Saturday, March 03, 2007


I just came across a few interesting articles about cross-nursing (nursing other people's babies): "Breast Friends" and a response to the article: "She Breastfed My Son." I also found this British article called "Not Your Mother's Milk."

I've never thought it was weird, but I guess some people really freak out at the idea. My little sis in fact has a good friend due around the same time, and they've talked about nursing each others' babies if the need arises. For example, if they are watching each others' kids and the other baby becomes hungry, they will simply nurse the baby!

It's something I wouldn't do with a stranger or casual acquaintance, for health reasons. But with close friends or siblings, I wouldn't even blink if they asked me to. In fact I would be honored.

Donating breastmilk is similar, but since it's not given directly from the source, people don't have as much of the "yuck" reaction.

Would you do this for a friend or sibling? Would you mind if your friend nursed your own baby?


  1. I agree with you: I wouldn't do it for a stranger, but a friend or relative, sure. I also wouldn't mind if a friend or relative nursed my baby. Better than a bottle that's for sure! I think it's a great idea. :)


  2. My best friend and I have also discussed this issue and we both agree that nursing each other's children is better than the alternatives. We know each other's health status etc. and trust each other to make those decisions. Heck, we are trusting our children with each other in the first place, I think my friend's intuition to nurse my baby should the need arise would be equally trustworthy, kwim? I donated 60 ounces of my milk to a sick baby on the other side of the country (I overnighted it in a cooler) and it was the most honored I have been in a long time. Although I don't know the mom in person I had known her for ages through the net (her baby was born the same day as mine, he would have been 3 yesterday). Isn't formula considered by the AAP to be the 4th best thing for a baby, the first three being mom's milk from her breast, expressed and then the third being another mother's milk? The order may be wrong but I know another mother's milk is higher up on the list than formula though.

  3. I would have no problem nursing another woman's baby but I would be cautious about another woman nursing my baby. I would be concerned with that woman's diet - specifically if she ate dairy or meat. I'm vegan and will be staying vegan while pregnant and brestfeeding.


  4. I would have no problem with it if the woman was healthy and was a friend or relative. In that case, I would be honored.

  5. I actually have nursed another woman's child twice. Once was a friend's, and one was my sister's. The children weren't really sure what to think, I think because my smell was different from their moms', but it worked. I was honored to have the opportunity, and if I remember correctly at least one of my children has nursed from my sister. I'm not bugged at all by it, and it is much better than formula.

  6., 2:06 PM

    I agree with the previous posters - I'd much rather my babe be nursed by a friend/relative than given formula. I also wouldn't hesitate to nurse a friend/relative's baby (with permission). I'd have more trouble feeding a loved one a bottle!

  7., 2:16 PM

    Editing my previous post to add (now that I've read the articles), I'm not sure I'd see any reason to cross-nurse "just because we can," like in the first article. I was thinking more of if mom's not around, or injured...or some other case like that.

  8. I'd do it if it was ok with the other Mom and was friend/family. I wouldn't assume that people would be ok with me doing it otherwise.

  9. Well my sister and I always joke about having children for our other sisters. So I guess if you are okay with that, then breastfeeding is no biggie.

    I think I would breastfeed for a friend or sister. Although it might be weird for the cousins when they grow up and you started telling stories. Talk about crazy family stories!!!


  10. I hate to say this without providing an exact citation (it was during a lecture by Professor Laura Padilla Walker), but in my Child Development Class, I learned an interesting fact while learning about all the merits of breastmilk. Apparently, each mother's breastmilk is specifically composed for her child. The makeup of the milk is "enginneered" for that specific baby. A mother's milk changes with every new child. I thought that was very neat. So, the point I am making is if a mother is able, her breastmilk is superior (a least for that child) to any other woman's breastmilk.


  11. In response to the previous poster...

    I find what you said about a mother's milk being a different composition for each child to be very interesting. I had heard that once before, and I certainly experienced it with my kids. The main thing I noticed was that when I pumped, more cream rose to the top for my oldest son than with my others. This was helpful since he had so many health challenges for his first two years. He nursed the longest, and I was grateful to know that I was giving the absolute best food that I possibly could.

  12. This is fascinating because it begs the question HOW the mother's body knows what her nursling needs? Beyond the obvious, like length of gestation.

    Here's another wet-nursing idea: my baby was not a very cooperative nurser after the newborn stage. Just a personality issue, but my supplies became very low, making our problem worse. Nursing him more frequently was just as likely to cause frustration and aversion as it was to increase milk supply. Pumping did nothing for me. Having another, eager baby to put to my breast may have made a huge difference in my being able to maintain my supply over those month long nursing strikes (I dried up by 10 months.)

    At the time, I was wishing for a bigger better milking machine, but now it's obvious to me that one more nursling could have done the job much better! If not for the social taboo. The pumps and bottles are inferior contraptions solely designed to prevent unapproved physical contact btw a lactating woman and babies not her own.

    I read a lot of cool historical/social stuff on wetnursing in the book reviewed here:

  13. In the spirit of accuracy...I emailed Dr. Walker asking her about the composition of breastmilk question and she told me that it was just something her doctor told her, that she has seen it in other texts, but she does not know if there has been studies regarding that statement. So, it might or might not be an accurate assesment of breastmilk.

  14. i would do it and allow it to be done by a friend. i know my milk is best because my breast responds day by day to germs in my baby. but if i werent there for a nursing- what harm could it do?

    however, in 4.5 years and 3 children, i have never needed to give a bottle or pump. (though i have pumped and shaed milk with another mother).


  15. I'd do it for a friend and there are a few friends that I know would do it for me... even with twins.

  16. I wouldn't have a problem with it if it was a close friend or relative.

    caralyn, I hope you're supplementing B12 - exclusively breastfed babies of vegan mothers have been irreversably brain-damaged by B12 deficiencies, and have even died. Here are a couple of links: link 1 and link 2 and link 3 and finally this guide for vegans.

    It's really, really important that you monitor your B12 levels carefully and take supplements, as even a SLIGHT B12 deficiency in you can cause irreversable neurological damage in your breastfed baby.

  17. Thanks for the info Rebekka. I have researched the vegan diet extensively however and have no concerns about B12 deficiency.



  18. I would do it for sure. I would nurse a sister or freind's baby if the mom wanted me to.

    I have been breastfeeding my four kids consecutively since 1997 and used a pump probably five times ever, for engourgement relief.

    This country makes me sick and sad that this is like some grod dark secret. Good for you for talking about it! Then breastfeeding momsd might be able to get away from baby for 45 minutes trip to doctor or something without worrying about bottles, nipple confusion, etc.

    I am not all about "gettin away from the baby" (not until they are toddlers! Then watch me bolt for that chance to go to the market alone!) but I hate bringing little tiny babies to places like doctors offices, especially when one of the older kids is sick. If I knew another nursing mom who would be willing to sit with 2 babies, that would be so neat.

    Love your blog. Beautiful stories and baby!

  19. I don't comment here often.. but I really enjoy you're blog Rixa. I came here thru a friend a few months ago. I had a few things to say -

    firt I agree with Rebekkah with the concerns of a vegan diet. but i see the mom replied that she is confident in hr diet so what more can I say really? aside from me seeing a lack of meat/ b12 has definately caused neurologial/devlopmental issues with my child. and i ate meat but I feel it but it was not good organic sources and I believe I was b12 deficient while pregnant. just something to think about...

    anyhow about the shared nursing - I am unsure how I feel about this. Having given formula as a supplement to my youngest daughter when she was having some health problems that cause nursing problems I understand why people do it. I also saw the nasty effects of it on her health. (long story) and I would never ever view formula as a viable option for food if i had another child. period. I also can't say I know any other lactating woman well enough that I would feel comfortable having her breastfeed my kid. infact I don't even know one I can think of. one friend I know would is a vegan and i have huge issues with that like I said. If I knew someone I felt that I knew well enough (or a sibling?) I would consider it for sure! This would be the best option.

    I have given this great thought. if i have another kid (which I don't plan to) and I died or was ill an could not BF what would I do?

    donormilk is not an great option in my opinion as they pastuerized it which I feel takes away almost all that make is so superior. sure it may be gentle on their tummies but that isn't my only concern.

    I think I would make my own "formula" ( my husband know this incase I woul/my husband could find another resource for human milk. To have milk from someone i don't know I would need them to be tested to make sure they are "healthy" and not passing anything on to my child that could be harmful or I would not feel right about it. If my child was old enough I would just do the homemade formula and switch to raw cows/goats milk and not worry about her being nursed by another mama if I dind't know one.

    that was really long winded, sorry!


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