A photo of a woman breastfeeding her sister’s baby (above) is going viral, once again bringing up the debate surrounding wet nursing.
The mum at the centre of the scrutiny had her photo posted on Breastfeeding Mama Talk, and she could never have guessed how people would react.
“In some weird chain of events today I ended up breastfeeding my sister’s son while she was away because he would not take the bottle his momma pumped him,” she shared. “In return, because my son won’t latch and is strictly fed bottles I pump, my sister was able to feed my son her perfectly good pumped milk. Which made for two very happy and content babies.”
It was meant to be a safe space
For anyone who follows Breastfeeding Mama Talk, started by Kristy Kemp back in 2012, you will know that the page aims to provide a safe and encouraging space for mums to discuss breastfeeding and to learn more about it.
However, many comments on the post were a far cry from “safe” or “supportive” – with Kristy personally blocking a number of commenters for their obtuse and hurtful opinions.
One mum shared, “My boobs and milk are for my children only and I wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing another woman feed my child either.”
Others expressed safety concerns saying, “I don’t know if I could let another mom breastfeed my child because I don’t 100% trust anyone else’s blood.”
And others even claimed that women who want to breastfeed another person’s baby must have some sort of issues: “Most of the people who have breastfeeding issues or wet nursing have some type of issue. Seriously breastfeeding is one hell of a commitment. It isn’t fun. And not entertaining. The sole reason women breastfeed is because it is natural.”
Photos of support: “This is me feeding my best friends son (4 months) and my daughter (19 months)… I do it a few times a week while she’s at work … This is beautiful and should be looked at as normal and not weird or strange!”
“Whatever happened to the term ‘it takes a village’?”
Of course the backlash also caused countless mums to come forward and share their stories and support for the unnamed mother – even if wet nursing is not something they would do themselves.
“The only thing for me is I feel that breastfeeding is a very intimate (not sexual) bond for mother and child,” one wrote. “I PERSONALLY would not be comfortable breastfeeding another child, or another person feeding my son. I won’t judge those who do though because babies have to eat! I myself just wouldn’t be comfortable with it.”
A number pointed at the wet nursing was a completely common thing prior to the introduction of baby formula. “Newborns are new to the world and anyone comforting, nourishing, holding the baby is intimate and personal … What is so wrong with being intimate and personal with a baby? What ever happened to the term it takes a village? Breast milk is best, no matter where it came from.”
Wet nursing used to be the norm: “In EVERY culture, and it’s history, there have been wet nurses. If there ever was a need, and my own family would offer, YES a million times … This photo is completely controversial all on its own. Breastfeeding as a whole should not be this controversial.”
“The ignorance on this thread is astounding”
Being a Facebook page that firmly aligns itself with the idea that ‘Breast is Best’, it’s unsurprising that wet nursing is an act that Breastfeeding Mama Talk strongly supports.
Hearing so many people express negative thoughts about the practice made Kristy – the page’s founder – obviously frustrated. She continued to support the act of wet nursing in a number of comments and says she will now be doing a live video on the topic.
“The ignorance on this thread is astounding,” she wrote in one comment. “Wet nursing has been done since the beginning of time people. Breast milk will always be the best choice … Those obsessing over the “risks” with milk sharing, there are risks with formula too yet people seem to forget that. I understand if wet nursing isn’t something you think you would ever … (but) most of the time wet nursing is done is because it’s NEEDED.”
Ultimately, any topic that has mums claiming another mother’s actions as “wrong” (or “right” for that matter) needs to be entered into with caution and respect. In the end, the mum in this photo – like every new mum – is simply doing her best to keep the babies she loves nourished and healthy.