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Would You Breastfeed Someone Else's Baby?

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There is a long history of women breastfeeding other women's children (as in the wet nurse), and this practice still goes on in many parts of the world -- including pockets of the U.S. We wanted to know what YOU thought! 

woman breastfeeding her baby

I have breastfed someone else's baby (my cousin's) while she was learning to breastfeed. I was a health freak during and after my pregnancy, so she was okay with it as far as my diet goes. We also hoped that this would help her baby learn how to latch on. I would consider letting a very close friend or family member breastfeed my baby. - Christina

Not sure if this is something I'd feel comfortable with. You just never know what other people's health history is. People don't always "share" everything. - Thelma Tiemann

I wouldn't, I don't want anyone but me bonding with my baby in that way. - Miranda Lamb

Absolutely not. That would be as devastating as letting my friend have sex with my man. It's a personal bonding thing.... I'm actually in awe of the people who wouldn't mind. Not to say they are wrong ... it's just not my thing. - Mary

With so many opinions and ideas floating around, we asked Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson to weigh in on the subject:

There is a long history of women breastfeeding other women's children (as in the wet nurse), and this practice still goes on in many parts of the world -- including pockets of the U.S. It happens for a number of reasons. In developing countries, women may help breastfeed other women's children because there is simply no access to nutrition -- in some parts of the world, it's not like they can grab a bottle of formula. This system has evolved out of utter necessity. But in other places, women choose to use the breast milk of other women (sometimes pumped and given in a bottle, sometimes not) because they believe the health benefits outweigh the risks.

There are many infections that can be transmitted through the breast milk, like hepatitis and HIV. Breast milk also contains metabolites (break-down products) of various drugs and chemicals that the lactating woman has ingested. So even the most well-intended woman may be exposing her child to something unknowingly. I worry about these health implications, particularly the risk of passing infections. There are breast milk banks where mothers can purchase pre-screened breast milk, and this certainly adds a layer of safety. But it comes at a steep price, and most parents cannot afford to purchase this milk exclusively.

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9 comments so far | Post a comment now
BW June 23, 2009, 3:53 PM

If it were a really desperate situation, I think I could. But probably not for my neighbor or something, family only. I don’t get why this bugs people so much. It’s common in a lot of places and has been for centuries. What the heck do you think they did before formula?

MerrieWay June 23, 2009, 4:06 PM

Breastfeeding is an auto- immune boost for baby in up to six-twelve months.
As a mom, I didn’t have enough milk for over three months. It’s a wonderful bonding with baby - I’d exclude a wet nurse. MerrieWay muses: breast feeding baby beyond nine months (some Moms feed up to three years) Yippes! Overkill for you and baby,unless you are stranded on a remote island.

Think about it June 23, 2009, 5:09 PM

No matter what our feelings about cross-bresatfeeding are, isn’t it interesting we have no problem giving formula from random cows living on a huge dairy that has then been cooked, pulverized, canned, and shipped?

Selfish Mom June 23, 2009, 5:48 PM

Sorry “Think about it” not the same thing at all. To me it’s not about the milk, it’s about the packaging. The babies aren’t crawling under a cow and latching onto the udder.

RachelAZ June 23, 2009, 6:04 PM

Nope, and I would never let someone else BF my baby. If baby truly needed BM, there are milk banks. But IMO, formula doesn’t kill and people need to get over being so BFding crazzzzzzzzy!!!!

Jen June 23, 2009, 6:28 PM

No way! HIV can be transmitted through breastmilk. That’s enough for me.

Amanda June 23, 2009, 6:56 PM

no thanks.

Stephanie June 23, 2009, 8:59 PM

I would have no problem with breastfeeding someone elses baby. I would also have no problem having someone else breastfeed my baby given the right medical information. I would rather it be only occasional, for bonding purposes though.

Maple June 24, 2009, 11:09 PM

I agree with MerrieWay . Great post

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