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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    Her Bad Mother March 11, 2009 at 10:08 am

    The Mother – I %100 support you in your opinion (and I supported KateyPie in having hers – I just engaged her on it). YOU would not do this. I understand that. I do not judge you for that. I do not think that you are closed-minded or uptight or fussy. Two weeks ago, I might have said that I wouldn’t nurse another woman’s child. I wouldn’t have cited fear of disease – it’s my opinion, based on discussion with my doctor (and supported by the nurses and doulas who have weighed in here) that the risk, if any, is negligible, and certainly much lower than risk of contaminants in formula or bacteria that might be encountered in daily life – but I might have said, simply, no, probably not. So I get, totally, that other people feel differently about this.

    You expressed your opinion respectfully, and I respect that. Had the original post been respectful (that is, not willfully misrepresented the story, as she admitted to doing, and not fanned the flames of disgust), then it wouldn’t have bothered me. As I keep saying here – and as my track record in this space proves – I’m really open to disagreement. I just ask that it be reasoned and civil. As your disagreement was ;)

    Tamara March 11, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Brava, Mama!

    I don’t know you, but I so wish I did! May ample measures of love and blessings shower down on you and on Laura for speaking the truth about our bodies, our experiences, and the ridiculousness of those who would make us ashamed of what is an innately natural and loving act.

    Her Bad Mother March 11, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Anonymous 7:25 – I totally agree. While I think that some women might have very real issues/concerns about virus transmission (some commenters here have explained things to that effect), I think that in general the argument about such risk is a smoke screen for more awkward issues – like discomfort around ideas of breasts as objects – yeah, objects – of sexuality and intimacy. From what I’ve been told by medical professionals, there’s no general risk in milksharing that is any greater than other, more mundane activities (toy sharing in public playspaces, unwashed hands, bad formula, etc, etc.) I think that much – NOT ALL – of the fear around disease is that there’s an association of breasts (and anything involving bodily fluids) with sex and a general tendency to ick.

    Again, I’m not judging anyone who is skeeved by the idea. I can understand it. I just wish that we were all more open to changing our attitudes and society’s attitudes to these things – more inclined to consider the possibility that something like this isn’t gross (despite what one’s visceral reaction is) and to understand that issuing moral judgments based on such visceral reactions just hurts all of us.

    Tamara March 11, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Adding that physiologically, a nursing mother has undergone nearly every possible medical screening already, between the pregnancy and birth of her child.
    This fear-mongering about illness and disease assumes that we know nothing of our own medical histories and even less about how physiology works. If you wouldn’t do it, say so. But don’t attack another for your own knee-jerk reactions and faulty assumptions.

    zchamu March 11, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Tamara – “This fear-mongering about illness and disease assumes that we know nothing of our own medical histories and even less about how physiology works. If you wouldn’t do it, say so. But don’t attack another for your own knee-jerk reactions and faulty assumptions.”

    Nail. Head. Etc.

    Katie Kat March 11, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I was really looking forward to this post after reading the Twitter comments. I honestly wasn’t sure WHAT I felt about the situation because I had never heard both sides of the story. I remember hearing about Salma Hayek doing the same thing, and found myself really sort of unsure about how I felt. Now, having read your story, I feel enlightened.

    It’s not that I see this as some sort of “magical” “Goddess-like” thing, but then again, I don’t see it as disgusting. Your beautifully written feelings about it honestly made me say “Well, why not?” You were being responsible and weren’t just attaching a random kid to your breast. You were helping yourself and the baby. You were pushing the envelope to be sure, and that’s why I think people reacted the way they did.

    I’m not sure women really DO know how they feel about this. I think it’s the “oogy” factor of not really being AGAINST it, but not being sure you’d do it yourself. Maybe similar to how some people feel that being gay is fine, but seeing a gay couple kissing, etc. makes them uncomfortable and unsure. I don’t know.

    What I do know is what you did is really not much different than women who are surrogates. They use their entire body to nurture, grow and give birth to a baby for another person. Breastfeeding is more public than that, but not so dissimilar.

    I applaud your bravery in doing this and in sharing it so that other people can examine and discuss it (hopefully in a way that is MATURE and enlightening) so that they can come up with their own conclusions. BRAVO.

    Marinka March 11, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Tamara–why is it faulty assumptions to express concern that another woman may have breast milk, that for whatever reason, and totally unrelated to her moral character and dignity as a human being, would not be ok for your baby?

    HBM wrote that the issue is about trust–
    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.

    If all nursing mothers were “safe”, however it is that we define that word in terms of our children, would there be a need for trust, even?

    April March 11, 2009 at 10:51 am

    don’t know if you saw when cjane blogged about co-op nursing… i love the way she puts is ‘…which is something we do in our family, we are tight like that’

    it’s good to be tight like that. and trusting. :-)

    Katherine March 11, 2009 at 10:52 am

    More power to you! Having suffered the horror that is mastitis 3 times with my current baby and twice with babies one and two I can understand the need to get that milk flowing. Expressing just doesn’t compare to the power of a baby nursing. Well done to you. Never heard of “Fishful Thinking” until now…had to grit my teeth just to scroll through it…

    kateypie35 March 11, 2009 at 11:04 am

    This is off topic, but I want to thank everyone who has e-mailed me, messaged me, called me brave, etc. I appreciate it very much.

    I really wish all the anonymous posters would join me, show your face… as Mom101 said…own your words. If we can ALL learn how to disagree respectfully and with class and grace – we can have such interesting and dynamic debates! These brouhahas would never happen!

    When people (on BOTH sides) turned mean and caustic – that’s when it feels like one giant schoolyard – “neener neener, she started it!”. And thats when impressions of “posse’s and gang mentality” start to spread. (wrong or right, the impression really is there). I think we ALL (on BOTH sides) need to try to take the high road, even if its hard, even if someone else hurt us first, even if you feel defensive.

    Hopefully the blog owner that inadvertently began this has learned to be more thoughtful and responsible for her content, but she isn’t the only one who needs to learn from this. I learned too – I have really been thinking about it a lot. Anyone else?

    Anonymous March 11, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I never comment on anything, but I had to say I think that’s beautiful; I think both you and Laura sound like warm, thoughtful women. The world got a little friendlier when you two found a simple solution to a situation.

    Mamajama March 11, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I’m really surprised that this has sparked such a controversy. It seems like no big woop to me. It was your decision and Laura’s decision. I’m always glad to hear more moms talking about breastfeeding, because like you I think that society has a major issue with treating breasts only as sexual objects.

    I wouldn’t let anyone who was on any meds. Nurse my daughter…I’m anal like that…and didn’t even take my pain meds for a week after my c-section, but like I said it’s a personal choice. I have no problem letting mothers make their own choices. No one else is as good at deciding what is best for our families.

    I’m pregnant and still nursing. Most of my friends wouldn’t make that choice, but I know what’s best for us (period). No extra discussion necessary.

    Joyce March 11, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I feel silly being comment 421… because, really, what else is there to say?! But I guess I am just adding to those that are amazed at how one little, personal act can spur such criticism, anger and judgment. Whoa!
    The most popular (and well-written) bloggers are those who can report their experiences and stories without a need to insult others. Every time I leave the house I am guilty of casting judgments on others and making my own opinions based on stereotypes, preconceived notions… and well, not fact! I hate that this is true, but we all do it. The point is, when you write a blog you must consider who you are blogging about and whether you are reporting something presented in your own opinion to spur an honest discussion, or something that is your judgment disguised as a fact. This is when things become slanderous and most celebrities do fight back (or sue) when a newspaper or some other public means of communication contorts the facts to bring them down. Especially in this case, where you are a well-known, celebrity blogger, this person who wrote those things should have known what she was doing. You have every right to fight back and present your case.
    I don’t understand the comments that say you are now fighting back in the same way as this woman and creating some kind of mob mentality against her. She printed untrue things and you are now stating what did happen and that you are hurt. That’s being assertive and is a healthy response. It isn’t your fault what the commentators do with that. For the most part, the comments have been compassionate and kind.
    You have retorted in an amazing way, without condemning the other writer, but also you did what every other person out there would do–stand up for themselves, regardless of what the situation is.
    This isn’t even about boobs anymore, it’s just about being a public persona who has been slandered and retorting to it.
    I’m sorry you were hurt and I hope lots of lessons were learned.

    P.S. I’m also so grateful for people like you and Laura. Imagine what this world would be like if we all treated everyone else’s children with the amount of care and compassion that we treat our own? Thank you for this.

    Anonymous March 11, 2009 at 11:10 am

    I’m sorry but I guess I’m in the minority. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That’s all the other poster did and without mentioning names. You’re telling me these 1000′s of tweeters and blog posters knew who you were before your so called “friend” outed you? I think you need to get over yourself. It was a blog post only. And your “friend”? What was the reasoning behind that? I also think you and “Laura” should have been more discreet. And Laura took a very big chance by having a total stranger breastfeed her baby. She knew nothing about you. And that doesn’t mean I’m saying anything bad about you, but hey. how would she know? This is her child! I would never put my baby in possible jeopardy like that. If you were in pain, you could have had the concierge buy a pump. And for a supposedly organized mother, how could you forget something so crucial? All I can say is ewww!! My opinion only. Just as you voiced yours in your post. And the same as the other blogger. The difference? she didn’t start a hate campaign.

    Kendra March 11, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Catherine, I would have done the same as you did in that situation. I would have been insanely relieved and insanely honored to do it.

    Shame on Goldfish crackers lady.

    Jennifer March 11, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I have very mixed feelings, for myself, about this. On the one hand, knowing that it’s natural, women have wet nursed, etc. since time immemorial, I feel like I should say, “Woohoo!” On the other, my reaction seems rooted in (what seems like) the cultural taboo of only permitting a woman to nurse their own child and the mixed messages – e.g., breast feeding is best and if you don’t you’re a bad mother; but don’t do it in public or anywhere you might offend someone’s delicate sensibilities, etc. – that society sends.

    That said, I remember how I longed to nurse my nieces (regardless of whether I was nursing at the time) that came from some primal place inside that wanted to comfort and feed them as well as to have that flush of pride that comes from knowing that you can sustain life from just your boobs!

    So, for all that, clearly we (society) need to work on the issues surrounding breastfeeding so that women, doing what we are capable of, are not shamed or denigrated for it, especially by other women.

    Anonymous March 11, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Blogging is for voicing your own opinion, yes? You do it, why not leave others alone to do it, too.

    Oh, and your “Let’s be kind” idea – hello pot, my name is kettle.

    zchamu March 11, 2009 at 11:49 am

    @anonymous 11:10: You said “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That’s all the other poster did and without mentioning names.”

    Why does it matter that she didn’t name names? She knew who she was talking about, as did the person she was talking about. Just because she didn’t “out” her to the world doesn’t make what she said, or what others said, any less hurtful. In fact, hiding behind “naming no names” is pretty cowardly since it allows her to not to have to own her words.

    Her Bad Mother March 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Anons from this morning:

    There has been no hate campaign. I have never named this blogger, or linked to her, or told anybody where to find her. NO ONE. That my readers found it and that friends defended me – well, I’m grateful to be defended by such good people. (No, she didn’t name me either – but the post was clearly about me – enough that dozens of people identified it and told me about it – and it was, as I’ve said before and say again below, misrepresentative.)

    Defense against what? NOT contrary opinion. Everyone is welcome to disagree, as I’ve said a gajillion times. What they’re not free to do without expecting response: posting misleading information/misrepresenting a story about another individual. The other blogger admitted to misrepresenting what she said about me. They are also not free to defame, which is what she did when she accused me on Twitter (apropos of nothing at all) of irresponsible drinking while nursing.


    Joyce March 11, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    @Anonymous 11:10: Catherine has repeated at numerous times, and I agree, that sharing your opinion, be it contrary or not, is welcome. I’m not trying to attack you, but the comment “Get over yourself” and “All I can say is ewww!!” lowers the tone and uses high school language to express that you found this situation distasteful, without really explaining why. I am also curious as to why Laura and Catherine should have been more discreet? They didn’t feel they were doing anything wrong. It would be interesting to explore your feelings behind these statements and what has made you against what happened without using such a critical tone. I also don’t think Catherine needs to feel like she’s done something wrong because she stood up for herself. Most people would do the same if put in a situation where someone else wrote about something they did in a bad light. She was hurt and responded in a very adult way. I don’t see the problem?

    Anonymous March 11, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    This is a difficult comment for me to write and I’m saddened that I have to write it anonymously. I’m relatively new to the blog world, but from what I see, the mentality of a number of commenters here would leave me no other choice. However, I hope that doesn’t take away from my message. Because Catherine, I really do like you. I think you’re a fabulous writer and I’d be lucky to have a tenth of your talent. And honestly, this isn’t about whether I agree or disagree with you on this cross-nursing issue or what I think of the other blogger (never heard of her before, and didn’t see her post). It’s not my place (or anyone’s, for that matter) to judge her, you, or Laura.

    This is about the bigger issue of the fallout here, and what keeps happening throughout the small blog world. (And it really is small, as we all saw here, despite the protesting from both sides that no one ID’ed anyone by name.) The fact that when people who aren’t in the “in” crowd make a less-than-positive assessment of a member of the “A-Team” or simply dare to disagree, they very ofen get painted as “mean” or “trolls,” oftentimes by the most notoriously mean members of the group of bigtime bloggers. (I’m not saying that REAL jerks don’t exist, but it’s funny how all dissenters seem to get lumped together as haters, while the A-Listers with harsh personalities are given a free pass for what they call “snark.”) You have power, Catherine, and I’m sure you’re aware of it. When you cry “foul!” they will all come running. Your close blog buddies and all the followers who want to be included.

    What I truly don’t get here is how you could be surprised that nursing another woman’s baby in public and then apparently repeatedly Twittering about it wouldn’t touch off a firestorm. Even your most ardent supporters here have unwittingly acknowledged that possibility by saying that America is “puritanical” and that people are “so closed minded.” It would be GREAT if the world was such that no one judged you for doing what you did. But we don’t live in that world. So again, why wonder aloud at the few negative reactions to it?

    For the record, I know all too well the pain of severe engorgement, and the delicate balance that goes into what we choose to share on our sites. You tend to share more than I do, and THAT’S OKAY, as it’s your decision. But again, when we put all of it out there, especially someone as popular as you, odds are good that someone, SOMEWHERE isn’t cool with something you say/do. That’s the way the blog world IS, and it’s not necessarily an awful thing. It keeps us–ALL of us– in check.

    Which leads me to my last point. (I know, this is long. Sorry.) You got a ton of positive comments here. Why focus on the small number of negative ones? So man people (including me) love your writing. So many people support you on this. That’s abundantly evident. So why isn’t that enough for you? Or your followers? (I know the second question isn’t really for you, but maybe one of them can answer…I really am curious.) The fact that people were asking for a link I the other blogger’s site so they could yell at her, the fact that people are seething over this, the fact that some of your supporters are saying anyone who doesn’t like what you did is anti-breastfeeding…this is madness. From what I gather, the other blogger’s post was misleading. But at the end of the day (again, this is from what I gather, so please let me know if I’m wrong), she was, after all, stating her opinion on what she saw. And for the life of me, really and truly, I don’t understand how that “shamed” you. Must we all see eye-to-eye on this issue?

    I think–and I say this respectfully and genuinely, NOT nastily AT ALL–you might want to revisit some incredibly apt and eloquent words you yourself wrote only a few months ago:

    “Criticism is almost always uncomfortable. Criticism, indeed, kinda sucks most of the time. Even when it turns out to be really helpful and promoting of growth yadda yadda blah, it’s just not the funnest thing, you know? And of course, criticism that comes in plainspoken – or snarky – terms is the least funnest thing of all. But here’s the thing: if we condemn anyone who utters criticism or makes critical observation – again…[the] crime here was…making an (albeit stinging) critical observation – we silence ourselves, to our detriment. Criticism keeps us, and our community, self-aware and self-reflective. Yeah, it stings, but that’s why Socrates referred to himself – the greatest and most uncompromising of critics – as a gadfly: because no meaningful criticism fails to sting.”

    I have read over this and over this, debating whether or not to hit “post,” and I’ve tried my hardest to ensure that I’ve conveyed my points here with respect and courtesy. To the extent you or your readers find it objectionable, I apologize for the offense, but not for the message.

    paperfairies March 11, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I’m commenting again because I feel the need to say that Catherine has always been open to (and in fact likes) RESPECTFUL discussions. To say otherwise is unfounded and untrue. I commented on this early on with a somewhat dissenting view, and she responded back, engaging in thoughtful, kind debate.

    She is a beautiful example of an anti-mommy-war-blogger. I did not feel bullied at all.
    Must add in response to equating wet-nursing with riding on planes and eating out: although it is true a segment of society has cultural hang-ups with boobs feeding babies, the visceral reaction (as you put it) one gets when thinking of another woman breastfeeding your child is instinctual and not to be ignored! I am positive that most mothers would think twice about it. The “I would so the exact same thing in a heartbeat!” somehow seems a bit unrealistic.

    Would you have done the same thing if you were Laura?

    Ashley March 11, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    When Salma Hayek nursed that African child, I was called to address how I feel about this topic in my own mind. At first, I said, “hmm… interesting.” And then I read a Newsweek opinion on the matter, and my real feelings emerged.

    Newsweek, in The Dignity
    Index, said they “still think Salma Hayek breasfeeding a
    hungry AFrican baby-on camera-during a relief tour is just, well weird” and gave her a score of 7 which corresponded to “mildly tacky” on their chart.

    Here is what I wrote to the Newsweek Editor: Compassion and generosity are never “mildly tacky”. I hope that more mothers have the courage to nourish children who are starving and sick, if not directly then via milk donations. I applaud Salma Hayek for bringing attention to this important issue. Breastmilk can save lives. The ignorance apparent in your dignity index is appalling.

    And there it was. I admired Hayek for nursing a child that was not her own. And I WISH I had the courage to do the same … and stand up for what I believe in the face of cultural scorn.

    I applaud your courage. Or if not courage, your ability to ignore societal mores and go with your gut. Breasts are a beautiful gift and their power is SO much greater than what is assigned to them by the cover of Maxim magazine.

    *BIG HUGS* I’m sorry you got hurt.

    lorrielink March 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    can the anonymous people at least give themselves a nick-name(s). i cant tell if its one person or many. anonymous commenters usually only comment once so im loosing track in this train.

    my thoughts on sexiness and breastfeeding? if i understood your comment right, and im not sure i did. my answer would be.

    there is nothing more UNSEXY than breastfeeding.
    my thoughts are that you have obviously never breastfed, or been close and had open conversation with a woman who had been doing it for a while.
    it would take too long to explain just how very very unsexed breastfeeding is to someone whos never experianced it. kinda like explaining childbirth to a childless woman. you just cant.
    seriously if you thinks its a crossover of how it feels to have “sexiness with your boobs” than your having the wrong kind of sex.
    in fact, most of us put up “out of order” signs on our boobs for a while during nursing months because our boobs feel less like “fun bags” than ever, physically and emotionally.

    SAIA AND CHAGO March 11, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Commented here earlier, but was moved to further post a full response on our blog at

    Mamajama March 11, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    I’m frustrated with the anonymous folks who are saying that Catherine should not be defending herself against the post that called her out in the first place. Anonymous 12:24, I really think that you have missed something here. Catherine to my knowledge is not trying to silence anyone for criticizing her, and in fact by bringing this discussion to her own blog is in my opinion elevating the discussion.

    It’s kind of a weird argument therefore to tell her to take the criticism without giving any herself when the other blogger (in many peoples’ opinions) is very deserving of criticism herself. Sure some people are being snarky, but I haven’t seen Catherine be snarky. Discussion is an organic process (sometimes a painful one), and that’s what the blogosphere is about…and I wouldn’t want to change that.

    Marinka March 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    OT (because I’m trying to win some kind of an award for commenting the most on this post) but whenever people respond “Anonymous 2:14″, it makes me think that they’re quoting the Bible. Of course I don’t read the Bible, so perhaps that explains a lot.

    Animal March 11, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I don't have breasts – well, none that are worth milking, anyway, and which will hopefully disappear with lots & lots of running – but I enjoyed your writing tremendously. I'm always amazed at this power women seem to have, a connectedness to each other that, frankly, most men seem baffled by.

    I'm convinced that, one blog post at a time, you're changing the way people think. Thank you.

    Her Bad Mother March 11, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Anonymous 12:24 – I appreciate your comment. I do. Believe me, I ask myself ALL THE TIME (and certainly many times over the past two days) why I am (sometimes) bothered by (certain) judgments (the corollary – and why not others?) So, you’ve made me think. Thanks. (I think ;) )

    The fast answer is: I get bothered by things that either a) hit a nerve (things that I think *might* be right; I usually try to address these honestly) and b) things that I think are wholly unfair. What happened this week falls into the latter category. As I have stated at length, I don’t mind that anyone has disagreed with what I did. I expected as much. Had I published the first 2/3′s of the above post (as planned) without knowledge of the other post, I would have closed with a “what would you do? would you do it?” because I am sincerely interested in others’ opinions on this subject. But the post in question wasn’t a differing opinion – it was, as you note, a misrepresentation of what happened for the purposes of eliciting a disgusted response. And the disgusted response was alarming: terrible suggestions were made about me (not least, the suggestion by the author herself, in comments and repeated yesterday on Twitter, that I might have been drinking.) It was mean-spirited and hurtful. Should I have had thicker skin about it? Maybe. But is it surprising that I didn’t? And aren’t I entitled to reflect upon and express my hurt?

    The fact that I’m a ‘bigger blogger’ – whatever that means – does not or should not – mean that I don’t get to express my hurt. I didn’t send anyone to that blog; indeed, I only heard about the post after tons of people had already found it and started discussing it. And as a few people have said – the fact that friends and readers defended me against borderline defamatory discussion (insofar as the description of what happened was dishonest, and admitted to be so by the author) (the Twitter accusations may have in fact crossed that border) does not, I don’t think, translate into an attack by a pack. Had people been jumping on her for disagreeing with me – I would have been vocal about discouraging that. But people jumped on her for publishing a misleading story and for egging on a discussion that involved people – including her – suggesting that I might have been drunk, that I’m the type of person to bare my breasts in bars, etc.) (not even touching the AIDS thing). They defended my honor, to put it archaically. Do I not deserve that, simply because I’m popular?

    Perhaps the answer is no. Perhaps I can’t expect to be NOT be treated disrespectfully, simply because I put my life out there and get some attention for doing so. Perhaps I do not have the right to respond, simply because so many people would support me and that skews some cosmic discursive balance. Perhaps. But if so, I really need some help understanding why.

    Her Bad Mother March 11, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    paperfairies – I may need to write more about this, but as I’ve said to a few people, if you asked me two weeks ago whether I would nurse another woman’s child, I would have said that I didn’t know. I would have probably hovered in the direction of probably not, but I wouldn’t have been able to explain why.

    Would I have allowed another woman to nurse my son? Unequivocally, yes.

    Why the two different responses? I don’t know. I’m still thinking about that. Many of these comments are helping with that, some are confusing the issue.

    Bottom line: I get why it’s complicated.

    Anonymous March 11, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    hi lorrielink
    Sorry it’s me: sexy vs. feeder boobs anonymous. I didn’t make my comment clear if that is what you thought. I can’t comment more as — weird timing — my babe is calling me to be fed. But quickly, I was trying to say that our breasts serve two purposes and it is really really hard to reconcile the two sometimes. Not do they/will they feel sexy when feeding but how can they be one thing one time and another another time! (Sry, not very good response but really must go now.)

    MJMILLS March 11, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    well said ANON 12:24!!!!!

    Her Bad Mother March 11, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Marinka – I am laughing out loud at your most recent comment. Also, I was going to respond to an earlier comment of yours that prompted a thought, but I’ve lost track of where that comment was AND I lost track of my thought, so. Sorry. It was probably good ;)

    lorrielink March 11, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    lol @ Marinka, i thought the same thing.

    @ anonymous sexy vs. boobs. thank you, that totally does help clear that up. i probably had milk brain when i read it too.
    it is totally true that the fuller your breasts get the emptier your head gets.

    ok, so i would say that yes, it can be confusing – in the beginning. if this is new to you, and i would say its new if you are on your first child (which is brain function defying enough by itself) and you have never had a good nursing influence in your life before this (i didnt) and if you are still in your first year nursing that your feelings are totally normal on the confusion of “i thought they were one thing, now i feel diffently” thang.
    i say its a path, its not instant, follow your hart, trust your instinks, clearly define your boundrys. yes your babe gets priority #1 on boob useage now, and you may wonder if youll ever get them back to yourself. the answer is yes, you do. in time. your time. you choose. there are still your breasts right now. you can say no, or not right now, or just a minuet with your boobs to anyone, even your babe. your boobs!
    although it usually goes easier after the 6 months mark. unless your my kid.

    HBM@ sorry if im hijacking, i cant say anything better about your situation than some of the brilliant peeps who already have.

    Suzie March 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    YOU GO GIRL!!!! There’s not enough community and sharing as it is these days…and you hit the JACKPOT. Very proud of you for being open enough to say yes!!!!

    Janna Bee March 11, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Okay, so NOW some tweets I read earlier are making sense.

    My boobs ached just reading this, and I haven’t nursed a child in 7 months. I completely understand that pain! It’s unbearable. I can’t believe someone would say something like that!

    Her Bad Mother March 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Notice to everyone: from hereon in I will be deleting comments that ignore my addendum to the post above. (Also, any comment that seems to me to be sock-puppetry.) I’m tired of stating that this is not about disagreeing with someone else’s opinion – a quick (ha!) survery of the comments to this post will demonstrate that dissent is accepted and supported (by me) – but about responding to a post that – BY THE ADMISSION OF THAT BLOGGER – misrepresented what happened and was intended to incite and that hosted a comments thread in which the author made at least one borderline defamatory comment about to me.

    This post provides the only firsthand account of what happened.

    If I am defensive, I am defensive about people tilting at windmills, directing their arrows at something that is not an issue for me. Repeat: there is NO ISSUE HERE about disagreeing with anyone’s opinion, at least not from me. Seriously. Disagree all you want. Just stay on point with terms of discussion. And don’t call me gross.

    Done with that.

    Mamajama March 11, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    anon 3:01, you seem to have some major issues with breastfeeding moms altogether since you are calling us all a bunch of self proclaimed disabled people with entitlement syndromes (excuse me, but what the hell does that mean?). Bloggers put themselves and their lives out there. Sometimes the feedback is painful to them. We (the normal readers) love HBM for being honest about how she feels on issues.

    I also don’t appreciate being compared to the third Reich (a group that systematically tried to exterminate a race of people) for the way I choose to feed my children. I think you should tone your rhetoric down a bit.
    Fascists don’t like to be taunted. Mwahahahaha.

    Her Bad Mother March 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Anons (who I am going to delete but GOD HELP ME I cannot help but respond):

    1) It’s a fine distinction between calling an act disgusting and a person disgusting. Homophobes make it all the time. I’m not interested in hosting that discussion. You want to post that topic somewhere else, fine. Not here.

    2) There are dozens upon dozens of comments here that disagree civilly and which outline risks, etc, and fears concerning same. i am happy to host those. So accusations that I closing comments to anyone who disagrees with me are entirely baseless.

    3) My space, my rules. You don’t like it, don’t like me, you are free to not play here.

    All respect.

    Karen March 11, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Catherine, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this via your tweets and the first part of this post. Blogging drama aside (although I am sorry you were hurt), the whole story puts the idea of shared nursing out there to be thought about and discussed.

    When my daughter was born @ 25 wks and I was trying so hard to pump and could only produce a few precious drops at a time, I remember commenting to a nurse in the NICU that I wished I knew another BF mom who could donate some milk to my daughter and lend me her baby to help with my supply issues. This seemed kind of natural to me, but the nurse was horrified and scolded “I know you’re upset, but I can’t imagine any woman doing something like THAT!” Note, that this was my fourth child and I really should have been beyond anyone being able to question or judge my parenting, but her comment stung and I never brought it up again. I wish with all my heart that I hadn’t been so thin-skinned and had discussed this with friends and family – I may have found someone in a position to help and saved my nursing relationship with my daughter. (No, I’m not blaming the nurse for my reaction, I own it and she was entitled to her opinion – I DO blame her for not mentioning the existence of Human Milk banks, but this was the same nurse who consistently said “I don’t know WHY you’re putting yourself through this, she’ll be just fine with formula” and that’s a whole ‘nother story)

    Anyway, my rambling point here is that talking about it openly and naturally like you did might help some other Mom in a similar situation feel more comfortable bringing up the idea and perhaps finding the help she needs.

    Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas March 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Hi. Your ass-double here, late to the partay. Someone may have already sent you this link, complete with the video:,8599,1878917,00.html

    Interesting article about this anyway. I had no idea this was even a “thing.”

    I think personally what you did was just fine.

    I think some of the comments on the other site (I didn’t go there, I’m just looking at what you related here) are shameful.

    IDisposable March 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I can tell you that what you did was a wonderful thing, a natural thing, something every close-knit society would and should applaud.
    I only disagree with one thing you wrote. It’s NOT okay for someone to find what you did distasteful. It’s a clear indication of the decay of selflessness and person responsibility in this society. Anyone that protests this nurturing is lacking something profound in their own soul.

    I’m probably not the only man to post here, but rest assured that many of us respect, envy and fully understand the sacrifices that breat-feeding requires. I honor you and your decisions.

    Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas March 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    AND – I love Animal’s comment. Best one I think!

    Anonymous March 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    So now because people don’t agree with it, they’re missing something in their soul???

    This is why breastfeeding discussions go so badly. I don’t understand why people have to be so “nazi” about it and it turn into bashing the people who have issues with it.

    kateypie35 March 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I must take offense to that comment IDisposable. Its rather hurtful to state that anyone that disagrees, even the respectful ones, are “lacking something profound in their soul”.

    Um, no I am not.

    I am a nursing mother. Actually, the other blogger also nursed her children.

    Just because someone states that they personally would not let a stranger nurse their child, (ONE facet of nursing possibilities) does NOT make someone against breastfeeding completely. As HBM stated herself, its complex.

    That is one theme that keeps being repeated that is really confusing to me. “Oh, they think breastfeeding is dirty, oh they think breastmilk is poison, oh they need to get over their squeamishness around boobs,” etc. Why are people making that jump? The other blogger, nor I, nor any of the others who disagreed here, NEVER said anything against breastfeeding as a whole – just that they would not participate in cross nursing. (Maybe one Anon person said public bfing is icky, but that was NOT even close to a majority opinion.)

    I will repeat. I would never let a stranger nurse my child. That is my decision, and I have valid concerns for choosing that side of this debate.

    However, maybe I need to state what else I believe, so its clear? I believe nursing is beautiful and wonderful. I cannot imagine not nursing my child. I feel blessed that I am able to nurse. I do not have a boob phobia. Boobies are natural and wonderful and mine are made to give my child comfort and food. I can separate my feelings of my breasts being a sexual pleasure with my husband, and my breasts as nourishment for my child. I myself was breastfed. I am not squeamish about boobs, boobs are cool! My child is 13 months old, and I will continue to nurse him as long as he wants. I nurse in public. Often. I support other women who nurse in public. Often. I am educated. I have taken a course to be a breastfeeding counselor in my area. I applaud extended nursers. My husband supports me and my child and our breastfeeding relationship. I am kind. I am caring. I am loving. I am a woman. I am a Momma. GO BOOBIES!!!

    kateypie35 March 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Oh, and see that little delicious face that is in my avitar? That is my darling boy, in a milkie coma after drinking from my BOOBS. In fact, maybe he wants to nurse RIGHT NOW!

    Issas Crazy World March 11, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Still the best discussion in the blog world in months. Seriously, I can’t seem to stay away.

    One thing though: Catherine a while ago, a few (40ish) comments ago…I’m forgetting the time, but you said this: “Perhaps I do not have the right to respond, simply because so many people would support me and that skews some cosmic discursive balance.”

    Not true. Completely not true. Please, please don’t believe this.

    Massachusetts Mom March 11, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Clearly anyone who has a problem with this has never had her/his boobs hurt from being overfull. It is horrible.

    Good for you – and even better for you to write about it.

    Penny March 11, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I do not think this is such a big deal. I am curious why some people are so emotional about it either way. I also think it is interesting that Catherine is being celebrated for doing something so “brave.” I do not think she should be villified or celebrated. She was in pain and looked for some relief. It isn’t like she was feeding a starving country. I do not mean to be disrespecful at all, I just wonder where is the middle ground here?

    Mom101 March 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Hi Anonymous 11:10

    I’m that “so-called friend” (term and quotes yours) who named Catherine in that thread.

    It had to be done.

    If the original post and comments remained live, you would see that my motives and rationale were perfectly reasonable – I was bringing a human face and name to the horrible, hurtful comments being slung about a situation that had already been discussed in public forums like twitter. And on this very blog.

    Catherine and this blogger share more than 500 twitter followers in common. I was not telling tales out of school.

    I found the original post because I clicked on a link from a comment the blogger had left elsewhere. And I’m not the only one. Because at that point, dozens of bloggers had already emailed Catherine about it.

    See how this works?

    We are all interconnected.

    I’m not a mean girl by any standards, I’m not a troll, and I’m not hiding behind anonymity. So let’s clear that right up.

    Oh and one more thing? Catherine hasn’t questioned my friendship and neither should you.

    Comments on this entry are closed.

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