January 20, 2012

MAMMALS

I dreamed last night that we were snowed in and stranded, so I nursed a friend's baby. Which reminded me of something I hadn't thought of in a long time, which is the time I DID nurse a friend's baby.

We were out shopping with our babies, far from home; she'd forgotten her diaper bag; we were considering whether she wanted to buy a pack of bottles and a can of formula and then try to wash the new items and mix a bottle in the bathroom; and while we were talking over the options we went to the baby section and found the store was out of the kind of formula she needed. My friend remarked how convenient breastfeeding must be for me at times like this: there's no way to forget the bottles, no way to be out of the formula, no need to ask a restaurant employee for some warm water. We discussed if we needed to just abandon the outing and go home, or if we should load the babies back into the car and drive to another store to get the formula.

I think I was the one who raised the idea. I said something like "Too bad I can't just nurse her!" And there was a little pause as I waited for my friend to be grossed out and she waited for me to be grossed out, and neither of us was grossed out so we thought we would just go ahead and try it: maybe the baby wouldn't be willing, and then we'd abandon our plans for the day and drive to another store that had her formula, or stay here and get a different kind of formula, or WHATEVER, but in any case we'd call those Plans B and C and D, and now we had a Plan A.

I'd often mulled the idea of nursing someone else's baby, and of course until very recent times such things used to be commonplace. Whenever I was nursing a baby of my own I'd wish it were possible to offer "Breastfeeding Daycare," where I'd take care of someone else's baby and also nurse the baby during the day. That would work great, if weekends wouldn't then be kind of a problem---and if it were legal, which considering the extremely strict regulations for childcare services I'm guessing it isn't. (And can you imagine calling around to find out?)

With my fifth baby, I'd become pretty immune to The Alleged Magic and Wonder of Breastfeeding. Hum de hum, shirt up, latch the baby on, sit there and read a book while ordinary biology does its ordinary thing, done and done. But nursing someone else's child brought the stun factor back into it: I am FEEDING THIS BABY. We are MAMMALS. MAMMALS!

49 comments:

d e v a n said...

How did it go? Did the baby comply?
i've always been curious about this.

Swistle said...

d e v a n- The baby did great. She wasn't even particularly fazed, which surprised me because she'd only been bottle-fed. My body was a little more fazed: the milk took quite awhile to let down. I should have nursed baby Henry first on one side, and then nursed the other baby on the other side.

Kalendi said...

I love this story! I (who have never had a baby) think breastfeeding is wonderful for those who can and want to. I love that you had no problem with nursing a friend's baby!

amyella said...

I love this story and so glad you shared it!! I am just about to have my first baby (in FIVE WEEKS!) and for me personally formula is not an option (Can I re-emphasize that this is just a "for me personally because that's how I feel for me and my family and it has nothing to do with judgements about anyone else's decisions for them and their families.")

I've considered a scenario where I might have trouble nursing or for some medical reason couldn't nurse and I believe my personal only other option would be to find a milk bank that provides (screened and tested) breast milk from other women. These banks are not so easy to find and I wish they were more readily available, aka, I wish it were more socially recognized that breastfeeding is natural, because (as you pointed out) WE ARE MAMMALS.

erin said...

I've always wondered how that would work. I'm nursing my baby right now (almost a year! woo!) and have joked to my sister, who is FF her son, that I was going to nurse him. I mean, I wouldn't really do that without consent, but there is this part of me that wonders how it would go.

I have also used the line "We're just mammals" when talking about breastfeeding with my mom, who FF all of her children. I'm always like, "Well, it's the biological norm" and so on. I do not have to defend myself as much anymore, but every once in a while, I have to get my lactivist on.

All this to say, it is very cool that you did this.

Erin said...

And this reminded me of one time when Calum was a baby, and his daycare accidentally fed a bottle of my breastmilk TO ANOTHER CHILD. it did not bother me at all, but the other mom was NOT PLEASED. and the poor childcare worker looked like she wanted to die from the horror of having to admit to this.

I remember thinking at tge time that if I were her, I would have kept that mistake to myself. No harm, no foul.

Slim said...

I was once among a group of parents watching the babies at daycare while the teachers were in a meeting, and someone else's baby was waiting for a bottle and in the interim letting me know quite clearly that she knew I was packin' the breastmilk. It would have been easier to nurse than to wait for the bottle to warm, and by kid 3, I had no sense of bodily privacy, if you will. But I gave her a bottle.

Diane said...

This is something I've thought about a lot, and I wouldn't have ANY problem nursing someone else's baby or someone else nursing mine. Well, I guess I can't let anyone else nurse Leo because of his corn sensitivity and my damn restrictive diet, but if that weren't an issue, then nurse away! I'm glad you brought this up, because it will be interesting to hear everyone's feelings on the topic. No one wants to be the WEIRD person, but I think probably more would be fine with it than not.

StephLove said...

My youngest had to stay in the hospital for 5 days after birth with severe jaundice and I had to check out after 2 days so I pumped and brought her milk to her. At one point the nurses let me know they didn't need any more because I was bringing enough for the whole nursery. I wished at the time I could just say, "Well, give it to them then," because it seemed a shame to let it go to waste when it was right there in their refrigerator and some of the babies were drinking formula. I didn't, though.

Maureen said...

I think this used to be pretty common in certain levels of society. In England at least, it wasn't quite the "done" thing to nurse your child, so you hired someone else to do it. They were called the wet nurse. I believe it was also done if someone was unable physically to breastfeed, so I imagine this only seems to be a different concept since the advent of formula.

Kira said...

I nursed a friend's baby once. Actually, we had babies 12 days apart, and we swapped them, just to see.
It was not as big of a deal as I would have expected. We were camping out in a motel room, forming an exit strategy for her from her abusive husband, and I think we just wanted to think about something else.
"I'd become pretty immune to The Alleged Magic and Wonder of Breastfeeding." Love that. Yes, exactly.

Sarah said...

Now nursing baby #3, this is something I've often thought about. I would totally nurse someone else's baby should the need ever arise. I've read some interesting stories about moms doing this during natural disasters. Salma Hayek breastfed a baby in Sierra Leone to help overcome cultural stereotypes there which I thought was cool. But I can only imagine that the general public would FREAK. I know people who think it's weird that I've TRIED my own milk. But really, isn't it more strange that we drink milk well into adulthood meant for a baby cow?

Alice said...

as someone who has never produced a child, i find this SO COOL. i can pretty much guarantee that if i DO ever have milk coming out of the ol' boobs, i will totally taste it. and i find breastfeeding in general sort of awe-inspiring, just in the general "you are keeping a human child ALIVE! with your BOOBS!" sense.

Nicole said...

That is really really cool.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if people ever used to make cheese out of breastmilk. I guess this is taking this conversation one step further. I just imagine that over the course of history this would have been done at some point.

OK - so my quick internet search shows that the fat levels of breast milk would be somewhere between goat and sheep's milk and higher than cow's milk. This makes me think that it could be done.

Anonymous said...

At least I'll have company in the looney bin. It has been done before.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/03/09/breast-milk-cheese.html

Christy said...

Anonymous - I know that (in London, I think?) there was a controversy a while back over an ice cream shop that had made ice cream from human breastmilk. Based on that, I wouldn't think cheese would be an issue.

Anyway, I think it's so cool that you've done that, Swistle. I don't think I'd hesitate if there was a need. I can't believe how grossed out some people are by breast milk.

phancymama said...

What an awesome story. I would totally do that too, if the situation arose. I do wonder how I would have felt if my infant, who was only breastfed by me, nursed from someone else. Would I have gotten possessive or jealous? Huh.

Also, my spouse is one of those guys who sometimes worries, wonders, prepares for a natural disaster where we couldn't get food, etc. I have often thought, well if that happens, then as long as I'm nourished and hydrated, I can produce food! Perhaps not a reliable emergency preparedness, but still!

Monique said...

I never nursed any other than my own, but I'd never have a problem with it, or with mine being nursed by another. My husband's step mother is from one of those huge families, like 12 kids or something. When she was pregnant with her first child her mother was also pregnant with something like the 11th or 12th kid. She helped her mom with all the kids and nursed her little brother along with her own baby all the time. To this day it makes him squick when she says it! It's even funnier because they're 60 and 80 years old now. And my word verification? sowliti. Sow? Really?

cakeburnette said...

I am completely confused that people think this is an issue, although I suspect my own husband would've been grossed out if I let someone else nurse one our ours or if I'd nursed someone else's kid. I guess I'm with you about the 'hey it's here and convenient, what's the big deal.' I mean, you would give another baby your kids' bottle of formula without a second thought, right?

Gah, the ridiculousness surrounding the 'magic, mysticalness' of breastfeeding can be laughable. It's natural, it's free, and it's convenient. But if someone is skeeved out about it, that's okay, too. You have to find what works for you and your family. I was just cheap and lazy. ;)

Clarabella said...

Swistle, you are SO cool. That *totally* never occurred to me, personally, when I was feeding my FF infant & all my friends were nursing, but it wouldn't have bothered me in the least had the need arisen. In fact, I would've been so relieved had someone offered. (Formula was such a pain.)
(Also, NOT that I'm complaining, but I am honestly surprised (and PLEASED) at how cordial and NOT freaked out this comment thread is.) I put that in parentheses to make it not a jinx.

Suzanne said...

I am sad on a REGULAR BASIS that wet nurse is no longer a job. I am a milk machine and used to wish for an extra baby to nurse just so I wouldn't leak through my shirt so quickly. Your idea for breastfeeding daycare is genius and I may perhaps suggest it quietly to any of my friends who happen to be pregnant the next time I have a newborn.

JeannetteLS said...

It is wonderful that you thought of doing the most natural thing in the world, and that your friend recognized this as well. Sure, it could sometimes be a problem because of sensitivities or something... but I agree with Suzanne that it is a shame that being a wet nurse is not allowed. Some moms cannot breast feed and might wish that their baby could get HUMAN nutrients, antibodies, etc.

And I would think it could only enrich what clearly was already a rich friendship. A lovely story that just made me tear up a little bit. Not sure why, but it was in a good way.

Jess said...

one of my friends recently had a baby, and the first time she nursed her at home her older son (who has autism and knows all things animals) said to her, "congratulations, you are a mammal!"

Anonymous said...

My cousin and I had babies 2 days apart. Her baby refused to take a bottle. I offered to watch her baby so she and her husband could have their first date in almost a year. She warned me that her baby would refuse the bottle. I joked and said, heck, I'll nurse her if she'll take it. My cousin laughed.

So of course she wouldn't take the bottle and after 30 minutes of shrieking I let her latch on. She took it and was happy. I told my husband to take OUR baby out of the room because I felt like I was cheating on him! It was like kissing another man, having her nurse from me.

My cousin was totally cool with it and was glad her baby got to eat.

-danish

Anonymous said...

My cousin and I had babies 2 days apart. Her baby refused to take a bottle. I offered to watch her baby so she and her husband could have their first date in almost a year. She warned me that her baby would refuse the bottle. I joked and said, heck, I'll nurse her if she'll take it. My cousin laughed.

So of course she wouldn't take the bottle and after 30 minutes of shrieking I let her latch on. She took it and was happy. I told my husband to take OUR baby out of the room because I felt like I was cheating on him! It was like kissing another man, having her nurse from me.

My cousin was totally cool with it and was glad her baby got to eat.

-danish

Marie Green said...

Two different women nursed Marin for me, because of a medical need. I had to have emergency surgery at midnight when Marin was 5 days old, after only being out of the hospital for less than a day. When the MRI showed I needed surgery, we were not allowed to go home a "pack" for the hospital, so there we were, stuck with a very understocked diaper bag that did NOT include enough diapers, bottles, or my breast pump. Two of my friends w/ babies showed up at the hospital and took care of my newborn while I was under.

I remember waking up and being upset (confused from anesthesia) and asking for my baby, and the nurse reassuring me, and then pausing and saying very carefully "Your baby... had a few... meals while you were in surgery..." It made me giggle b/c I think we scandalized the entire hospital. Whatever! We're just FEEDING A BABY. :)

liz said...

I am still leaking over 9 years after stopping pumping exclusively. Perhaps I should try to build the supply up again!

Jenny said...

My mother was one of the first women at her hospital in Providence, RI (1978) to take part in an experimental program to pump her extra milk and give it to babies whose mothers weren't producing enough for the babies to thrive. But she'd have nursed them, if necessary.

Anonymous said...

Both my sons had a hard time learning to latch on. My second had his tongue tie clipped - twice. In the meantime I pumped and pumped such an excess that I was able to donate it to two separate babies struggling with weight gain and nursing issues. If I didn't need to rent a hospital pump ($40/month) or clean the blasted pump parts I would probably still be pumping and donating milk. If you have extra milk, please donate it - its desperately needed (NICU pays milk banks $12/oz for breast milk). You can find a milk bank on-line or just ask around at your local midwifery clinic/ birth center. There are mamas and babies that will be eternally grateful for your generosity!

Bitts said...

So glad you wrote about this, Swistle! Shared nursing can be so convenient and healthy for the babies and mothers involved. It's too bad our culture looks askance at it -- if more people were doing it, it would go a long way to normalizing breastfeeding. You're so right -- it's not magical, it's just milk.

Sarah said...

Man, I am so with you about being Over the magic of breastmilk- it's just MILK, like any other kind of milk. What's the big deal if it's mine or yours or whoevers, as long as whoever isn't, you know, shooting heroin or drunk off her ass or something. I'd be totally fine with having a wet nurse on occasion. I have WISHED for it in fact, for my baby's sake- I am someone who always struggles with low supply and has always ended up resorting to a few bottles of my "emergency" formula within the first week of my newborns' lives because my milk doesn't seem to come in entirely until, like, a week after delivery no matter how 'round the clock I nurse them. I can't stand to see them hungry and miserable, so I'd end up letting someone give them a bit of formula while I pumped and pumped and tried to make nature kick in for me. Would have LOVED to have someone who could give them breast milk instead!
On another note, my sister and I have babies five months apart, and I've always joked about nursing them both when we're babysitting each other's kids. She's always totally horrified by the idea, and I just don't get it. It would be so easy! And we're SISTERS, even! What is the big deal?

Shalini said...

I am SO surprised the baby nursed! My bottle-fed boy refused to nurse (and vice versa). MAMMALS, they can NURSE? They know HOW? Impressed.

Guinevere said...

I'm impressed that the baby was able to transition to milk in a new container so quickly! Good work!

I also wish for a second baby around to get extra relief -- I'm about to go pump now.

As a former NICU mom, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to donate the 700 oz of milk that I've stashed in the freezer beyond what my baby is eating (he refuses bottles thus far), but I'm not eligible due to having spent just over 5 years living in Europe as a child in the early 80s. This is frustrating because I was strict a vegetarian during that entire time so my BSE risk is probably extraordinarily low, not to mention I have absolutely no signs 25 years later... but the rules are there, and not flexible, so I cannot be a donor. I'm trying to see if I can find parents who directly need milk who might be less stringent, though -- there are a couple of facebook sites (Eats on Feets and Human Milk For Human Babies) that basically allow you to find local parents who might want your excess milk (after doing any disease screening).

My wife donated her freezer stash from our first to a good friend with low supply who had a baby half a year after us... it was such a cool thing to be able to do!

As for someone else feeding my baby - if I knew they did not have any communicable diseases (HIV, TB, etc. can be transmitted through breastmilk) I would have absolutely no problem with it! It's just feeding them milk!

Joanne said...

Such a cute and fun story. I can just see you guys waiting for the other to be freaked out. I have always been jealous of my friends who are sisters and all had little babies at the same time, they used to switch off kids. I would do it with no problem. In fact, I'm sad I didn't think of finding some good nursing baby to nurse when my fourth baby had such trouble. I could have wet nursed another baby while mine got her act together!

HereWeGoAJen said...

I had a friend offer once. She was offering so that I could sleep, it wasn't really a major need. But I didn't really feel like I knew her well enough for her to be exchanging bodily fluids with my daughter, you know? Now, I have a few other friends that we are on the bodily fluids level that I wouldn't have minded.

Jessica said...

I am amazed a baby that had never nursed could pick it up so fast! Sure makes nipple confusion seem pretty unlikely.

As far as people talking about tasting breastmilk, I've drank my own. I almost never drink alcohol, so when I went out once and had two drinks I pumped instead of breastfeeding the rest of the night. (It wasn't pumping and dumping, per se, just pumping when I'd normally feed to keep my supply up.) Since the milk was unusable for my baby, I decided to drink it myself (the fact I was drunk may have played a part in this). The next day I had NO hangover at all and I wondered if the breastmilk had anything to do with it.

Wendy said...

My best friend and I both had the same due due date with our youngest kids... her son was born at the proper time and very healthy, and my daughter was born 5 weeks early and had some health issues. At 6 months old, it became clear that I had to stop nursing, but I was distraught because I felt my daughter needed me to continue. My best friend dutifully pumped a bottle for my daughter every single day for the next 3 months until we were out of cold and flu season. It's one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me and I'll never forget it!

distracted by genius said...

Great story! I'm glad your friend was up to give it a try.
I'm not sure how I'd feel seeing my baby nurse with someone else- I think I'd be a tiny bit jealous (maybe that's the first time mom in me talking?)! However, I held a friend's newborn last summer and was overwhelmed with a desire to nurse her- I have always made more than enough milk and she was rooting around in my arms and seemed so tiny and ready for a good meal. I definitely had an instinctual moment of thinking 'Time to nurse this baby!'.

Shana in Texas said...

Thanks for sharing this story! Mammals indeed! It is so sad/strange how we have gotten away from recognizing our animal selves and the village that raised our kids which included nursing hungry babies. Agreed that there is nothing magical about nursing a baby especially when your time is tallied in years!

Heehee! The captcha is Chste!!

M said...

I nursed my sister's baby when my mom and I were watching her one time. She wouldn't take a bottle and she was hungry! She latched on right away - no problem. :)

Michelle said...

This made me immediately think of the They Might Be Giants song "Mammals." Always good.
I am 19 weeks with baby #5. I'll nurse this one, like the other ones. I learned to BF in the NICU, where my twins stayed for 2 weeks. I had enough milk pumped and stored for them to feed the entire NICU. With baby #3, I ended up having to discontinue nursing (which made me very, very sad) due to a medical emergency that took a long time to resolve. If the baby didn't have the allergies she ended up having, a wet nurse would've been the perfect solution! I was so sad that in the middle of cold and flu season, my tiny little 3 months old would not have breastmilk.
I think sharing nursing duty is a great idea! I gave a good friend some frozen milk after she had latching issues with her son and I had a freezer full of milk (her son is a few months younger than my twins.) Her husband nearly had a coronary, but mine talked him down.

Raven said...

Well, that's the whole wet nurse thing from the old days, right?

My milk took SO FREAKING LONG to dry up from my child WHO WOULD NOT NURSE that I could've been employed as a wet nurse FOR YEARS. YEARS I TELL YOU and yet, my own child? NO THANK YOU.

Little Bird said...

You are just cool! And a chance to prolong the lovely feeling of that oxitocin? Heavenly!

Word verification is DRIcat!

Sam said...

I was busy throwing up and other savory things this weekend, with barely any milk stash (lower supply because I just got my first postpartum period AND my pump is kind of broken) and wishing that I had a local friend with working boobs to help me out. Instead I'm going to have a baby that nurses every hour and makes my supply go wacky. In a week I'll be looking for another baby to nurse!

Josefina said...

I'm surprised I never did this. My friend and I discussed how we COULD if we were in a bind, but I don't think we ever DID nurse each other's babies. Things are hazy, though. I do know other women who have done this. Now that I think about it, I love the idea of being a wet nurse. Sounds like easy money for someone who doesn't have milk making/delivery system issues.

Carmen said...

That's so great! I would totally have offered that to a friend of mine in the same situation, but just by chance, all of my friends that had babies at the same time as me nursed as well. I often wished that I could help someone out like that.

Erica Douglas said...

THIS IS SO COOL. I agree, Swistle, I would totally babysit and nurse someone else's baby.

Yay for you and for the other baby's mom!

Mama milk IS magic!

Anonymous said...

I nursed my friend's baby. The kids are only a month apart, and it was nice to nurse a toothless baby again! :p