They Shoot Wet Nurses, Don’t They?

March 10, 2009

Her name was Laura, and I nursed her baby.

We had met, initially, at breakfast and immediately hit it off. We sat down with our coffees and immediately got swept up in a conversation that ran the gamut from the advantages of Twitter over Facebook to the challenges of leaving one’s baby for a night. Which is precisely what I had done: I had left my baby to attend a symposium on parenting. And it was, as I told Laura over coffee, in some ways profoundly liberating, and in others completely terrifying. Also, my boobs hurt. Badly. I had forgotten my breast pump and an hour of hand-expressing in the shower that morning hadn’t helped much. I didn’t mention that part, though. I just said, I miss my baby.

She said, I know. Her own baby – a dark-haired sprite, just one year old – bounced happily on her knee. I would find it hard to leave her.


I liked her. I offered to help her sort out her Twitter/Facebook conundrum, and introduce her to some New York area bloggers. She invited me to a parenting event in Albany later in the month. We chatted throughout the day. The chirps and coos of her baby reminded me of my own chirping, cooing baby, who had accompanied me in the previous month to two conferences, who I was unaccustomed to being without, especially in this environment. My heart hurt, and my breasts ached. They ached. I kept my arms pressed against my chest for most of the morning.

At lunch I fled to my room and tried, unsuccessfully, to hand-express. I returned to the symposium, and sat down near Laura, and another woman that I had met that day. We were supposed to have a conversation about our parenting successes, or something like that. I said, you’ll have to count me out. I’m in a lot of pain and don’t know what to do. I huddled on the chair, squeezing the rock-hard contours of my chest as tightly as I could without screaming. I explained about the missing breast-pump, the terrible ache of my engorged breasts, the hours remaining before I would see my son. The other woman asked, is there a store nearby? I shook my head – the concierge had told me that there were no pharmacies in the immediate area. Laura cocked her head thoughtfully, and looked at her daughter, who was beginning to fuss. Would you consider, maybe… I know it sounds sorta weird, but… I have no problem with it, and she’s hungry… She looked at me, and waited.



I paused. My head spun, a little. Would I do this, really? Would it be weird? And then I thought, no. There’s nothing weird here. Boobs are boobs. Breastmilk is breastmilk, in all of its liquid gold glory. I bond with my son when we nurse, but it is not because he is latched to my breast. It is because I have him in my arms, and because I love him. Our intimacy derives from that love, and that love would be just as forceful if I fed him with a bottle. So would it be weird if someone else fed him from a bottle? No, of course not. These are only acts of nurture, whether they involve the bottle or the breast. And this is what the breast is made for.

I nodded, and reassured Laura that as a nursing mom I did not take any substances or medications that might compromise my milk.

And so. I took Laura’s daughter in my arms and she smiled at me and I lifted my shirt and she happily bent her head and drank her fill.

(Was it weird? No. It was different. Describing the thoughts and emotions that accompany nursing another woman’s child requires more space than I have here. It was intimate, but not inappropriately so – no more inappropriately intimate than someone holding your baby and cooing in his ear, whispering sweet baby nothings. If anything, it brought me to a deeper, more visceral understanding of my body as a miracle of biology, as a work of nature that is built to do certain things, one of those thing being – in my case; this is not necessarily true for every woman, and no woman is lesser for not being able to do it – nursing babies. My breasts are not sacred or magical objects, they are not quivers full of milk-arrows that can and must only be directed to blood-offspring. They provide milk. They nourish. They are both utterly mundane and terrifically awe-inspiring for that fact.)

I was grateful – so, so grateful – for Laura and her child; their generosity and open-mindedness and open-heartedness saved me a great deal of pain. At the end of the day, a mother was released from some considerable discomfort, and a child was nourished. Wonderful, no?

Well, as it happens: no. Not for everybody. Someone was watching, and someone did not like what they saw. Someone was watching and decided that what I had done was deviant. Irresponsible. Disgusting. Eww. So she wrote a post describing, in entirely misleading terms (we were total strangers! we had no discussion about it! a lady just blithely and irresponsibly passed her baby to a total stranger without a word! and that stranger – me, if you’re keeping track – might have been diseased!) (she has since admitted to me that her representation of what happened was misleading), what she saw and explaining why she thought it was wrong. And it was wrong, from her point of view. Unsanitary. Dangerous. Wrong. Her commenters went even further: why, I might have AIDS! Be homeless! A drug user! Sexually loose! In fact, was what I’d done really any different from wandering into a bar and asking some strange man to grope my titties? Really? Also: AIDS! Or some other horrible virus. That, and my boobs – this helpfully noted by the author – were probably unsanitary, to boot. Also, I’d probably been drinking.

I can’t even begin to describe how hurtful it was to read these things. This was me they were talking about. And Laura, who was as lovely a woman as I had ever met. Laura and I had just met, sure, but I think that we both hoped that we were becoming friends. And we share a belief – a healthy, woman-affirming, baby-adoring belief – that we mothers are all in this together, that we’re all served and enriched when we trust each other and help each other. She had a hungry baby; I had excruciatingly painful breasts that needed to be released of their milk. We came together with our needs. You’re welcome to say that you couldn’t see yourself doing this; you are welcome, even, to cringe and shudder a bit in distaste. Whatever. We all have our issues. Just don’t flaunt your disgust. And certainly don’t use it to publicly shame mothers who make choices that you might not make. What I do with my boobs – what any mother does to ensure that her baby gets fed – is none of your business. And your public expression of disgust and alarm hurts. It hurts me, it hurts all of us. It reinforces the idea that breasts and breastfeeding hover on the very razor’s edge of shamefulness, that these things on our chests are somehow, in some way, dirty and icky and bad, unless we operate them under the very strictest rules of propriety (only if they’re covered up! only if it’s your own baby! only if it doesn’t make us uncomfortable! only if WE SAY IT’S OKAY!)

Memo to everybody: these? Are not your boobies. They are mine. And my babies? Also mine. I will nurture and nourish them as I see fit, and I will champion any other mother to do the same. Your disgust, your judgment threatens to undermine us, weaken us, take away some of our power as mothers who demand to make their own way and their own rules. Which, fuck that.

This is MY motherhood. These are MY boobs.

Hands off.

Memo to everybody: in case you missed what I said above – “You’re welcome to say that you couldn’t see yourself doing this; you are welcome, even, to cringe and shudder a bit in distaste” – I’ll say it again (it seems that I need to): you are welcome to disagree with I did, and/or with what Laura did. You are welcome to say that you would not do this. You are welcome to voice a contrary opinion. I encourage it. I’m fascinated by so many elements of this discussion (not least, something that one commenter brought up – trust and community. Under what circumstances do we choose to trust or not trust each other, to take each others’ words, or not do? Laura trusted me when I said that I was healthy and not taking anything that might compromise my milk. Perhaps this had everything to do with my appearance, or with the fact that I was obviously a nursing mother, or perhaps just with the fact that she had decided that I was simply worth trusting. I was moved by this. We need more of this kind of generosity of spirit in daily life) and I enjoy hearing different opinions. What I don’t like: inappropriately expressed judgment or shaming. That’s the whole point of the latter part if this post: shaming hurts everybody. If you’re here to express an opinion, respectfully – great. I’ll support and defend that. But if you’re here to call names or point fingers or say anything that you wouldn’t say to someone you loved, then maybe just turn back now.

Let’s be kind.

Which means, too – and forgive me if it seems hoity for me to take this on – that everybody is very welcome to NOT direct opprobrium at the blogger mentioned here. This has no doubt been hard on her, and although I remain hurt and (yes, am juvenile) angry, I do not want her to be put through any more of a ringer than she already has. Please. Both she and I deserve some peace around this.

Comments on this post are now closed. I’m happy to read other posts on the subject – yes, even they disagree with milksharing – so if you write about it, please do let me know.

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    Marinka March 10, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    This is in response to Heather’s comment ‘it’s a shame that others feel such hangups about feeding a child’,and even though I just put quote marks around it, I may be misquoting.
    I don’t think that that’s what this is about. I think we’ve beaten the “HBM shouldn’t be mocked, ridiculed, shamed for her choices” horse to death and performed a postmortem on it as well, and I don’t think that there is anyone with a brain wave that disagrees with that. I mean, it’s not like she’s approaching random stangers and fastening their babies to her bosom for sport.

    I have been absoliutely engrossed by this post and the comments.

    But to me it’s not about nutrition. This isn’t the The Grapes of Wrath. It’s about a decision that two mothers made. If the question is, do two consenting women have a right to make that decision, then the conversation ends with a “hell, yes!” and we can all watch Real Housewives of New York in peace. But if it’s “what do you think about that decision?” then we get into the murky areas that make some people less comfortable than others and lead to a lot of hand wringing, pearl clutching and whatever other cliches are applicable.

    As I’ve said before, I didn’t read the original post–but if the emails that I’ve gotten in response to my comments on this blog are accurate (that there were comments on that blog about what kind of mother the original blogger was) then that’s not cool, either.

    Yes, we stand by our words. But we got to get better at the whole disagreeing thing.

    N.Vasillis March 10, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    We need more trust like this in the world. You’re awesome!

    Kim/2 Kids March 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Bravo! As women we need to be more understanding and less judgmental of each other. Of course, more tenderness and gentleness about our differences would be world changing. My boobs ached reading this story and my little one is 10 years old.

    Anonymous March 10, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I had a discussion about this with one of my good friends a few weeks ago. Her daughter was eyeing my daughter as she nursed and realized that I had two breasts. So she jumped at my other breast. I just laughed but her mother was a little uncomfortable with the situation. While I am not sure I would have actually nursed her daughter in front of her, if her daughter was in my care and hungry and her mother wouldn’t be back for a while I would have nursed her.

    ms. changes pants while driving March 10, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    BEAUTIFUL. wonderful. empowering. encouraging.

    lorrielink March 10, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    LMAO mommymae!

    Momily March 10, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Your memo is great addition to the post especially after all this huge amount of comments and dissenting views. I have disagreed with you in comments before (why is it always about breastfeeding??!!) and expressed opinions different from the so-called “mob” and you have always been kind, gracious and fair. some of your followers are less than kind, gracious and fair, but you are not responsible for that other than deleting highly offensive, rude or mean comments. I agree with what (I think?) you are saying – different opinions are fine, disagreement is fine, debate and arguement are fine, but being a mean jerk is not fine.

    Such are the joys of personal stuff in a public forum, I suppose.

    Elisabeth March 10, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Hmm – did I just leave a comment on a Canadian blogger’s blog saying I was interested in the position re the routine health screening of pregnant women in the States?! :-) Sorry – late night slip of the pen – my Canadian friends and family would be ashamed of me though!

    Re Suburban Turmoil’s comment – yes we all take risks in our day to day lives (often without thinking about them at all). However, our personal experiences can shape our emotional response to individual riska. My perosnal experiencs mean I am very cautious about the possibility of the (unintended) transmission of infection (however small that risk is in practice). Consequently, if I had been in Laura’s sitution, I would have offered a breast pump if I had one, not my child.

    That said, I am also nervous of aeroplanes, private nurseries in the UK, and many other scenarios which ST didn’t mention (! :-) ) which I have had no bad experiences of personally. I think this illustrates nothing more startling than the fact that I am probably a bit neurotic (:-)) or to be slightly less self deprecating about it and to make a general point – different people have different perceptions of how risky the world is. That’s all.

    Meritt March 10, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    I guess I’m so far out of the loop I’m still trying to figure out what the goldfish crackers site has to do with anything… LOL.

    PS: Being out of the loop really isn’t all that bad. I hate drama. Really. Hate. It.

    TopHat March 10, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    If I were in your position, I would have totally jumped on the opportunity to relieve engorgement. Sometimes warm showers aren’t enough, sometimes it’s really hard to hand express, and even pumps aren’t as efficient as a baby. As someone who’s dealt with multiple cases of mastitis, I would do anything to prevent it. Mastitis can be quite ugly and in extreme cases require surgery. When I read some of these comments that say, “Since the baby wasn’t in danger of starvation, I don’t think it was a good idea,” I wonder if they know how dangerous mastitis can be for a mom.

    ms. changes pants while driving March 10, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    ps– *snicker* *giggle* *snort* at

    No one ever stares lasciviously or otherwise at my muffin top or that hunk of fat at the back of my armpit. Or at the back of my knee.

    and jenny’s chicken vagina eggs. can that woman ever NOT mention vagina on the internet? :D

    pluckymama March 10, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    You rock. Your boobs rock, that lady who let your nurse her daughter rocks. I love it all. Way to bring the aspect of community back to motherhood. Oodles of respect.

    lorrielink March 10, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    but not everyone here is even commenting on the “drama with the other blogger”
    a good half of these comments are simply ” you go girl” “what you did was great and totally ok” or “dang i know what you mean” or even the really cool ones are like “dude thats kinda weird and dont know if i woulda done the same but you do what you have to girl!”

    all of which strike me as simply sharing support with stangers and friends. how is HBM perpetuating anything??

    i find it confusing when people say ” you twittered it so it was up for grabs to bash” and then say “you should mind your own business cause she can blog her “opinion” if she likes” how can you not see the contradiction in that?

    HBM im so glad you got such good BFF’s. they make a real difference. a real BFF will hide you in their basement if you rob a bank. and thats what you got here.

    oh, and i totally would have done the same. and vice versa. only my kids such a mammas boy i think he’d take issue with it.;)

    feefifoto March 10, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Why can’t people just mind their own business?

    Ms. Moon March 10, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Good Lord! Thank God that when I was a nursing mother, I was a hippie. I’ve nursed other babies and other women have nursed my babies. It’s just something we did for each other as needed.
    What is wrong with people these days?

    Tina C. March 10, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    lucky you; i have always wanted to do this but was too shy to ask.

    Torrie March 10, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    I would have done the same thing if I had been in your position, and Laura is awesome for helping you out.
    I’m really sick of people trying to turn breastfeeding into something disgusting.

    Lisa March 10, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    You’re awesome. You were feeding a baby, which is a beautiful thing. Don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about it.

    V March 10, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I think what you did was a great thing. It helped both of you out and made you both feel much better.

    Also one of the previous commenter mentioned something about rather having their child have another woman’s breast milk rather than formula and I agree! I would much rather that than formula!

    Jennifer March 10, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    This was a beautiful story and I’m sorry someone else had to put her own negative emotions onto it. You did nothing wrong! Hold your head up high!

    SciFi Dad March 10, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    You did a remarkable thing, Catherine. As a man, I will never have to make that decision, and even if I wasn’t a man, I don’t know if I could have done what you did (although if the pain was as bad as I think it could be…)

    OK. Enough about me being a lactating woman.

    Not that you need to be told this, but don’t listen to the trolls. In the words of Joyce, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

    Anonymous March 10, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Knowing the pain that engorged boobs feel like, I have sympathy for you and I totally get why you did what you did.

    Why do people judge others for what they do in such a negative way? GEEZ!

    Multi-Tasking Mommy

    katef - March 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    I read about this on twitter from the OP… and strangely found your blog at the same time, loved it and subbed.. not knowing the two were related!

    I am not sure that I would do the same thing (though I’ve just finished expressing milk for a friend who is about to go into hospital which is not much different) but you know.. they are not my boobs, and not my baby so really it’s not my business.

    But since I feel the need to insert my uncalled for opinion anyway – if everyone is happy, you the baby the other mum… then yay for boobs and babies and mums!

    alice March 10, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Lordy, there are a lot of comments. Most of which I haven’t read, except The Bloggess because she is all kinds of awesome and funny to boot. Love her. Point aptly noted.

    I guess the only part I take exception to, even though slight, is that you sort of imply that nursing isn’t a bonding experience. Certainly, it may not be a bonding experience for you, but for some of us, it was very much a bonding experience. Not surprising since nursing promotes a release of the “mothering hormone” prolactin. And this is reinforced each time you nurse a child. It is one of the many reasons why many adoptive parents attempt to nurse.

    I have no problem with wet nursing. I could do it, but it wouldn’t be the same as giving another child a bottle. For me, nursing is a bonding moment with my child. I’m not sure what it would mean if I nursed another child, but I suspect it’d be more than nourishment. I suspect I’d feel bonded, however slight and fleeting, to that child in a way that I wouldn’t to another child. I also think that I’d probably feel slightly like I was cheating on my own child.

    It would still be totally worth it and a selfless act of love for another child.

    But that’s just my opinion. Your results may differ.

    Avitable March 10, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    I’m a fan of boobs in general. Except the boob who posted the obnoxious judgmental post.

    juliannabelle March 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    I think what you did, and what your new friend allowed you to do for her baby, is a good thing.
    I donated extra breastmilk after having my first child. There was a local lady whom had adopted a baby with horrid allergies and could only tolerate human breastmilk. Like you did, I started to go into reassurance mode- listing no major medical problems, no illicit substances, only a modicum of caffeine, etc. She stopped me and said if I felt it was good enough for my own baby it was good enough for hers. Interestingly (to me, anyways), she is one of the local neonatologists.

    Her Bad Mother March 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Alice – I said that I *do* bond with my son while nursing, but that the bonding maybe had less to do with the nipple in his mouth than with me holding and loving him and cherishing that moment of peace. Just as any mother with a bottle-fed baby would bond. But yes, there’s no denying the specialness. I just wanted to express that the specialness went beyond the nursing, and that nursing another child (although imtimate) would not be – and was not – the same thing.

    Karen March 10, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    screw the stupid people. i would of PAID to have someone i trusted to help nurse my oldest dd when i first started. Ugh some people are so immature… Not you. I would freaking applaud but i am typing.

    Issas Crazy World March 10, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I find this absolutely fascinating: the post, the subject, the comments.

    What I don’t find so fascinating, is the idea that because HBM is a “popular” blogger that her opinions, feelings and friends feelings don’t count. Yes she puts herself out there, but hey, we all do that. But HBM is still a person. Catherine. A woman, a wife, a mother, a friend.

    This is something that has always bothered me. Just because someone is a “popular” blogger, their friends sticking up for them is suddenly a mob. If someone was being rude to me in real life, my friends would have my back. They would probably say some not so nice things about whomever was being rude to me. When I’ve gotten asshole comments on my blog, my friends have my back. I just don’t see that it’s any different, because no one knows who I am.

    Catherine has been doing this a long time, she has lots of friends. It doesn’t make them a mob to stick up for her. It makes them good friends.

    lorrielink March 10, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    yes, there is an unequaled intimacy in nursing your child. until they start teething…. then some of the wonder of it all starts to fade just a little.

    and when a toddler only wants ‘drive by nursing’

    oh, and when their sick and their nose is stuffed up too much to nurse and their so hungry.

    breastfeeding is so much beauty, so completely wholesome and nurtering to both baby and mom, but its also painful, frustrating, fearsome,messy, and a dam pain in the ass sometimes.
    its just feeding your baby, boobs are boobs BECAUSE they are designed to make milk for babies. period. thats the whole reason for all the soft warm squishy fun of boobs in the first place. they just also happen to be fun at other times as well… whos really complaining about that?
    unfortunately its mostly woman with sad hang-ups with sex that think boobs were special ordered just for sex.
    i say there is no end to the multi-tasking ability of boobs.

    Sherry March 10, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    At this point you have so many comments I almost feel silly speaking up at all, but for what it’s worth, I don’t see the huge deal. You were both two adults who agreed to having you nurse her baby. It’s not like you were slinking around, trying to sneak your nipple into unsuspecting babies’ mouths, you know?

    Would I do it, where I in your position or Laura’s? I don’t know. I want to say yes, but maybe I wouldn’t feel comfortable when the time came. On the other hand, I certainly can’t say that I wouldn’t because maybe it would feel right to me.

    I don’t know, but I do know there was nothing dirty or disgusting about it, and to turn it into something crude when it wasn’t is downright disturbing.

    Velma March 10, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    (I couldn’t stay away. This is way better than reality tv, IMHO.)

    After reading almost all the comments thus far, one thing becomes glaringly obvious: in most civilized societies there are guidelines for how you should treat other people, and one of the most positive human ideals is the adherence to the Golden Rule.

    I’ve been reading this blog for years now, and HBM is extremely consistent in arguing for the right to say whatever you believe, in a respectful way, and frankly, that is a rule I can get behind.

    (As another sidenote, I didn’t read the original offensive post before the author yanked it, but I did cruise through the archives on the site. In my opinion, when a blogger makes many negative comments about other members of the human race under the guise of milking a situation for humor or “telling it like it is,” I am turned way off by their attitude.)

    (Oh, and BTW – this is not an “attack” on the other blogger, simply a statement… you guessed it! Of opinion! Which I am free to do in a respectful way and not get flamed!)

    Moxie March 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Breast milk is poison??? Who knew. Everyone call CPS on all those evil nursing mothers!

    If someone wants to post a story about the possible problems of allowing another woman to breastfeed your child, go right ahead. If you’re a concerned citizen and that’s your cause, go right ahead. But there is a line of appropriate and inappropriate. Communicating via computers doesn’t make us robots. Words have weight.

    Carrien March 10, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Just wanted to say…

    I have breastfed another woman's child before. On three separate occasions, two when I was watching their child and the baby was hungry.

    I also donate breastmilk to the International Breast Milk Project to send to AIDS babies in Africa.

    My mother in law has offered a breast to suckle for all 3 of my children when they were tiny and in her care. With my 3rd it was 4 hours after she was born and I was in an emergency D & C because the placenta had not yet delivered. She wrapped her in my sweater so she would have my scent and gave her a breast to suckle at until I could do it myself. It was exactly the way it should have been in my opinion, it was an act of love.

    Needless to say, I don't think there is anything wrong with what you did.

    I met a woman once, she was very old, her parents were living in China just before the revolution. She was an infant. Her parents were killed by the army, and she was smuggled out of the country by the Chinese church, passed from one nursing mother to another until she reached the border. Those women kept her alive by giving her their breast milk.

    It's a sad statement on how women view their own bodies today that one woman would attack another for breastfeeding another's child.

    CheshireKate March 10, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I couldn’t have done this from either side, I had no breast milk for my own baby as badly as I wanted to and I tried believe me, 3 lactation specialists later it finally got to be TOO MUCH and too emotional and I just fed her formula and got back to the business of enjoying my baby which as (bless her) lactation specialist number three pointed out was the point. I had confessed I dreaded her waking up because of all the rigmarole starting and she gave me permission to move on. Anyhow it would have hurt too much for me to have another woman nursing my child when I couldn’t, BUT bravo to you. This was a private moment between two people and it wasn’t coerced or fraught with the economic or class issues that wet nursing sometimes carries. I say the level of angst that some of the non participatory moms put into this is crazed…couldn’t they devote the time to finding foster homes for unwanted kids or ending hunger or something?

    HamiltonDoula March 11, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Six weeks after the birth of my first son, my husband and I went drove to T.O. to see Neil Young. Two hours out, my breasts were starting to fill up. I attempted to express into a paper towel while I sat on a toilet.

    After the concert I was rock hard, in pain with hot, stretched breasts that were starting to leak. I again attempting to hand express, without actually knowing what I was doing, and ended up expressing a tiny bit of bloody milk. What a night!

    I can only imagine how freaking sore you were after a day away. Sore, possible feverish feeling from the heat of the engorged breast, and definitely at a high risk of mastitis, blocked ducts and impairing your supply.

    As a doula, I must offer scientific information so that you may make your own decision which is the basis of empowerment and making informed choices. You’ve done that beautifully, you and Laura weighing the possible risks and ruling out others, finally deciding for yourselves what you will do.
    Hamilton Doula
    The Clever Mom

    the mama bird diaries March 11, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Mary G –

    I wrote a humorous piece about nudity on Wendi Aarons blog. Please do not lump me in with the folks who are judging Her Bad Mother. I think breast feeding is a beautiful natural amazing gift and everyone has a right to make their own decisions.

    The Mother March 11, 2009 at 12:23 am

    If the post I commented on was the “original” post, then I’m one of the original commentators.

    I said NO. And I will continue to say NO. Loudly.

    (Kateypie35, you are a brave woman)

    I’m not implying that anyone has any awful, horrible diseases. But never, ever would I allow a woman who was not properly screened to nurse my baby.

    I’m sure that both of you are very nice people, and that neither of you has any transmissible viruses. But we don’t know that, for sure.

    Many, many viruses that can be dangerous lurk for some time before anyone knows they are there.

    I nursed all four of my children, on and off for nearly eleven years. I’m a huge advocate. My mother nursed us, AND donated milk for preemies. But there was a screening process.

    Even in the days when women routinely hired wet nurses, they were extensively screened (not for viruses, since they didn’t have that knowledge, but for character and lifestyle).

    Again. Nothing personal. I don’t know you. You are probably an amazing person who lives in quarantine and couldn’t possibly have, say Epstein Barr virus (80% of the population has been exposed).

    But I would never let another woman nurse my child. And I don’t recommend it to anyone.

    BTW, most pharmacies in most major cities carry the little hand pumps. Not as good as the big electric ones, but I’ve used them on vacation, quite effectively.

    Petit Elefant March 11, 2009 at 12:52 am

    There’s such weirdness in our culture about breasts. They’re ok for strippers, but nasty for babies? What? I had to hide the fact that I nursed my babies past 9 months because of the comments I got from other moms. People have issues with breasts. I’m so sorry. I think in many many cultures this never would have even gotten a sideways glance. sigh.

    Me March 11, 2009 at 1:11 am

    sorry, can’t spend the time to read through all the comments (just sped-read 200 or so), but my first thought on the whole matter (maybe addressed elsewhere) is, was Laura not nursing herself? Did she then not get engorged herself? I *know*, totally off the subject, what can I say?!

    Awesome Mom March 11, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Some people have way too much time on their hands and apparently they have to go around policing what everyone else does. I have had engorged boobs before and man it is very painful! I am glad that someone was able to be open minded enough to offer you relief for your pain.

    mari'smama March 11, 2009 at 1:52 am

    I pump, and have exclusively pumped for my ten month old since birth because she was born with a cleft palate and we are not able to nurse, despite many efforts.

    Over these ten months I have donated straight from my freezer at least 1,800 oz. of milk to a mom with an adopted baby whose birth mom was drug abusing up to the birth of her child. This adopted mom has spent over a year picking up milk from donors like me to make sure her baby has the best start in life. She never asked me to get tested. She met me and my baby and took my word on being healthy and “clean.”

    Now we are in the same playgroup, both babies are thriving, I am still pumping, and this experience has eased some of my sadness at not being able to breastfeed. People milkshare all the time. It’s not new and you did nothing wrong.

    Veronica March 11, 2009 at 3:19 am

    Wow, I feel a bit odd commenting after everyone else!

    In your situation? I would have done what you did. In Laura’s situation, I would have offered what she offered.

    I’m sorry that someone thought that they had the right to react the way they did.

    Anonymous March 11, 2009 at 3:38 am

    After my daughter went into heart failure and was diagnosed and treated for her problem, the hospital where she was seen came by once a week to pick up my extra frozen breast milk for the neonatal unit. No one ever seemed horrified or made me feel ashamed about that. So, as long as another babies mouth didn’t actually touch my horrid nipple it was a good and virtuous thing to share breast milk? Balderdash!

    Rachael March 11, 2009 at 4:04 am

    I admit that my first reaction was that I might think this was weird, or that it would make me uncomfortable. However, after reading your story and really thinking about it, it seems like it was a perfect solution for everyone!

    I agree – breastmilk is breastmilk. Her baby got to eat, and you got to not be in terrible pain! I wasn’t able to breastfeed my baby, but if someone else had offered to feed him because I got stuck outside my home without enough formula or something, I totally would go with that.

    I’m sorry that you had to deal with people being so judgy. I don’t know why people feel the need to attack each other like that – what difference does it make to that other woman what you and that other mother decided to do? None. So why waste her energy attacking and being negative? I’ll never understand that.

    Kudos to you for doing it in the first place, and for sharing your story with all of us!

    illahee March 11, 2009 at 5:44 am

    i have never nursed another baby, but a friend nursed my son. i had gone to the hospital (on a holiday. oh the joys of emergency clinics on a holiday) with my daughter. although i had fed him just before i left, we were gone long enough for him to wake up hungry (he was about six months old) and after trying to entertain him, then give him baby snacks, my friend nursed him.

    he fell asleep.

    when i got back from the hospital and they told me, i was totally fine with it. happy, in fact, because he was happy and taken care of while i was away on an emergency.

    i kind of wish i could have nursed someone’s baby. it’s not ‘gross’ or ‘dangerous’, not in the situation you described. *sish*

    Anonymous March 11, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Poor breasts. Their dual purpose puts them in us in such a quandary! Are they sexy or are they purposeful for feeding? Or both? Is that the root of all this?

    Let’s split it into the two main ways breasts are viewed for (some attempt at) clarity in what I am trying to say.

    If they are for feeding, they are serviceable, natural. and healthful. (Not everyone will breastfeed, mind you and that is fine, but it is generally and universally acknowledged as nutritious, perfect food for infants).

    If we put breast milk (whether expressed or right from the source) in the “feeding camp” it is easier to be accepting of breasts’ use, and usefulness.

    To take this further, could we allow that sharing breast milk is palatable in certain conditions then? (Many examples have been given in the comments, like being stuck in an elevator). Or sharing breast milk is really okay under any conditions as it is a food, and thus it is a akin to sharing food, formula, spoons, ice creams, whatever. Maybe. But let’s go to the next viewpoint of breasts in the ‘sexy camp’.

    If they are sexy, they are intimate, for you and your partner (only), or only in pleasurable and sexual acts. You can’t mix any of that mentality with using one’s breasts for feeding a) babies, b) older (young) children (“ugh, gross! they are actually talking!”), or sharing one’s breasts with other people’s infants (“ooh, weirdo!”, or “yeah maybe ok, but not for me”).

    Trying to reconcile their dual use IS difficult. How can they be there for two such different and two such IMPORTANT things?! It is hard to wrap one’s head around.

    And maybe, just maybe, because we can’t reconcile it, it seems safer to argue that we wouldn’t do it because one is not comfortable with the security of the milk, or that one might pass on a disease. (Cleanliness, or protecting one’s babies from disease — HOWEVER UNLIKELY —is a safe ground, you see. Easier than saying that it feels too close to sexual intimacy for one’s own comfort). (Please note: this particular argument (disease in milk) is different from worrying about minor milk contamination (drug, alcohol, (spicy Indian or whatever!) in the milk) which is fine to argue, and of course, valid but not here in my current argument).

    It does and can get weird, or not — depending on your opinion of breasts as sexy or feeders or both, but at different times.

    A lot of this thinking for me stemmed from hearing some commenters saying (and I paraphrase): it’s okay I suppose, EXCEPT I would be mostly worried that you can get/give diseases. Really? That seems like a big jump to me. What I would gently ask if if really, and I mean REALLY, it is a subconscious thing that it is not very cool to share one’s boobs because of the sexy part thing. And that talking about the risk of disease is a safe way of sharing that disdain or discomfort.


    Stacy March 11, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I would have done the same thing, even if I had not been in pain rom engorged boobies. If the other chid jsut needed to be fed and for whatever reason her mother could not fed her. Having breast milk and being able to feed your own child or someone elses is a very blessed thing!

    Jennyh March 11, 2009 at 8:53 am

    My great grandmother nursed a neighbor’s baby during the depression because the mother did not have any milk, that child could have died, it was the depression, it was not like there was money for formula or goat milk! Did they even have formula then? People should mind their own business, if you were beating a kid in public, ok, definetly someone should step in, but you feeding them is no one’s business!

    zchamu March 11, 2009 at 9:15 am

    I was thinking a bit about this situation this morning, and the part of this that perhaps displays the worst judgment of all is that the other blogger decided to make *this* her key takeaway from an event which she was corporately sponsored to attend. Now, all anyone’s going to identify this fishy event with is boobgate. Not the kind of attention they wanted, I’m sure.

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