Yeah, I Said It: I Would Be a Wet Nurse

I had about two Humnoy-free hours this morning and Daddy brought him in to work until I came to wrangle him up. Humnoy is generally the shop entertainment because he crawls everywhere and sticks his fingers into the air vent. It’s a very good idea to always hold him to keep the kid out of trouble. The boss’ wife was in doing some work and held him for a good amount of time.

I show up right around his coveted mid-day nap where the shop is buzzing with lunch break traffic. He, of course, smells milk and fusses 10 times more than before my face shows up. I sit down to nurse on the lounge couch and he latches on feverishly and zonks out even faster. A woman customer that had been in the shop before I arrived notices me with Humnoy on the boob. She makes the “Oh, that’s strange” face. I hope, for her sake, that she wasn’t bothered by the fact I was nursing in public because I have my lactivist supporters that will quickly defend my boob honor. They include my husband, the boss, and his wife who has a breastfed baby herself!

Since my kid looks very Caucasian and he’s held by a woman, the woman customer thought that I was breastfeeding the wife’s baby! In the normal flow of the going-ons of the all-male bike shop, there are some snickers and giggles at the thought of someone else breastfeeding someone else’s baby. I was surprised that the word “wet nurse” was brought up in the conversation with the boys because it’s an awkward topic for our society.

My husband questions the idea that Humnoy would latch on to anybody else other than me because he is always shirtless and Humnoy has never showed the slightest interest in Daddy nipples. My husband then riddles me with if, for whatever reason, the shop owners’ baby girl had issues with breastfeeding with her mother and they wanted to keep her on breastmilk and if I could, would I nurse their baby girl? I answer, “Yes, if they wanted me to.” I quickly defend myself with cultural norms in other cultures where it’s tradition for another nursing mom in the village/tribe to nurse the newborn baby until the new mother’s milk “came in” or for the mother to rest after childbirth.

I would totally be a wet nurse because a baby is a baby is a baby. I am such a boob(breastfeeding)-snob that I will go to those lengths to provide the perfect nourishment for a child. In those cultures, it’s not seen as an extreme task at all. Isn’t it strange how America loves breasts (sex sells!) until a baby is attached to them, then it is seen as obscene? I was never great on pumping and had donated the last of my frozen stash just recently to a local mom, all of the hefty 19 ounces of it! 😉 Now before you think I am going off on one of my crazy hippie-wannabe tangents, please consider the hierarchy of infant feeding choices set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO) and taken from Chronicles of a Nursing Mom:

As summarized by IBCLC Diane Wiessinger, the hierarchy is (1) breastfeeding; (2) mother’s own milk expressed and given to her child in some other way; (3) milk of another human mother; and (4) artificial milk feed.

If there were an incident where Humnoy and our breastfeeding/milk relationship were compromised, I would very much appreciate any offer of wet nursing my baby boy. It is a beautiful gift that I am providing my child and any child would benefit from the amazing body of a mother.

Have you ever heard of wet nurses? What are your thoughts on the hierarchy?


13 thoughts on “Yeah, I Said It: I Would Be a Wet Nurse

  1. My sister and her best friend had babies at the same time. However, her friend was not able to breastfeed for a while due to complications of her delievery. As a good friend, my sister breastfeed her son for her (as well as her own son), which I thought was the greatest gift ever.

    Yes, I have heard of wet nurses. I read a lot of African American literature and they make frequent reference to wet nurses during the slavery era. As far as the heirarchy…. to each it’s own, but I don’t agree with another person breastfeeding your child for selfish reasons (like I dont want to breastfeed because I dont want to loose my booby perkiness).

    • Oh! I love that your sister did that for her best friend! I love hearing stories about that. I totally cried when I came across a story in pictures about surrogacy and two best friends! The heart mama re-lactated and I believe the birth mama cross-nursed too!

      You’re totally right, I don’t agree for selfish reasons (I didn’t think of that!). People can be very vain in that sense. I wonder if that’s how wet nurses came to be for those higher in social class and because breastfeeding was defined in their socioeconomic status. That’s what is still said today unfortunately… The fact that breastfeeding is for “poor people” and degrading especially when the formula craze began in the 1950s.

      • Story in pictures was beautiful! I am sure that’s why wet nurses came into existance. Some parts of history is flat out cruel due to ignorance. Well it’s good to see other good mommy’s like you!

  2. I would do it if someone needed me to. My
    Mom’s friend nursed her nephew once when she was babysitting because his mom forgot his pumped milk. It doesn’t seem weird to me but I also know that I am not the norm.

  3. The below is an expression of my personal opinion. I think you’re an amazing mother and I commend you for taking raising your child into your own hands. But you know me…I like to crash the party!

    I’m preparing myself for the hate but I think its really odd to breastfeed someone else’s baby unless its an emergency. Reading this makes me think of creepy wet nurse circles where mothers get together and trade their babies and breastfeed. Weird. Obviously there is a necessity for wet nurses in the cases discussed above as well as but do we really need to make it the next cloth diaper fiasco. <–(*shifty eyes*)

    When/if I have a child of my own I can't see myself breastfeeding more than a few months, and if I do I will excuse myself to the bathroom or go to my care. I feel uncomfortable just thinking about wippin' my tot out even if it is for a meal for my chitlin. I myself was breastfed for only 3 months and I turned out a-ok –besides the whole overweight thing 🙂

    I'm not a big fan of breastfeeding in the middle of a public place either though so there is more hate for me. Mothers breastfed at my work (KinderCare) all the time and I find that that does not make me feel uncomfortable. However, when I'm trying to eat a meal or chillax at a park, I get the ookies when I catch a big 'ol side boob being sucked on. Obviously "if I don't like it I don't have to look," but its a public place and I'm bound to catch a glimpse whether I want to or not. To defend myself I get creeped out when I see people make out in public or if I see a slutty girl showing off a run of the mill side boob.

    I'm not trying to make a case for or against breatfeeding, because I don't really care, to each their own, nor am I trying to voice that I feel lie breastfeeding shouldn't be done in public, because I feel its a mother's right to go at it. This is only my person option so shoves it!

    I'd also like to say that I'm going to totes use regular environment hating non biodegrading diapers!

    • Your feelings could change about breastfeeding after you hold your own baby. There are so many benefits for your soon to be child. Plus you will find that not all places are kid/mommy friendly. Some places don’t even hv changing tables. I know after a while I said ” forget this ish ” I I fed my baby in front of evrrone because due to my circumstances I was stuck and I could not take her screaming anymore. Your child’s needs will come before yours and you will do what you hv to.

      But if your feelings don’t change… It’s ok cuz like you said you turned out fine after 3 months. I had even less as an infant with 2 months. LOL.

    • You’re very entitled to your opinion, I respect you for that completely! Nothing wrong with some gentle and adult rebuttal, ready? 🙂

      Riddle me this: Do you get icked out by a bottle-fed baby, by chance? After all, a bottle nipple is modeled after the breast. Each person has their own level of psychological comfort because it’s a cultural norm to bottle-feed here in America. It’s a guarantee if you were in a industrialized European country or third-world country, your ideas would be very different, would you agree? I nurse in public as often as I can because if people don’t see it, it’s saying it’s not normal to breastfeed. Ya dig?

      In my opinion (honestly), I think it’s really gross that a baby is being formula fed given that formula is for emergency feeding. Given the availability of milk banks, there’s no reason to automatically to artificially feed the preservatives and chemicals in marketed formula. Homemade formula is better than what’s in the store

      Also, if you do have children, I strongly encourage you to consider the lifelong benefits for both you and baby(ies) and I’m not just talking about combatting childhood obesity and no periods either. 😉

      • I completly acknowledge the fact I find breastfeeding creepy to look at based on the culture norms in the US. Also back to a pervious point you had, with America being so boob sexualized I can’t help but be partially creeped and think of sexual nip sucking. All because of where I was born and raised.

        Its true when I pop a chitlin out I might be whippin my tots out to breastfeed in public or maybe I’ll just hire a wet nurse 🙂

  4. I just wanted to throw it out there–I’ve done it.

    I watched my sister’s little guy and nursing him worked out fine, although he kept looking at me suspiciously. I also helped out a friend’s baby when she couldn’t nurse him.

    It’s so funny–we are so used to drinking the milk from a thousand different cows in one carton of cow milk (yes, those wet-nosed stinky beasts are the source of that white liquid we shove down kids’ throats) but the milk that’s made for our babies is somehow weird. I don’t get it.

    By the way, I’m totally a white girl, raised by a once semi-hippie mom (who’s now gone all Republican on me), and I just like to think about stuff before I buy into it. And that has made all the difference.

    Thanks for your amazing blogs–I’ve enjoyed reading them.

    • Laura,

      Thanks for checking my stuff out! It was funny – my mother-in-law was shocked that Laos doesn’t consume animal milk products. I grew up on processed stuff because we were poor and my mom did what she could in a foreign country but doesn’t mean my kid will drink cows milk because it doesn’t do a body good – human bodies were made to drink human milk.

      The common makeup of the cuisine in my family’s homeland is always raw and/or steamed vegetables, animal protein, and sticky rice! 😉 Glutinous rice isn’t healthy but it’s so good!

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