Wet Nurses Are Good News for Babies & Bad News for Formula Companies

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breastfeedingWhen you’re pregnant, deciding to breastfeed your baby is one of the most important decisions a mother can make. But here’s another decision to add to the mix – do you do the breastfeeding yourself or hire someone else to do it for you?

I admit that my first reaction to an article titled “The Return of the Wet Nurse” on AOL was a bit of outrage. A wet nurse may be the only good choice for a mom who for some medical reason can’t breastfeed but wants to give her baby breast milk, but when they started talking about busy career women and Hollywood celebrities who just don’t have time to do it themselves, I admit I started feeling a bit judgey.

The more I think about it, however, the more I think it could be a great option. We outsource everything else these days, why not breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful bonding experiences between a mother and a child ... when it works. But even for those with the best of intentions, sometimes it just doesn't. A job, other children, and plenty of other obstacles can get in the way to a child being breastfed. It's nice in theory to say nothing is more important than giving your child breast milk, but reality doesn't always cooperate with that ideal. So if someone has the means to overcome those obstacles and get that vitally important breast milk for their child via a wet nurse, then good for them.

That said, it's not something I would ever do. The money aside, I just can't imagine anyone other than myself giving my child that special gift. It would be too intimate and, frankly, just too weird for me. I'd rather give my child formula than let someone else breastfeed her. I understand if you're feeling judgey now, but I'm being honest.

In general, however, I think this "trend" is a boon for the whole "breast is best" movement. It certainly is a good sign that the importance of breast milk is being realized if people are willing to go to such extreme lengths to get it for their children anyway they can. So regardless of how you feel about people outsourcing breastfeeding on an individual basis, that's at least something we can all celebrate.

What do you think about people hiring wet nurses?


Image via Daquella manera/Flickr

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72 Comments

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Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I think it's a second best option for women who genuinely can not breastfeed due to either an inability to produce milk or a medical condition or drugs that would make their breast milk unsafe. Another woman's milk is never going to be as good as the mother's milk but it's a lot better than formula.

nonmember avatar Stacey.

Gross! My baby drinking in another woman's bodily fluid sounds disgusting. FormulA may not be as good as breast milk but it by no means is bad for the baby.

nonmember avatar werty

The bonding is more important, so why not have someone donate breast milk and feed it myself than have my baby bond with another woman, though, honestly donated breast milk is not for me, so I would choose to formula feed and have that bonding time myself.

nonmember avatar zizzler

our most recent baby gets donated breast milk by bottle. I don't really buy the whole breast feeding bond thing, so I'd let someone else nurse her directly. That used to be the norm! Wet nurses were once status quo. I don't think there's anything wrong with having a wet nurse just because you can and because you're rich. It's just like how rich stay at home moms still hire nannies. That's called the good life, ppl, hahahaa

the4m... the4mutts

Uuh yah, I agree with you. Formula > wet nurse if you can't get donated breast milk.

Unless we're in some bad movie script, post apocalyptic, and my kid is starving, then the only boob in my kids' mouth will be mine

regen... regenbogenpilz

SO Stacy, do you drink cows milk?  or eat cheese or yogurt?  Because EWWWW bodily fluid from a ANIMAL!  I would gladly feed another woman's baby from my own breast or give her expressed milk.  What do you think people did before formula?  It's only become "disgusting" since the invent of formula.  It was good enough for Royalty to have all their children fed by another woman.  It is not unheard of in other countries.  Just because American is so "developed" deosn't mean we are above feeding someone elses baby.  It's HUMAN and we should all be doing all we can to give what we can to other humans.  Especially the babies and children who do not yet have a voice of their own.  They deserve the best that can be provided, whether that be wet nursing or not.  

xreds... xredstarsx

I feel its a great thing if you can't nurse them yourself. My mother actually had a wet nurse when she was a baby. She spent the first 5 years of her life in the hospital with many surgeries. My grandma had under developed mammary glands so she hired a real nurse to stay with my mom and nurse her in the hospital. My mom couldn't digest anything else for a long time and she would have died without this woman.

tyrel... tyrelsmom

I think I'd go for donor milk in a bottle, first. Out of selfishness, really. I want to feed my baby. But if I couldn't get that, but I could hire a wet nurse (some women just can't pump), I'd go for that over formula.

I HATE formula. My second was allergic to ALL of it. I ended up feeding him goat's milk. A few weeks ago when I was super sick and dehydrated and therefore not producing enough, and couldn't get a hold of donor milk on such short notice, I gave my baby some formula. Hello, fussy baby and watery green diarrhea. That stuff is crap for my kids. I refuse to even try it ever again. If I run into the same problems again I'll supplement with goats milk if I can't get human milk. At least that's natural. Even if it's meant for little goats rather than little people. Have you ever read the ingredient list on a can of formula?

nonmember avatar knowthefacts

Currently, the La Leche League discourages wet nursing and cross nursing because

There is a chance of transmitting disease in the breast milk
The composition of breast milk is different depending on the age of the baby. Thus a wet nurse with a 6 month old child will have milk that is best for a 6 month old. This milk would not be optimal for a newborn.
The birth-mother’s milk-supply will decrease if she gives the baby to someone else to breast feed. This is especially true in the case of multiple births.
The mother and baby will not experience the special mother to child bonding that occurs during breastfeeding.

hutch... hutchfam2007

Yeah, I would be worried about my baby catching a blood transmitted disease from the wet nurse... either I will BF my child or it will be formula. JMO...

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