So I read a really, really interesting article today.
It was something my mum showed me and asked my thoughts on and thought I would like. I think it really interested me because it’s something that may or may not be something that has happened to many new mums, but certainly in my circle the idea has been thrown around.
Have you heard about a wet nurse?
A wet nurse is a woman who breast feeds and cares for another’s child. Wet nurses are employed when the mother is unable or chooses not to nurse the child herself. Wet-nursed children may be known as “milk-siblings”, and in some cultures the families are linked by a special relationship of milk kinship.
The part I didn’t know about a wet nurse, is the second part of the definition, about the bond and milk siblings, and I quite like it. The reason this article really caught my attention is because in my small circle of 3 mums (including myself), we have all had vastly different experiences with pregnancy, childbirth and raising our babes. As everyone has, I’m sure.
One of my friends babies has had a lot of trouble feeding and latching since the start, and the others milk came in within 24 hours because her baby fed so frequently. Now, the one who originally had a lot of trouble is storing her milk (her baby is primarily formula and he has one boob milk drink a day, but from a bottle), expressing once or twice a day.
This kid loves all milk. Boob, bottle, hot or cold.
When I shifted house recently, I was stressed, busy and on the actual moving days, only seeing Evie when it was time to feed. Come night time she was screaming from hunger and I realised I no longer was feeling full at all. My reaction was to grab some formula to supplement with for the night feeds, and when discussing this amongst my girlfriends I was quickly offered some of her frozen milk.
What would you do?
At the time I said no – I managed to calm down, drink more water, spend more time with Evie, my friend gave me some breastfeeding tablets and my supply has come back up (but I still do give her a formula bottle before bed now, and it’s not as great as it used to be). I didn’t put a lot of thought into it because I wasn’t desperate as this was a one off situation, but it is a .. different situation to be in right?
Whereas in hindsight, and if I was offered again and needed it for anyone other reason, I would say yes.
Can feed herself
Boob milk is (generally) boob milk. My friend lives a very healthy life, doesn’t smoke, and her bub is gorgeous and growing.
So in this day where there is so much mum bashing over formula v breastmilk, why is the wet nurse topic not being discussed more?
If someone has a great milk supply, like I did when Evie was younger, why are we not offering it to friends, family and anyone who needs a helping hand? There was two mums in my mothers group of 13 people who were really struggling with breastfeeding, and whilst I felt sorry for them, and huge admiration at the incredible lengths they were going to, to be able to breastfeed (tablets, medication, pumping, lactation consultants, the list goes on), I never once offered them my milk, even though I would wake up covered in milk if Evie slept too long.
“Breastmilk feeding is the biological norm and breastmilk is a perfectly balanced source of nutrition. It is a living substance, more complex than blood, and it contains a variety of nutrient and immunological factors that cannot be replicated. It is instantly absorbed and with positive immediate and long term health outcomes, it is the most beneficial food for infants.” states the Mothers Milk Bank, an Australian organisation helping collect and distribute breast milk. In an article I found about two friends who nursed for each other one said,
“I think a lot of people will say..’I could never have someone elses milk’ yet people don’t even think twice about formula that is a from a cow that is meant to grow a calf,”. They don’t even think about how weird that is. Yet accepting breast milk from another woman is seen as weird.”
So, please. Read this article. It’s sweet, fraught with sadness and elatement and understanding. I’m pro-CHOICE on the subject of parenting in general, especially the way we feed our babies. I mix feed my own babe. But for the mums not so lucky to have any breast milk, and desperately want this as an option, then why shouldn’t it be more acceptable and spoken about?
“My son had nursed well and was now peaceful in my arms. Miranda acted like it was no big deal. The idea that women have a hair-trigger for jealousy, that we despise each other as a matter of course, is a toxic hangover from adolescence. I felt no envy when I saw Miranda nurse my son. I longed to be able to nurse my baby, but I only felt fortunate that someone else could and did. I wondered aloud why we hadn’t just done this sooner. I kicked myself for waiting so long. Miranda laughed. “You weren’t ready,” she shrugged.”
One thought on “An ancient, common occupation – Wet Nursing.”
This is very interesting. Great post.