13 Apr
Should I Breastfeed My Neighbor’s Baby?

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I have a 4 year-old daughter and a 2 year-old son. I am a big proponent of breastfeeding. Both of my children are still nurslings and I have no shame or regrets about this decision.

I have recently started caring for my neighbor’s 4 month-old son three days a week. My neighbor is unable to nurse her son due to problems with her milk production, so he’s a formula-fed baby. My neighbor knows I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding (when it’s possible) and she recently caught me off guard with a rather peculiar request. She asked how I would feel about nursing her son during the time he is in my care, and if possible, providing her with pumped milk to supplement his feedings at home. (She even mentioned something about offering to pay me for this service.)

On the one hand, I feel somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of nursing another woman’s child. Having said that, I feel bad for her, as I know she would love to give her son the nutritional benefits of her own breast milk , but isn’t able. I know there are plenty of women out there in the world who nurse babies that are not their own. I’m just wondering if it’s the right thing for me to do. I worry that nursing my neighbor’s baby might take away from those special nursing moments with my own children.

Should I give her idea a try, or just say no?

Signed,

Boobs Possibly for Rent

_____________________________

Dear Boobs Possibly for Rent,

I was just manning the table at my breast milk stand (75 cents a cup by the way) but traffic was slow.   I thought it would be a real niche market but I don’t know. Next time I’m going with the lemonade stand. Anywho (gosh, I hate that expression), let’s solve your predicament.

I personally would never breastfeed another woman’s baby.   I would feel like I was cheating on my own babies. Well, let me amend that. If I was stuck in an elevator for hours with a crying infant who had no food, I would nurse that baby. But I’m not breastfeeding anyone else in the elevator. I don’t care how hungry they are. They can grab a Snickers bar when someone gets us out of that hot box.

Even if you decide you are comfortable nursing this person’s baby, it brings up a lot of thorny issues. What if you want to drink a glass of wine each night? Or drink coffee? Or eat tuna or other fish containing high levels of mercury? Or take allergy medication? Any of these things could bother the other mom since a small amount could end up in your breast milk and in her baby. And she should absolutely insist you get a medical screening and a blood test to make sure you don’t pass on any viruses through your breast milk.

As for selling the milk, there are no federal laws regarding the sale and distribution of breast milk. However, certain regulations do occur from state to state so you would need to check your particular state.

I don’t think this is something you “just give a try.” If you are both really considering this, you need to sit down, have a serious discussion and come up with the ground rules. And if you ultimately decide it’s not for you, don’t feel guilty. I know a lot kids who were formula fed and they are just as whiny and nuts as the breastfed ones!

Good luck to you,

Kelcey, TMH

29 Responses to “Should I Breastfeed My Neighbor’s Baby?”

04.13.11#1

Comment by Hillary.

I don’t know. If she is asking you to breastfeed her baby she has probably considered all of this. If you are comfortable and she if comfortable then I say go for it!

http://www.hm4hb.net/ Human Milk for Human Babies is a global network which promotes milk sharing and the founder, Emma Kwansica has written about her own experiences of being a wet-nurse for another woman’s baby.

I think it would be an incredible gift that you could give her son. The only thing I would take into consideration is the nutrients in your breast milk might not be quite tailored to a 4 month old, since you do extended breastfeeding, so you/she will still have to keep that in mind.

Good luck!

04.13.11#2

Comment by wen711.

Um, eww.

04.13.11#3

Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

If you are feeling uncomfortable about breastfeeding this baby, then don’t: the feeling will not wear away and is likely to increase.

Moreover, a mother’s milk changes as time passes, containing more and more nourishing elements according to the child’s feeding needs. This means that your milk is for older children than your neighbour’s.

04.13.11#4

Comment by From Belgium.

How about you just pump (if you are comfortable with that) the milk and feed it to the baby? That way the baby gets its breastmilk and you get to keep a little distance.

04.13.11#5

Comment by calliope.

Yeah, I was going to pretty much say what From Belgium said. Also, I’d only consider doing it if my own baby wasn’t finishing off my milk in a feeding. I mean, obviously if your own baby is sucking both breasts dry, you probably want to keep it all for him/her.
But if you have “leftovers” I don’t see the harm in expressing it for your neighbor’s baby, so long as you’ve both discussed the medical implications of your diet/habits/etc.

04.13.11#6

Comment by Muffintopmommy.

Just….yuck.

04.13.11#7

Comment by christy.

If you’re not comfortable nursing her baby, or pumping, you could have her contact an organization that supports breastfeeding moms, maybe La Leche? I know that there are organizations out there that supply babies breast milk, when their own moms can’t.

04.13.11#8

Comment by Ann's Rants.

She should totally start a wetnurse temp service. Wayyyyy better than data entry.

04.13.11#9

Comment by StephanieG.

Wow. I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding, but I had enough trouble nursing my own baby! You think it should be the easiest thing in the world, but between latching problems, going back to work, and two front teeth by the time my baby was 5 months old, I only made it 6 months.

I cannot imagine trying to breastfeed another’s child. IMHO, there is so much bonding that takes place during the act of feeding that it would feel unholy for me to breastfeed any child but my own.

But I would pump for another mom if she needed it. If you’re lucky enough that your body continues to produce enough milk for your own children and have some left over, I think there’s nothing wrong with sharing what you can.

I also think there’s not a damn thing wrong with saying no if you’re not comfortable with the request.

04.13.11#10

Comment by allisonjd.

I would do this in a heartbeat but that’s just me. If you have some reservations, I recommend pumping too. That way it’s kind of the best of both worlds. I think the worry about nutrients in your milk is a valid concern and should probably be discussed with your neighbors pediatrician before starting anything.

04.13.11#11

Comment by Wendi.

We have a Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin where you can donate your excess milk. Then it goes through a very long, involved process to get pasteurized (or something like that) for other babies. Anyway, this tells me that there are maybe a few concerns in such a transaction that you should consider.

And Kelcey’s breast milk stand would have done a lot better if she had used glitter on her signs.

fuck yeah, motherhood! Reply:

Kelcey’s milk stand would have done a lot better if she had worn a low cut top.

04.13.11#12

Comment by Stacey.

I can see pumping, but unless it was an emergency, I can’t see nursing another woman’s child. But that’s just me!

04.13.11#13

Comment by Lessons in Life and Light.

I’m really disappointed to see so many “yuck” comments. Have we actually become so jaded by the over-sexualization of breasts in this country that we’ve forgotten their primary purpose? That’s just sad. This woman is obviously wanting to do the very best she can for her baby. If I couldn’t breastfeed my baby, I’d go to a milk bank before I turned to formula. The first commenter had a good suggestion. Milk sharing/banking has become very popular as of late and as we know, breast milk truly is best.

Funny–no one cringes or says, “yuck” when we drink cow’s milk. Why is human milk so gross? Maybe it’s time we change our perspectives a little bit.

shells Reply:

I completely agree, the yuck comments are very sad.

Hillary Reply:

The only problem with milk banks is that they take a long time to get milk if it is not an emergency, and often they don’t even have enough supply for the infants that really need it due to low birth weight or illness.

marathonmom Reply:

They aren’t everywhere either…The Austin bank was the closest to me when my daughter was born but I would have had to fedex it overnight every day on dry ice to get it there safely. Kind of more than I could bite off at the time…

04.13.11#14

Comment by Kati.

I wouldn’t, but I had enough problems nursing my own kids. But there are professional wetnurses and the fact is that breast IS best.
If you feel uncomfortable with it, then I would suggest just pumping for her baby. He’s still getting breastfed and that’s what matters (I’m assuming that between you and his mom he gets plenty of snuggling!), but if it doesn’t feel weird to you, just do it. I wouldn’t even charge (how do you even come up with a fee for that?) It’s no more time-consuming than sitting there holding his bottle, so I’d say your basic babysitting fees should cover it.

momof4luds Reply:

Actually it’s EASIER than bottle-feeding.

04.13.11#15

Comment by mom2nji.

Wow the eww and yuck comments are just sad.
If you aren’t sure, dont do it. But if you feel ok about it, I say go for it. I am sure she thought this over a lot before she asked you, but I would def have a sit down talk with her about all the what ifs.

04.13.11#16

Comment by Fletch.

I couldn’t breastfeed and I was so grateful to get milk from a milk bank for my daughter. I gave her milk from people I would never meet. What a wonderful thing it is to give that gift!
There are many societies in which women breast feed each others children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Our society is sadly out of touch with nature!

04.13.11#17

Comment by Rojopaul.

Forget about the neighbor’s kid, am I the only one who thinks nursing a 4 year old is just way wrong??? I think 2 is pushing it too but I could see weaning around that age. I mean, how long is it acceptable to breast feed? Good grief.

Hillary Reply:

There are studies that suggest that the ‘normal’ weaning age for babies is 3-4 times their gestational age, so if you do the math for humans ~10 months x3.5 = almost 3 years. Plenty of mothers choose to extend past that and there is nothing wrong with that. Actually the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until AT LEAST 2 years of age.

shells Reply:

The only reason I stopped breastfeeding my youngest at one and a half was because I wanted my own body back. I did it for selfish reasons, and it was a decision I struggled with because I knew I was doing it for selfish reasons.
While it may seem taboo to you to breastfeed at 4 years old, I feel that giving my child milk from an animal is taboo.

Do what you think is best for your child, don’t judge me for doing what I think is best for mine.

04.14.11#18

Comment by Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac.

No matter whose baby it is, nursing THREE children sounds reeeeally tiring! And it makes Kelcey and her twins sound a bit slacker-ish, no?

Steph Reply:

Kelcey is slacker-ish nursing twins? too funny–thanks for the laugh.

04.16.11#19

Comment by Mimzy Wimzy.

I saw an article online once about a man who’s wife had passed away (I forget the circumstances) & many other women would come to his home and breast feed his infant.
I personally would not be comfortable with nursing another mothers child. That is a personal experience (now if I were able to nurse & became a full time caretaker/parent through adoption/foster care that would be different). I also wouldn’t want to be one of many other women who are nursing one persons child. With that said, pumping and giving her a supply of breast milk {with the consent of her babies Dr} seems like a very generous thing to do. All parents involved must have their feelings taken into consideration (dad’s count too!).

08.11.11#20

Comment by Luoda09.

Before I was a mother I actually longed to breastfeed other people’s babies as I was an au pair and often had to do the night feedings. Maybe that baby does not even have a special bond with a mother-figure or his own mother and would become emotionally healthier as a male adult for this, that is another reason aside from the myriad of enzymes undiscovered in breast milk to feed him.

06.05.13#21

Comment by Davis.

Would you sell me some of your milk

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