8/26/15

Milk Siblings

Feeding infants with breast milk has been shown to improve baby health and even IQ, and the benefits of breast feeding also appear to stay with mothers for years to come, lowering risks of certain diseases. But, not everyone jumps on the breastfeeding bandwagon, especially out in public. I did not breastfeed my son because it was my choice and I am not alone. Many new mothers elect to formula feed their babies and they are just as healthy.
Would you let a friend breastfeed your baby or would you nurse your BFF's baby? One Pennsylvania mom is catching flack for doing just that, and she posted a photo of her nursing both her own baby and a friend's on facebook. Jessica Anne Colletti, age 26 told the Daily Mail Australia that her friend was struggling with breastfeeding her young son, who also did not take well to formula.  “I was already breastfeeding my son and it just made sense to nourish him in the same way. He was having issues with the formula his previous sitter had given him and his issues resolved when formula was no longer necessary.”
Colletti Nursing
Throughout history the woman doing the breastfeeding was called a "Wet Nurse". A wet nurse is a lactating woman who breastfeeds a child that's not her own. Once a highly organized and well-paid profession until the early 1900's, families hired wet nurses to feed infants whose mothers were either not alive or not particularly interested in nursing. Breast-feeding was considered unfashionable in aristocratic circles, and was usually outsourced to women of a lower status. They have nourished a long line of famous men, from the Biblical Moses to baby Louis XIV, who was painted at the breast of his nurse.  The children here are called "Milk Siblings"- - non-related infants who are breastfed by the same wet nurse.  Milk kinship was the practice of forging relationships or bonds between two infants nursed by the same non-biological mother within communities.  Admittedly, there are some risks associated with the practice of so-called “cross-nursing.” The biggest concern is infection: breast milk can transmit diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis. The La Leche League also points out that sharing breast milk can diminish a nursing mother’s supply, leaving her own child with a lack of nourishment. The composition of a mother’s milk will change over time to meet the needs of her growing baby; if the mother of an 18-month-old shares her milk with a four-month-old, the younger infant may not be receiving the specific components he needs.

Nowadays, women who cannot nurse are able to turn to certified milk banks, which either sell or donate pasteurized human milk. Milk banks screen mothers for diseases and lifestyle choices (like smoking and drinking), and so they
provide the safest avenue for cross-nursing. But there is no need to pounce on mothers like Colletti and her friend, who opt for a more intimate arrangement. More than anything else, our aversion to the concept of breastfeeding another woman’s child is cultural. In the days of slavery, black women have been wet nurses for their Slave Master's children and in 2008 Salma Hayek breastfed a stranger's baby in Sierre Leone. As sociologist Rhonda Shaw put it in a 2007 Guardian piece about the resurgence of the wet nurse in Britain: “The exchange of body fluids between different women and children, and the exposure of intimate bodily parts make some people uncomfortable. The hidden subtext of these debates has to do with perceptions of moral decency. Cultures with breast fetishes tend to conflate the sexual and erotic breast with the functional and lactating breast.”  Some years ago, a woman told me that she was still breastfeeding her school age child because she had milk and it gave her sexual gratification. So, it was not all about the nutritional aspects to her. How many others have these sentiments? Then again, there is so much going on in this world, who is to say if these women are doing the right thing. If I was unable to breastfeed my baby, and he was allergic to all the formulas on the market, I would have to hit up the milk bank. There is no way I would ask my friend to nurse my baby. . . . no way Jose. What say You?
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