Have you ever nursed another mother’s baby?

Before the advent of readily available infant feeding substitutes, it was not uncommon for women who were unable, unwilling or unavailable to nurse their babies to engage the assistance of wet nurses who would readily nurse another women’s baby.  This would not only save the life of the baby and in some regards the life and reputation of the mother.

It was considered a noble activity, sister sharing if within the same family or close-knit community, it could also be a lucrative profession for women at a time when women were rarely paid for women’s work. Often their own infants may indeed suffer the loss of milk or time, though depending upon cultural norms, their own children could be raised alongside or just ahead of the infant they were also nursing.

I have had the pleasure and the honor to nurse another woman’s baby. Always with permission, and in my case by the request of the mother in whose absence I was “called to duty”. Whether it was due to the reluctance of the infant to take a bottle or for the expressed comfort needs of the mother who felt what I had was better than the alternatives. Today, we may freeze and share vast quantities of excess breast milk given or sold by women with an outrageous supply of milk either because their baby was not available or had passed, or who had a tremendous supply due to the efficiency of modern day “milking machines” or electric pumps.

There is a clear history of black women nursing the babies of their white slave masters, their own children by their owners or the infants of their wives at times even simultaneously. It is a tangled web of traditions, secrets and clandestine relationships between women, their babies and the fathers of their children especially in isolated rural areas. There were many stakeholders in the decision as to who would nurse the baby when mother was not around. Having accessible affordable household help has always included the nurturing of children as well as support for the women unable to maintain the house and home-making. Having a ready supply of milk from healthy mothers was one way families and communities were ready to address an excessively high infant and maternal mortality rates rampant in certain parts of the country.

Where the wet nurse lives, who she lives with and the proximity to the baby and the babies’ mother and father could make for very interesting dynamics in the household.  It also extends our notion of “family”, cooperation and sharing.

More recently in social media and blogs, mothers have reacted quite strongly to women nursing their babies without permission.  Slate, an online newsmagazine took reader’s questions supposedly regarding the etiquette of a mother-in-law and a babysitter nursing someone’s baby secretly without permission.  However well-intended and well meaning, trust was broken, and both mothers reacted as violated and saw the offenders as criminals.  

Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Emily Yoffe ” pseudonyms” for Dear Prudence neither of whom would identify as nursing mothers Dear Abby’s of our day made no mention of any endearing qualities in a person spontaneously offering a breast to a baby while solidifying the moral outrage for women who lack boundaries on when to nurse someone else’s baby. 

 There is a long tradition now broken of the source of that instinctive touch of maternal connection and comfort. When we are gender neutral and there are pacifiers, bottles, nipples as well as multiple options for infant feeding, pureed foods and liquids; what might have been considered life affirming and lifesaving for the infant rarely considered the mothers’ emotional response to a crying, hungry infant and their stressed out mom.

Hormonal surges aside, whether lactating or not, the women felt something strong that might override any hesitancy to offer their breast.   Many nursing mothers may be shy to say they only wished there was someone who could “fill in” in their absence that they could trust. Would you feel differently if you believed the infant was orphaned and there was no other mother to step in? The police officer who found an abandoned baby, who had a nursing infant at home was applauded for her quick thinking and willingness to immediately take a cold hungry, dehydrated infant to breast as quickly as someone else might perform CPR.

So, what’s your story, please tell us about your experience?  Have you ever nursed an infant other than your own? Have you heard of a “wet nurse”?  How do you feel when you hear someone else’s baby cry? What do you think about the possibility of nursing another mother’s child if she asked you, if she gave you her blessing and permission?





Day care provider breastfeeding your baby: advice from Dear …

https://slate.com/…/daycare-provider-breastfeeding-my-baby-without- permission-advice.html

Feb 19, 2019  Daniel Mallory Ortberg is online weekly to chat live with readers. Here’s an edited transcript of this week’s chat. Daniel Mallory Ortberg: Good …

Dear Prudie: I caught my mother-in-law breast-feeding my son. What …

https://slate.com/…/dear-prudie-i-caught-my-mother-in-law-breast-feeding- my-son-what-do-i-do.html

Jul 9, 2012  Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers.

Where is my period?

Do you ever wonder where your period went while nursing that baby?  

There is such variability out there around when your period returns after having the baby, whether you can get pregnant or not, and actually how much nursing (sucking-stimulation) is actually going on.  What is the frequency? What is the intensity?  I am so curious about how it felt to not have a period for so long and not be pregnant and what nursing may have had to do with it. How did you feel when the bleeding finally returned? Had you actually decreased the amount of time you actually spent nursing your little one? Perhaps it was not a factor at all!

We know so very little about the experience of women and how it feels.  Of course, you can get pregnant without the return of your period, or even having had a “first” period. Ovulation can occur in the absence of menses. Just a single drop of an egg can slip by you and meet up with the sperm; but it is not a likely occurrence if there were few separations between you and your baby. Increased sucking inhibits ovulation but does not prevent it from taking place. There are many other factors at work.

Whether you actually thought to use lactation as a form of contraception is not relevant.  However, to protect the mother from conceiving too soon after the last baby, there is a biological shift that allows for a gentle space between each child over a period of decreased fertility.      

If you are completely focused on your part in the developing relationship of the mother-baby couple, your period is probably the last thing you will see until the slow and steady introduction of solid foods accompanied by regular and lengthy separations from your baby.  Sucking inhibits ovulation indirectly through the release of two hormones prolactin and our old friend oxytocin.

If you have never heard of the term:

“Lactational amenorrhea”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactational_amenorrhea as a legitimate form of contraception, it doesn’t surprise me. Today, we expect a much higher rate of certainty these days in our birth control methods.  But we are barely just barely two generations away from widespread use of oral hormonal methods when for centuries all women had were abstinence, barrier methods and nursing babies to stave off the next child wanted or not. Women had to have the permission of their husbands to obtain almost any contraception. Most women historically never have the option to decline sex without serious risks or consequences.

With my two babies, my period returned about nine months and eleven months respectively.  They were six years apart almost to the day, so my frequency of lactation had little to do with my fertility or so I thought. I enjoyed not having my period. No cramps, no heavy bleeding, just diapers for the baby…

The return to bleeding was a powerful sign of a huge shift in my relationship with my little one.   I felt different, I smelled different, I wondered at times if the milk tasted different. For some reason the blood or absence thereof was a sign of connectedness.  I was aware of feeling a bit PMS, anxious and irritable with some bloating, and then I would just sit down or lie down and nurse my baby and we would both feel better.  Was that the signal for the onset of my period?

There came a time when it was over… I didn’t recall that it had anything to do with weaning. It had to do with our comfort and ability to spend time away from each other freed up to be available to others. My periods were “normal” less onerous for a time. And then the bleeding got heavier as I got older, more painful and associated with fibroids and the doctor said, have another baby, or these fibroids must come out… the end of my fertility, the return or the absence of bleeding.

Please tell us your story. What is your recollection of your period?  Do you have stories about your first period? The first period you missed and why? Who could you tell? How did you handle your period?  What was your bleeding like when you nursed your baby? 

References. read on…

The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor by Sheila Kippley 



Palms, Passover, Passion! Breastfeeding365.com

Many traditions celebrate the coming of Spring; but there is nothing like a birth, or the restoration of a life thought dead and dormant to signal Spring.  Breastfeeding365.com is finally here! 

Nursing a baby for a year or more is quite an accomplishment. It is not the same as bottle feeding the baby your breast milk. Making a decision to stay close to your baby and maintain the connection through the fourth “trimester” despite all odds is quite frankly epic! Experiencing long physical separations as a part of the mother-baby couple, no matter how legitimate the reason is traumatic to mothers. Most mothers literally suck it up and move on, but that doesn’t mean there were no consequences.  We are changing the way we treat women first and foremost by listening to what they have to say about what happened to them from their perspective.

A few years ago, I didn’t even know what a blog was. Now I read many blogs and use this personal blog as a way to support the women who want to nurse their babies by sharing our experiences. I discovered a while back that writing daily was an essential spiritual practice for me.  It helped me to focus my ideas, illuminate my passions and I quickly learned it was one of the best ways I knew to connect with women who had a secret so they would no longer feel isolated and alone. We healed by talking to one another.

Sharing that experience with other women and attempting to put those emotions in to words is to preserve the recollection of what is it like to have a profound attachment to your baby. These genetic memories are ancient, and occur on a cellular level. Feminism can be defined in the many diverse ways of a woman’s lived experience.

I was surprised to learn that many women had no experience with even seeing a nursing infant. Nor could they explain the complex tangle of feelings that occurred when pregnancy and lactation quickly and abruptly ended. Child rearing, like child bearing was in danger of being seen only as a medical event with little mention or concern of the lived experience of women and their families. Nursing a baby was primarily looked at as beneficial to the baby with no mention of the mom and heaps of guilt if you decided that you couldn’t or didn’t want to nurse your baby. Pediatric recommendations of nursing your baby for one year took no account of how that might occur for women in their current role and space.

Nature provides many examples of mammals (live birth-warm milk) tending to the needs of children, nursing mothers, and the family. We are the only ones that can express those feelings as a part of our legacy. Have you nursed a baby, yours or someone else’s baby for one year or more? We want to hear from you and hear your story. Sharing across the miles, and generations as part of our human family.

Many women have no mother, grandmother or elder to learn the stories of nursing their babies. We can introduce ourselves to one another and keep those memories alive. What would you like to see happen on our brand-new breastfeeding365.com website?  What questions do you have? How can we help you share your story?