I Breastfeed My Friend's Son...What's The Big Deal?

Well, we almost did it. We almost made it through World Breastfeeding Week without a wave of drama from the "I Support Breastfeeding But..." crowd.


Because there is currently a storm brewing...a milk storm, no less...in reaction to this perfectly natural and beautiful picture:

This is Jessica Anne Colletti; a mom who breastfeeds both her own son (on the right) and her friend's son (on the left), while her friend works.

Brilliant, right? What a wonderful shout-out to sisterhood! What an awesome hashtag ‪#‎MilkSiblings‬ is! What a creative way to navigate motherhood and work!

And yet, there it is...rumbling in the distance...the familiar cries of naysayers heading our way. Brace yourselves, because we seem to have unsettled the beast...

Here is the original post that I shared on my Facebook page (which just happens to be a space dedicated to normalizing breastfeeding - in all its forms):

Mama Jessica says:"My son on the right is 16 months and my friend's son is 18 months. I watch her son while she works...

If we filter past the shock-fuelled cries of "gross!"...there is a lot of love for this picture.  Because the majority (of my audience at least) see this practice of wet-nursing for exactly what it is: a wonderful alternative to direct breastfeeding.

And if you are on the fence and need convincing, let me clarify the official stance.  Allow me to quote from The World Health Organisation's "Global Strategy On Infant And Young Child Feeding"*, which lists the "best alternatives" to direct breastfeeding as follows:

  1. Expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother.
  2. Breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank.
  3. Breast-milk substitute fed with a cup.

I understand that for many, seeing formula listed below pumping and wet-nursing might be very, very hard to read.  I understand the frustration, grief and anger that so many moms feel when breastfeeding doesn't come easily to them...or when breastfeeding feels like the hardest mountain to climb. I get it, I really do. But this innocent list wasn't compiled to shame moms. It was created - collaboratively by The World Health Organisation and UNICEF, I might add - to provide information...to provide clarity...to provide facts.

So factually speaking, a healthy-wet nurse is the second best alternative to direct breastfeeding.  And for moms who struggle to pump that elusive 2000oz of breast milk, or who are negotiating the phenomenon of Pumping Disappointment, the option of wet-nursing could be the perfect solution.

Jessica, the mom in the picture, told me:

"Breastfeeding my friend's son came naturally to me.  I started babysitting him when he was 5 months old and the first time she dropped him off to me I asked permission to nurse him, since I was already nursing my 3 month old.  She responded with an enthusiastic yes, because he was having issues with the formula his previous sitter had been giving him.  My friend struggled with breastfeeding in the beginning and succeeded for 9 months.  She was always very happy that her son had the nutrition and comfort he needed while she was working.  Being able to breastfeed her little boy has created a special bond between us all, a bond I will always cherish."

For a society that has no issues drinking the milk of another species in their mocha cappuccinos, perhaps it's time to change our general stance towards human babies drinking human milk. For a society that holds formula as the 'norm' for infant feeding, perhaps it's time to have another glance at the list above...the factual list compiled with only one 'goal' in mind: to improve the health of our children and future generations.

Quite simply, you can't argue with the facts.  Isn't it time to normalize breastfeeding, in all its forms?

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Thank you to mama Jessica for allowing me to feature her picture and story in this piece.  For more photos in celebration of breastfeeding and motherhood, join the Mama Bean village on Facebook!

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*Global Strategy On Infant And Young Child Feeding, WHO.  Details can be found Here.