Thursday, July 31, 2008


Did you guys see the piece on cross-nursing that aired on Good Morning America a few days ago? According to the report, this is a "growing trend" amongst breastfeeding moms. If you don't know, "cross-nursing" is just a fancy term for breastfeeding another woman's baby. Obviously it's been going on for centuries. The aristocracy and southern slave owner's wives used wet nurses because breastfeeding was only for the lower class. Breastfeeding has always been seen as déclassé and when formula was invented at the turn of the century, opting to bottle feed was seen as a way of becoming (or appearing) middle class.
My own grandmother, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, was a wet nurse of sorts. Back in the old country, one of her neighbors didn't produce any milk when she had her first child, so my grandmother would express her milk into glass jars and give it to the woman. If she hadn't done that, that baby would've died. There was no formula to be had, and even if it had been available, no one would have been able to afford it. (It's interesting to note that by the time my grandmother arrived in America and had my mom, she opted for formula--even though they were still poor).
So no, this is nothing new, but is it seriously falling back into favor? Do you know anyone who does this? My gut-reaction to the piece was "gross." I can't imagine under what circumstances I would want another woman to nurse my son. Even if, heaven forbid, something happened to me, I don't think I'd want my baby nursing with someone else (although, interestingly enough, I wouldn't hesitate to nurse a baby who was hungry if there was no other food source available).
I think the idea that this is somehow a way for women to bond seems sort of silly. Don't women bond by having a glass of wine and discussing their lives? Am I wrong? Is my knee-jerk revulsion off-base? Breastfeeding is beautiful, but it's such a personal and intimate bond with your baby. I wouldn't want to let anyone in on the sweetness of my breastfeeding relationship with my son.

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