman’s child.
So it was a very fraud professional arrangement. Now in terms of cross-nursing I thing the most interesting thing is, that we sometimes see, is because plantation owners viewed slaves as investment. If a slave woman died in childbirth, and the plantation mistress was nursing her own child, she might nurse the infant of the slave woman because she wanted to keep that baby alive to grow up and be another slave. So it is a very complicated history that combines all sorts of other histories in our country.
SUNNY GAULT: So the idea of tandem-feeding infants, it doesn’t sound like they… Well, what you mentioned that you know, a lot of times they would go and they would live in that environment and be taken from their own children. I’m just wondering why they didn’t try to feed both, you know? We have women today that do that. Do you have knowledge behind that?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: Well, there were homes for abandoned infants where women would come in, they would enter with their own infant and they would be asked to breastfeed another baby. That didn’t always work. Because number 1) the woman of course prioritized her own baby, but secondly the nutritional support for these new moms was not good. So she didn’t always have that much milk and that much energy to feed a second baby. Today, of course, cross-nursing, wet-nursing, is much easier because we are in a nutritionally better situation. But if you are really just getting fed a few times a day in the alms house, it is going to be hard to satisfactorily nurse two infants.
SUNNY GAULT: You know, I am wondering, thinking about the history here in the US at war time. You know, we went through a revolution where women were entering the workforce because men were way at war and he had to keep things going here in the US. Do you have any information about what happened with wet-nursing during that period where more and more women were coming into workforce, therefore perhaps not able to breastfeed their own babies? What happened during that time?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: That is a very good question! And the answer is we really did not take many nursing mothers into the war industries, say in World War II where we also setup daycare centres. Most of the day care-centres did not take infants under 18months of age, and there was always a big push to have women stay home with their babies. Earlier times, settlement houses and community centres might offer day-nurseries and those infants would be bottle-fed, and that would be for poor women who had to go to work. But actually, even in World War II, we pushed women into the defense industries, and so they were taking jobs for men, we tried to keep new mothers out of those jobs.
SUNNY GAULT: That’s really interesting! I didn’t know we made that exception! And I actually feel a little bit proud of us for doing that! So I know we’ve talked a little bit about the history here in the United States when it comes to wet-nursing, but does history tell us anything as far as where this is going in the future? I mean, obviously wet-nursing has tapered off, but it is not gone. There’s still women who wet-nurse and cross-nurse other babies.
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: There are some very interesting things that have happened in the past 30 years. One is that of course with rise of internet communication we have a lot of informal arrangements of people buying and selling breastmilk. The second thing we begin to see is breastfeeding initiation rates climb. We see more women making informal arrangements to cross-nurse each other’s infants. We also see some public health questions being raised about that process as the HIV epidemic takes off, and some concern about that that there. So the recent period has been very, very interesting I would say.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah, so really since the development of the internet and our communication has really you know been able to increase. We’ve got Facebook groups. We’ve got websites that are devoted to this kind of stuff where moms can connect.
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: Right and we also have a lot of women donating breastmilk.
SUNNY GAULT: Right!
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: There are organizations that buy it and process it for premature infants. But actually that kind of donation has a long and interesting history. Some of it begins with the birth of the Deon quintuplets in Canada in the 1930s when women went to the Toronto hospital for sick children, expressed their breastmilk and the milk was put on a train and send out to Ontario where the quints were living in a little quint land that was build for them. And then from that we get the rise of hospital-based collections of breastmilk to be used for premature infants. So, I would say that the selling of breastmilk, the commodification of breastmilk is an interesting 20th century phenomenon.
SUNNY GAULT: But I still feel like now there’s a little bit… There’s a difference when you hear wet-nursing first of all I think automatically nowadays we think of this as a very old term. And I think there are a lot of women who feel differently about buying and selling breastmilk as opposed to actually having a baby latch on to another mother and breastfeed. Do you feel that as well?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: I think that is one reason in fact why we went to breastmilk as a commodity, to separate the women supplying the milk from the product that was milk. That was very clearly and consciously done by switching to the system of collecting donated breastmilk which had the affect really of bringing middle-class women into the process of what we might call giving breastmilk to other infants. The first American breastmilk bank that opened in Boston sort of advertises itself in the newspaper, not as a formal advertisement, but in the articles of the newspaper, by saying: “all our moms are college graduates” to kind of let you know that you weren’t dealing with a different class of women.
SUNNY GAULT: Have you found, based on your research, that within the last 20-30 years women who are, whether it is cross-nursing, or wet-nursing, do find us going more towards women that we know to do this or? I know that there are websites online where you can find somebody and you don’t have to know them at all, you know, and they could just be somebody in your area. But what do you find historically is happening right now? Because there is a big push for breastfeeding right. But I find that a lot of women prefer to know the person. Do you find that as well or is it ok…?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: I honestly don’t have any historical, you know, any modern data on that. I know that historically of course you looked to your friends and neighbours, and maybe when people had larger families you looked to a sister who is also nursing, maybe sister would trade babies, something like that. Today it is really not well studied. So we don’t have a good sense of how much cross-nursing is going on, who is engaged in it, how long does it last, what are the implications. It is worthy of study and I suppose that someday people will get on to that, and we’ll know more. But we really don’t know very much.
SUNNY GAULT: I think that might be because I feel like there are a lot of closet wet-nursers, because there is a stigma with it. I feel like there are people that do it, that are proud to do it, but at the same time they don’t want the criticism, they don’t want someone else to find about it and then to be criticised for that. So I don’t know… Based on my experience that might be a little bit "what’s happening here?"
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: Well, then it would be a wonderful subject to study, wouldn’t it?
SUNNY GAULT: Sure! Absolutely! Where do you think all of this is going? We have a big push right now for breastfeeding in general. There are a lot of articles that are written about breastfeeding to encourage moms to breastfeed. Our podcast The Boob Group is about the benefits of breastmilk in general whether you are breastfeeding, or you are pumping your breastmilk, or you are sharing your breastmilk. And so I am just wondering from your perspective, do you have any kind of prediction? Does history tell us anything about where is this maybe going now that we are seeing this big push for breastfeeding?
DOCTOR JANET GOLDEN: Well, I don’t know that history is a very good guide to anything. Just the lessons, but not how things are going to be in the future. It does seem to me that with the rise of the baby-friendly hospital movement, which helps women initiate breastfeeding, we do see an increasing rate of breastfeeding initiation, and that’s been good. Second thing we began to see with the affordable care acts a lot more support that work for women who want to pump their breastmilk and store it.
That’s been a big movement and I know a lot more institutions, my own institutions, others, do have lactation stations and we are moving towards that. So there’s a lot of support there. I think maybe people are waiting for what could be a third step, which is the passage of legislation supporting the healthy families act that would allow for paid family leave, instead of just unpaid family leave, that would let women and men, but women stay home and breastfeed for a longer period, get that more established, before they return to the workforce, as it is done in other countries.
I know that the WIC program is changed to support nursing women much more, that’s a very good thing. So I think we’ll just have to wait and see where it goes. But I think that the trajectory is towards more breastfeeding.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright, Doctor Golden, thanks so much for being with us today and sharing you inside on the history of wet-nursing here in the United States! When we come back we are going to talk a little bit more about cross-nursing which is something that I introduced at the beginning of the show. It is when mothers occasionally nurse another baby, but may not be the sole provider of breastmilk for that baby. Usually these moms are breastfeeding their own children as well. So we are going to talk with a couple of moms with experience in that area when we come back.
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SUNNY GAULT: Alright, welcome back everyone! In the first half of the show we learned more about the history of wet-nursing in the United States. Now we are going to switch gears a little bit. We are going to focus on cross-nursing, which is the more casual approach to nursing another child, not so formal.
Usually moms do it while they are still feeding their own child. And it seems to be a very natural thing that a lot of moms are choosing to do. I talked with several breastfeeding moms for this episode and many of them wanted to maintain their privacy which is why we didn’t feature them all on the show. But what I found is that today cross-nursing is definitely more common place than wet-nursing.
Although there are websites out there that are completely dedicated to wet-nursing and hiring someone that you may not know to breastfeed your baby for you on a full-time basis. But what I found now is that more moms are adopting cross-nursing. And usually it is to help out a family member, or a friend. Now, before we talk to a couple of moms who have done this in the past, I do have to give a disclaimer, ok? When it comes to sharing milk in general there are some things that we have to keep in mind. There are health concerns, right? Now this comes from the La Leche League website.
I am just going to read a couple of these bullet points so you guys know some of the risks before we, yo know, go ahead and talk about this.
According to the La Leche League that a mom should be healthy, well-nourished, taking no medication, ideally she would have an infant about the same age as the one she’s going to be cross-nursing, she should be screened for tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis, herpes, HIV and other infectious agents, she should not smoke, drink alcohol, consume large amounts of caffeinated beverages or artificially sweetened beverages, and her own infant should already be very healthy, gaining weight on a regular basis and free of all infections.
So once you overcome that hurtle, that’s when we can really talk about this. And do it safely. Safety is so important! So anyone that is considering this, we certainly want you to take the right precautions so that the mother that is giving her breastmilk is safe as well as you baby is safe as well.
So we have two moms joining us today to share their personal experience. Jessica is based here in the US. She breastfed her child as well as another child she was caring for and she did that for about 2 years. And also Meg Nagle mainly cross-nursed her sister’s child. Meg is also national board-certified lactation consultant. She is based out of Australia. She is also an author and a blogger at the www.milkmeg.com which of course we are going to link too on our website. And ladies, first of all thanks so much for being with us today and being willing to share your story.
Meg, as a lactation consultant, why do you think we have this stigma now with wet-nursing or cross-nursing, basically feeding another person’s baby? We talked earlier about this being part of our history. So why do you think so many moms are shocked when they hear about this concept now?
MEG NAGLE: Yeah, well I think the bottle culture and formula feeding has become such just a normal part of many cultures around the World, the whole wet-nursing thing and cross-nursing started to become less and less common, because now people have a way to feed their babies with something other than their breastmilk, which was a much safer alternative to anything else that they had previously.
SUNNY GAULT: I think it is so interesting how we’ve done this 180° where, you know, back in our history there was a point when women and you know, people in general thought that formula was the best thing and that seemed to be the safest, and now we are going back to breastmilk saying hey, we really think this is what’s best nutritionally for our babies. So Meg, let’s talk a little bit about your personal experience. I know you breastfed you sister’s child. But you also have some experience breastfeeding other babies as well, right? Tell us about that.
MEG NAGLE: I have! So I was thinking about this and trying to remember the babies that I breastfed. The first baby that I breastfed. This was quite a few years ago when my middle boy who is now 9, so he was 2 at the time, still breastfeeding. And I was supporting one of my friends during her birth. And after the birth she had some complications and actually had to go into surgery.
So there was quite a long timeframe where she physically was in a lot of pain and actually in surgery, so could not breastfeed her baby. So I was there, still lactating and I was really happy to breastfeed her baby. And really interestingly enough she actually asked me during pregnancy when she was pregnant if anything was to happen if I would breastfeed her baby. So it was something she had already thought about before the time had even come.
SUNNY GAULT: Oh, wow!
MEG NAGLE: Yeah, she was very organized. She thought about every possibility with her birth.
SUNNY GAULT: She wanted to make sure that you got that breastmilk!
MEG NAGLE: That’s right! That was a very important thing for her. So I said yes, of course. And interestingly enough it actually happened. And I was really happy to do it. And then the next baby. This was when my youngest was 16months old, he is now 4. I went home to the States to visit family and I was at my sister’s wedding. And we were at a big bed and breakfast, so all of us were staying there together while the wedding was going on.
So we had a babysitter who a friend of mine and I who, she watched our babies, and we breastfed them to sleep put them to sleep in their little cots and then she stayed with the babies and would call us when they woke so we could go breastfeed them. This was at night when the reception was happening. And this was actually the case where someone was breastfeeding my baby, because I was away putting my older children to sleep in their room and in the meantime my friend got the phone call oh, your baby is awake. And she walked down to the room to go breastfeed, she realized oh, this isn’t my baby, this is Meg’s baby.
But she didn’t even think twice, I mean she just popped my baby on. And I kind of went back to the reception and when oh, Devon is not here, and I just had this feeling like mhm, I better go and check what’s going on, and sure enough I walk in the room and there she is, in her bridesmaid's gown breastfeeding my child.
SUNNY GAULT: Were you surprised by that? Have you had any conversation about that?
MEG NAGLE: I think we did. I was trying to… I am sure we did. I mean, look-her mom and my mom are best friends and they breastfed each other’s babies. So it was very normal for us, because we knew our own mothers had done it. And it really wasn’t this weird thing. And I was so grateful for her to have done that, because he was instantly soothing. The poor thing had been sitting there for 20minutes sucked there until I got back. But you know, if she hadn’t been able to do that, there would have been quite a long time of finding out where I was, getting me, you know, to get to him. And so I was really thankful for her that she did that for me.
SUNNY GAULT: Ok and one more baby, right?
MEG NAGLE: Yes and then another one where I breastfed was my sister’s little boy so another … you know, first I went home for a wedding then of course, the second trip was when her baby was born and he was about 3 or 4 months-old and I was visiting for a month and she works three days a week outside the home and had told me that he really wasn’t taking the bottle easily. So I said to her “well, when I am watching him, if he doesn’t take the bottle, would you be okay with me breastfeeding him?” and she said “yes, that’s fine”.
And sure enough, he really was not taking the bottle, I tried a couple of times and I could see he really wasn’t hungry so I just popped him on the boob and within minutes, he was happily asleep. So that was really special too and it is definitely a wonderful kind of bonding experience as well and he was instantly soothed and straight-away went to sleep.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah, so it sounds like with all of these situations that I mean, there wasn’t … it was like a natural thing that everybody did; it wasn’t like this “oh, do I do this; would she be okay if I did this”, it was just like mothers’ instinct, I feel like just kind of took over.
MEG NAGLE: I think as a breastfeeding woman, it is not a weird thing at all; I know for myself and for lots of other moms who I have spoken to about this, it just really feel natural. It is not this big thing; it is not a weird thing to be breastfeeding another baby. And actually, sorry, I did forget another story of that same friend who breastfed my baby; I did actually breastfeed her baby at one point during that trip as well so we did breastfeed each others’ babies. And that is - again, she was at work so I breastfed her baby.
And I think of course, you know, if you are going to breastfeed another woman’s baby, you don’t just want to kind of pop the mom the boob without having spoken to them about it first, I think, it is definitely something you want to have a conversation about before it happens. But I know for most of us, it is really, really natural thing to do.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah, Jessica, I know you believe it was a very natural thing for you. I know your situation is a little bit different being a child-care provider if you will; watching another woman’s child, but you also had a conversation with the mom beforehand. So can you tell us a little bit about your experience cross-nursing another baby?
JESSICA: Yeah, I have a son and my friend has a son who is 2 months older and they are two now but at the time Matteo - my friend’s son was 6 months and my son was 4 months and I was breastfeeding my son and I started babysitting her son Matteo and he was having issues with formula so I offered to breastfeed her son as well and she was all for it. We had a mutual friend who introduced us to the idea of wet nursing so it wasn’t foreign to either of us.
SUNNY GAULT: And what was the experience like for you? Had you ever breastfed another mother’s baby before … a child before?
JESSICA: No, this is my first baby … I had never thought about it beforehand but it came very … the idea came very naturally to me; feeding one baby, the other baby is hungry, you might as well feed that one too the same way. It just made sense to us.
SUNNY GAULT: Okay and what was the process? Maybe it changed every day but did you pretty much breastfeed on demand for both of the children or how did that work?
JESSICA: Yeah, yeah … I breastfed on demand pretty much until Matteo weans around … when he was around 2-years-old, he just really stopped asking or needing to nurse.
SUNNY GAULT: Wow, okay and you did that for a couple of years which I find amazing. You know, one question that keeps popping up in my head when I just think about my own breastfeeding experience with my babies is it is such a personal experience for me. I haven’t breastfed any other babies besides my own and I am just wondering from that perspective because we hear a lot about the bonding and all the amazing benefits breastfeeding has for mom and baby to bond.
Is that somehow compromised if you are breastfeeding another woman’s child, you know, does the baby bond with you in a way that could hurt bond with mother or is it strange in any way? Meg, do you have any comments on that?
MEG NAGLE: Well, it is interesting I think when we think about bond, you don’t have to be breastfeeding to bond with the baby and breastfeeding someone else’s baby does not mean that that baby is going to imprint like a little duckling. And of course, having that connection with someone continually, you know, if you are breastfeeding someone’s baby all the time then maybe you will have a special connection but mom is mom and really we know that there are many ways that you can bond and many different ways that babies and children bond with caregivers as well.
SUNNY GAULT: Sure yeah, absolutely. So Meg, there may be moms that are listening to this show that were and are inquisitive about wet nursing and cross nursing, maybe they don’t have tons of information about it but maybe they are thinking “hey, you know, this might be something that is a good fit for me and my family”. What information … what advice can you give them as far as becoming a wet nurse or a cross nurse for somebody, you know, what do you have to keep in mind with that?
Obviously, we mentioned earlier some of the safety issues but as far as your own supply and trying to keep that up, let’s say you are still breastfeeding your own child, do you need to have an over-supply in order to do this or is supply really an issue or are there other issues that moms should be considering before offering their breastmilk to another baby?
MEG NAGLE: Yes, so look … in terms … it is interesting because when looking at it historically wet nursing, they of course would have this criteria for picking women so how did their breast look, how did their nipples look … those physical markers that now we know don’t matter but back then it was a big deal. But really … I mean, look, first of all what this is about really comes down to the comfort level that the woman who is donating her milk or either wet nursing how she feels about it and how the woman who is receiving or the baby who is receiving, you know, what is important to the woman - to both women and it is really a relationship working together on this.
And with wet nursing in particular because I just of the top of my head I don’t know anyone who has had wet nurse the whole time that her baby was breastfeeding; I only know of people who have cross nursed. But with cross nursing and when you talked about supply, even I mean look, for a mom who has low supply what is going to be the best way that her supply increases is of course breastfeeding another baby, I mean, talk about a great way to get your milk supply pumped up.
If it is a matter of you just needing to remove more milk to make more milk, of course, there are many different reasons why a woman might not make enough but if that is the issue, then of course getting another baby on there so even supply would be very unlikely for a woman who was struggling with supply in the first place would be raising her hand to be a wet nurser or cross nurser.
But really, like I spoke about before it is really about understanding the risk, knowing the diet, knowing what is important for the woman who is going to be doing it and the woman who is actually looking for a wet nurse and having those conversations about what is important for each person. And it is very individual sort of situation of what is important to you.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah absolutely, that is great advice too and like we said I believe at the top of the show is that this isn’t for everybody and some people as they are listening to this episode quite frankly might be a little grossed out and that is okay, that is probably a good sign that this is not for you. But for the other moms out there that want to give and help in a different way or that need help, this could be something that is beneficial for them which is exactly why we wanted to do this episode.
So Meg Nagle, thanks so much for being with us today and being our expert in the second half of this. Jessica, I really appreciate your time as well; I know you are a busy momma and then also earlier in the show we had Dr. Janet Golden. Ladies, this has been a great conversation and I certainly appreciate all the information that you have given me as well as our listeners.
So if you are a member of The Boob Group Club, please check out our bonus content for this episode; we are going to talk about how to handle comments from friends and family who might not be so supportive of your decision to wet nurse or cross nurse because again, there is a little bit of a social stigma that is tied to this, right? So for more information about our club, visit our website at www.newmommymedia.com
SUNNY GAULT: Okay, we have a question from one of our listeners and this comes from Danielle. Danielle writes:
Hi, my son is 16 weeks and he is fully breastfed. From week two, we have been using nipple shields due to very sore, cracked nipples. I breastfed my eldest son for 18 months so I knew something was wrong with my son’s latch. Finally at week 6, he was diagnosed with a tongue tie. Over the last ten weeks, I’ve tried to get him to latch without the shield. He will go on for a little bit but it is not too strong and it still hurts. Also, over the last ten weeks, he has gained weight very randomly ranging from 2 to 7 ounces per week and he is now at the .4 percentile. He has lots of wet and dirty nappies, feeds about one to three hourly per day and night and he is content and very happy. I am starting to worry that I am being too selfish or stubborn as I really do not want to supplement with formula. I do breast compressions every feed and lately, he has been refusing the shield. He also looks healthy and has a double chin and nice rolls in his legs. What should I do regarding supplementation? Thank you.
HELEN ANDERSON: Hey Danielle. This is Helen Anderson. I am a registered nurse, lactation educator and I am one of the experts here at New Mommy Media. I was listening to your question and it sounds like you have a healthy baby that is doing pretty well but you still have some concerns. So you mentioned that he has wet and dirty diapers enough that you are not concerned, so that is wonderful. A double chin, he is looking healthy and well-fed - that is also great.
The nipple shield of course may be cause for concern but it sounds like that is resolving itself and so that is great, I think your breastfeeding experience is really helping you out in that area because you kind of know what to expect and you know you want to move him out of the nipple shield and that is great. Place on the growth curve, you said he is a .4 percentile. So that is of course a little low but what we look for is consistency on the growth curve so if he was born at the 50th percentile and then he slips down to the 20th, that is a cause for concern.
However, if he is born at the 7th percentile and he stays at the 7th percentile, then that is not something that we get too excited about because we see that he is staying consistent? So that is something you probably want to watch. Also at your doctor’s appointment, you mentioned that he does have inconsistent weight gain, be sure you are using the same scale each time to weigh your baby. Be sure they are weighing him without a diaper and any other clothing.
Those can cause variations in recorded weight gain even when there aren’t really any. And also babies could be going through growth spurts, different levels of activity so there are quite a few reasons actually why we would see variations in weight gain. But as long as he is gaining weight at a rate that your doctor is happy with, I think that you are fine, keep being consistent with your breast compressions, with your breastfeeding and I think that your concerns will probably resolve themselves.
It sounds like your baby is getting enough to eat. If you do have any questions, please talk to your pediatrician but it sounds like the warning signs of a baby that is not getting enough to eat are not there. We would see fewer wet and dirty diapers, we would see a body that is looking like it is not getting enough to eat and we would see a lot of hunger queues and it sounds like those warning signs are not present in your baby. So keep doing what you are doing but definitely keep communicating with your doctor. Okay, thanks. Good luck.
SUNNY GAULT: So that wraps up our show for today. Thanks so much for listening to The Boob Group! I want to remind everybody that next week Priya Nembhard is joining our show. She is our new host for The Boob Group. So I am so excited to have her on the show. I will be here as well, but she is going to be leading things, and she is fabulous in her own right. So I am so excited that she is joining The Boob Group! If you guys want to say to Priya on social media that will be great. I will pass along all that information to her. You can find her on Moms Pump Here, on Facebook and Twitter. So Priya is taking over next week!
Don’t forget to check out our sister show:
∞ Preggie Pals for expecting parents
∞ Newbies for newly postpartum moms
∞ Parent Savers for moms and dads withtoddlers and
∞ Twin Talks for parents with multiples.
This is The Boob Group where moms know breast!
This has been a New Mommy Media production. The information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are believed to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.
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