Wet Nursing & Cross-nursing

What is a Wet Nurse?
Why would a Mother Cross-nurse?

cross-nursing, wet nursing

First off what is the difference between wet nursing and cross-nursing? Wet-nursing is when somebody permanently breastfeeds somebody else’s baby usually for payment (employed by the mother), cross-nursing is generally done when mom is unavailable and is usually done between friends and family.

When the mother allows a breastfeeding family member to breastfeed her own child, it’s either because she, herself, is unable to breastfeed or during times when the mother is at work.

Sometimes mothers may even become a breastfeeding babysitter for one another and cross-nurse each other's children. Many people compare sharing breastmilk to adultery, being weird and inappropriate, while others just see it as a natural, logical and practical solution. It is, in the end, an individual decision to be made.

Cross-nursing can also be a way for a mother to stimulate breast milk supply if her own baby is not able to do so, due to being very premature or having problems like birth defects or sucking problems.

Cross-nursing can be used as a way for an adoptive mother to induce lactation with an experienced baby. Meanwhile, her adopted child can be breastfed by the mother that has a full breast milk supply, thus teaching the baby how to breastfeed.

The History of Wetnursing

In ancient times when a mother died, another woman would raise and breastfeed the baby. Sometimes group nursing was practiced.  (when a group of mothers breastfeeds the same child)

By the 18th century, it had become unfashionable by rich people to breastfeed, they saw the practice as something that only poor people did and would hire ladies for this specific purpose. Becoming a wet nurse sometimes meant neglecting your own child's need for breast milk.

When formula was finally introduced, they were needed less and less. And with the rise of AIDS, people where warned that the virus could enter the breast milk, which made the practice even more scarce.

Safety Precautions when Looking for a Wetnurse…

  • She should be disease free (should be screened before the time)
  • Healthy and taking no medication.
  • Should not smoke, drink excessive alcohol or coffee (or other caffeinated products)

Warnings about Wet Nursing and Cross-nursing

  • Mothers who cross-nurse should watch out that their own milk supplies do not diminish (your milk supply will decrease if you are not stimulating your breasts through breastfeeding)
  • Make sure the woman that is breastfeeding your child is free from sickness and diseases, suggest a few tests before you start cross-nursing.
  • It could disrupt the maternal bond between the mother and baby.

The bottom line is, what is best for baby?

Human breast milk... so if the baby can’t receive breast milk from the mother…why not let (a trusted) somebody else breastfeed your baby?

Just for Fun

How to Wet Nurse someone else's baby

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