Feeding Baby

Men (that’s you David, Art, Mike, and FringePop), you may want to spare yourselves the emotional turmoil of this post.  You’re welcome to read and participate in conversation; however, any thoughts and feelings you have on the subject of “a wet nurse” will be immediately discredited by your lack of estrogen.

Enter this conversation at your own risk and consider yourselves warned.

I’ve been thinking about wet nurses. 


I’m not a name dropper because that gets me into trouble, but my sister-in-law (the one who blogs and takes pictures of her adorable girls) got to talking about the viable and lucrative career of a wet nurse.  Let’s just say, She’s Got Milk!

We women are amazing reproductive machines.  We are not only life givers, but we are also life stustainers.  Let me be clear.  I know God gives life, but He gives it to us grow, nurture, and incubate.  Long before we begin feeding our offspring nitrate laden hot-dogs and processed mac & cheese, we offer them our breast. 

Yes mom, that word just made it to print in a worldwide media induced, BIG way.

The ‘milk of the mam’ (commonly known as a mammary gland) is infused with love and warmed with affection.  Our selfless feeding not only provides nourishment, but also promotes a well-being in our baby that encourages mother and child to bond.  Most mothers desire to provide the best for their baby; however, for some women this does not include breast-feeding. 

Because some women have physical limitations, health problems, and require medication, they must seek alternate means of nourishment for their child.  Enfamil and other companies do an excellent job of mimicking the  chemical makeup of breast-milk and allow children to thrive. 

Whether you choose to nurse your baby or give that smelly little suckling formula is not really an issue for me.  As you long as you feed the kid so we don’t have to hear him cry, I’m good. 

No mommy judgement in this post.

A wet nurse is someone who feeds your child from her own milk supply.  Throughout history wet nurses have been employed with varying degrees of popularity.  Since the production of formula, the popularity of the wet nurse has decreased, at least in America.  In many developing societies milk nurses are still used. 

Have you heard of a ‘cross nurse’? 

It’s not to be confused with a cross dresser or a cantankerous woman.  A cross nurse is a woman who feeds your child temporarily. 

Say I was out shopping, got stuck in traffic, and my child is home with my nameless sister-in-law.  My baby screams for food like she’s on the verge of starvation.  My sister in-law fears for the health and well-being of her niece and suckles my child until I return, hence becoming a cross nurse.

My question to you is tri-fold. 

What are your thoughts on the idea of a wet nurse?

Could you be a wet nurse? 

Would you ever consider using the services of a wet nurse?

My friends I leave you to consider the weighty options of nourishment in our post-modern society.  I expect your comments will be enlightening.

2291924126_334b6fc3f4For the record, my sister-in-law has chosen an alternate career path, namely photography.

If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, you may consider purchasing one of these.


It’s a super-mom cape!  No, it’s a breast-feeding tent, shield, blanket of modesty, etc.  It’s really chic & vintagy.  After seeing it, I almost started lactating. 

Bad joke.

I wonder where wet nurses advertise…


39 thoughts on “Feeding Baby

  1. Pingback: Identity Crisis « the domestic fringe

  2. Jenni

    I nursed my sister’s baby once while she was out. She had nursed him right before she left, but then he chucked it all and was getting reeeeeeally sad a few hours later. I had milk, why the heck would I withhold it from the sad little bugger? So I nursed him and he didn’t mind a bit (neither did sister).

    Grace R; my sister-in-law nursed my own baby for a weekend once when I went away, too. Baby was a year old and almost weaned, but I was a little worried that she’d refuse her cup and die of thirst while I was gone (lol). SIL was lactating because she had her own wee one. She nursed my baby a couple of times and all was well. So I guess it depends on the baby as to whether or not they will only take mom. Mine was pretty laid back about her auntie offering boobie to her.

    So yeah…I think it’s a perfectly legitimate course of action when the situation warrants! I have honestly been a little surprised and perturbed by how grossed out a lot of people get about this idea…

    Obviously there are health concerns on the part of the mother who is offering to supply the need; I wouldn’t take just anyone up on the offer!

    Here via Straight Shooter…

  3. Grace Rinaldi

    Cross nurse! That was me and my friends when we were young mothers. We would nurse each others babies if we were babysitting. But truth be known, that only works untill a kid is about 4 months old. After that, they will reject everyone except their own mom. I was one of those “La Leche League” toddler nursing hippy types back then. Oh, the good old days…Gracie

  4. Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com

    This is an interesting question; I’d never really considered it before. I always thought that wet nurses were more of a thing of the past or of more nutritionally-deprived countries. Who knew?

    Anyway, I cannot say that I would be comfortable with another woman nursing my child. When I first talked to a lactation consultant, she pointed out that breastmilk is only healthier if the mother’s diet is healthy, and that formula is a better option if the mother eats poorly or takes a significant amount of medications that can transfer to her milk supply. She even showed me studies that demonstrated how much the quality of the nutrients in breastmilk are depleted when the mother leads a more sedate lifestyle as opposed to a woman who exercises regularly. As I have no way of controlling another woman’s diet or exercise, disease and infection she may or may not come in contact with (including thrush) (which is a big concern for me since I have an autoimmune disorder which I could very well pass along to my child), whether or not she takes medications (and what type), etc…I’d rather go with formula. It may not be ideal for some people, but I’d prefer the comfort and safety of knowing that the nutrients necessary were present, disease and infection were less likely to be transmitted, and it wouldn’t be affected by the other woman’s diet or exercise.

    So, while I would love to nurse my baby myself, if something happened wherein I could not, I would prefer that the baby were offered formula as opposed to another woman’s breast.

    Since I’ve never breastfed a child (we’re still waiting on our first), I cannot say whether or not I would be adverse to nursing another woman’s child. But I suspect that I wouldn’t feel very comfortable with it unless it were an emergency or medical necessity. I know, for one, that my body has a hyper-active immune system, which could potentially pose a problem to another woman’s child if my disease were active and I were not yet aware, something which I would never want to do. And I know as well that I could transfer any infection or disease from another woman’s baby to my own baby if I were still actively nursing my child, which isn’t a risk I would want to incur.

  5. Straight Shooter

    Wow Girl!
    This has had me calling friends and lead to an enlightening discussion with my loving husband.
    I have to say I’d have no problem BEING the wet nurse. I’d feel inadequate having to HAVE a wet nurse. And would employ one after intense investigation. Not now. But when Boy Child was a wee babe I wish I would have thought of it. He needed it. Allergies. GERD.
    Great discussion.
    Thanks Girl.

  6. robinaltman

    You are soooooo funny!! I love this post and the discussion!

    I couldn’t care less about someone else nursing my baby, but the thought of nursing someone else’s baby makes me sort of nauseous. But what the hell? People used to do it all the time!

    I brought a ginormous electric breast feeding machine to work, and it sat on my desk, looking like some sort of strange sewing machine. It had two suction cups you’d attach to your breasts and they’d alternatively milk each breast, like a cow. I hope they’ve made some advancements since then!

  7. stonefox

    This cracked me up, although I am not sure I could be a wet nurse. I think I could let someone else nurse my baby if there was some reason I couldn’t. I do believe breast is best…even if it is someone elses??? You’ve got me thinking!

  8. elizabeth channel

    Oh you picked one of my favorite topics! I trouble my girl’s night out group so much discussing this very topic!

    I nursed all three of my children into toddlerhood…my last for 2.5 years. Yes, I would be a wet nurse and many were the times I kept a friend’s newborn and was too lactating (since I’ve lactated for so many years) when I considered for a moment cross-nursing, although I never did.

    I also nursed while pregnant so I am a strange one in that department, too. It has been almost exactly one year since I stopped nursing my now-3.5-year old, and I will say I have gained 15 pounds. I have seriously considered trying to re-lactate and donate milk for weight-loss reasons. Yet I also consider also the bone density issue and I’m not sure about the trade-offs.

    Excellent topic!

  9. sarah

    I think that if you really want your child to have breast milk and you cannot provide it for whatever the reason may be, that a wet nurse is a fabulous option for you. For ME, I was OK with formula for my daughter. If a wet nurse would have been offered to me, I think I would have declined. I don’t think there is anything WRONG with being or using a wet nurse, I just wanted to be the one to give my child nutrition. As odd as it sounds. Even if it was ME making a formula bottle – I was the supplier.

  10. wendypg

    Thanks for stopping by my Blog. Great to meet new blogger friends. Ah—I’m not sure I’d be down with the wet nurse thing. I’m a little particular about WHO’s sucking on my breasts (ha ha ha)
    Reminds me of the book Grapes of Wrath –at the end, everyone is starving to death, and this one girl who just lost her baby, let an old man suckle on her breast to save him.

  11. Beth

    I also loved Nikki’s answer. I too had enough milk to feed a small village. I also ran a daycare in my home of loving 72 children during the years I did it, so I could be a SAHM.
    There was a sweet baby who was breast fed and at times would scream when the formula her mom substituted her with, could not calm her down. Hense for everyones sanity especially the babys, I guess there were times I was a cross nurse.
    * It is not something I would have chose for my own babies and that was why they were with me the first year of their life.
    I think it is the babies well being over all else. I would do it again ..in a heart beat if a baby was in need.:-)

  12. Mindy

    I love Nikki’s response. Cool question posed, FringeGirl! Lots of interesting feedback. I must admit, I feel like one of the guys, though, since I have never actually born chillin’s or lactated. Again, I’d do it for anyone…as long as I don’t have to actually KEEP the kid! ~Mindy

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      Mindy, as long as you have female hormones, you’re one of the gals. I don’t really think having had children is a prerequisite for having an opinion on this subject. If anything, those of us who’ve had children are at a disadvantage. Pregnancy and childbirth destroy your best brain cells. Scientific fringe-fact.

  13. Nikki

    When I was nursing my kids I had enough milk to feed a small village. I used to nurse on one side and fill up a bottle on the other to give to my babysitter while I was out. But once when my youngest was about 6 months old, my hubby and I went to Las Vegas to see Joan Rivers at Caesars Palace. Lacey had always nursed and taken a bottle so it wasn’t a problem. I left enough bottles of breast milk that we figured she’d be fine. Evidently she was on a huge growing spurt and ended up drinking all the milk that I had left. My mom tried to give her formula when she got hungry after the supply was gone…but she refused to drink it. We were late getting back because of traffic (my excuse…we actually were winning on the slots and lost track of time!) Anyway…my mom couldn’t get Lacey to stop screaming…after hours of it she was at her wits end. She called her neighbor across the street (who had a new baby she was nursing) and asked Margie if she would mind nursing Lacey. Mom figured there was a chance I would freak out…but a screaming baby was over ruling her worries about how I would feel. Margie said sure bring her over…she nursed her and calmed her down and she went right to sleep. When we got home my mom told me what she had done…then waited to see if I would flip out. My reaction….I said “quick thinking mom”. Hey it didn’t bother me one bit. And had a neighbor called and asked me to feed a crying baby…I would have been happy to oblige.

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      Nikki, thanks for sharing your story. I’ll admit that a screaming baby will cause you to consider things you never thought possible – adoption, vocal cord removal, wet nurse…

      Your mom’s a smart woman!

  14. Blond Duck

    I don’t really have an opinion on the subject. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Since I don’t have kids, I don’t ever know if I would use one.

  15. Rachel

    Oh gosh, you sure can bring out the estrogen!

    (Loved the lactating joke, BTW.)

    1. The whole idea of a wet nurse seems a little weird to me. Maybe it’s just because I’m backwoods and Southern. 🙂 Like I have no problem with women pumping and donating milk to milk banks and stuff, and I would even get that donated milk for my child if it was needed. The issue isn’t the milk; it’s the whole idea of it being another woman giving that nurturing. I don’t know, maybe I’m too protective. Those early months are so short and go by so fast – I would be afraid of my child bonding with the other woman.

    2. I could not be a wet nurse. I had trouble nursing my little girl. I’m one of the “cases” – I was on medication and pumping to keep my milk supply up, but it was like my body wanted to fight against me. I ended up getting tendonitis in both hands from pumping before I wised up and finally bought a hospital grade pump. I was able to keep it up until she was 6 months and then I quit. I realized I was spending more time pumping and trying to keep breastmilk in her when she was at the age where she was eating and starting to play, and I thought it would be more important for me to be a part of her life than always be under a blanket pumping.

    3. I think I answered 3 with my responses to the first 2. 🙂

  16. April Kennedy

    If I had a nursing baby that was crying because she was very hungry and a sister or close friend offered to nurse until I could get home I think I would be grateful. A little grossed out if I thought about it too much, but still grateful.

    I know I could be a surrogate for a sibling too, but once you go outside of the family or close close friend it gets a little wierd.

    I did have very wonderful feelings though when I read that Selma nursed the orphan while visiting another country. That is what being a mother is all about….right? Mothering not only your own, but mothering all that need it.

    Nice post Fringe Girl and thanks for the link. I will be sewing all weekend and will have nursing aprons up in the shop on Monday!

  17. Kara-Noel

    ~I think wet nurses are great. Breast milk is awesome for the baby that’s why formula companies try to copy it and not just make something totally new and improved.
    ~I’m not sure I would be a wet nurse. I nursed my kiddos for the required year then took my boobs back! My friends and I have kinda crossed nursed. We all had babies around the same time and if someone needed milk we would just pass around our frozen pumped bags… I think there is a grocery bag of my milk still in one of my friend’s freezers (yes a grocery bag!!)
    ~I would hire one if I didn’t have milk and had the money. One of my closest friends an I had kiddos at the same time (not planned… but quite convenient!) and we vowed that if for some reason one of us was injured or in the hospital we would nurse the other’s little one for the duration.

  18. Erin

    Oh my, you are braver than I thought. And I love you for this.

    I would not be a wet nurse. I would not use a wet nurse. I had my own issues just feeding my own children.

    But I would value any woman’s choice to be or have her child receive a wet nurse. It is simply beyond me.

    Very, very interesting.

  19. Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    Interesting, I just always assumed that wet nurses were a thing of the past (like medieval times) so I haven’t given it much thought really. I don’t know how comfortable I would be having someone else feed my child in that way. I think that there are enough good formulas these days that ensure the baby will be getting the right nutrition so I would probably just go with that. As far as breastfeeding goes – since we’re trying to get pregnant and haven’t had a baby yet, I can only say that I would like to try to do it. If it doesn’t work though, I’ll go with formula and will just be glad that the baby’s getting fed. 🙂

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      Tabitha, I think they are a thing of the past in our country. For the most part anyway!

  20. Alyson (New England Living)

    I’m not against wet nursing, though I would never use the services of a wet nurse unless in an emergency. I also would never be a wet nurse. I have a strange reaction to the hormone that is released during breastfeeding. I am hit with a sudden and encompassing depression. It got worse with each kid. I tried to just nurse them for a few months, than stop before I I became suicidal. 😉

  21. Debbie York

    Someone needs to see that woman who is still breastfeeding her 8 year old. I’m sure she has plenty to spare!

    On another note, that first photo of your parents in the previous post says it all, girl!


    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      Debbie, an eight year-old…really? Isn’t that against the law or something?

      Alyson, so sorry to hear about your reaction. Glad it was temporary.

  22. Mom

    Many years ago (It’s okay, I won’t give your age away) we had limited choices. I decided not to breastfeed because I wanted allergy pills and asthma meds!

  23. Hat Chick

    As a flat-chested mommy, I will say that nursing brought on a whole new set of situations for me. Big Boobs are a lot of social responsibility, and I applaud all the well-endowed girls of the world.

    As for nursing, I would have gladly passed that job right along if there had been stand-in boobs available. Don’t get me wrong, I’m nurturing to my peeps, but the specialty bra, leaking, and sore nips were almost too much for me to bear. I managed to eek out 3 months with Skibbie, and barely 6 weeks with Action (awful breast infection included).

    Action has terrible allergies, and I will always attribute it to the short-term nursing he received. I could have really used the wet nurse with him, but would have never had the guts to call one.

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      Hat Chick, big boobs are a responsibility. A weighty matter to be sure. Sorry you didn’t have a set of stand-in boobs when you needed them!

  24. Sarah@ Life in the Parsonage

    Hmmm…nursing and I didn’t get a long very well, so my opinion is tainted. But I could nurse orphans or something but I couldn’t nurse someone else’s baby just for the heck of it. And the thought of someone else nursing MY OWN baby gives me the heeby-jeebies. Bring on the Similac. 🙂

    You crack me up by the way 🙂

  25. Pilar Stark

    No, I don’t think I would seek the help of a cross nurse neither would I be one…. The thought is just weird to me. I am not sure though of the why.
    I did breastfeed but it got to a point when I chose formula although I could have keep going on breast feeding. Hopefuly that doesn’t make me a bad mom 🙂

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      The fact that you fed your baby makes you a good mom. Congrats on making the decision that worked well for you and your family.

  26. thedomesticfringe Post author

    For the record, being a wet nurse was NEVER a viable career path for my sister-in-law. Just wanted to be clear!

  27. David

    First, thanks for identifying me as a man. The acknowledgement is always appreciated. At my own peril, I will comment anyway.

    As a dad, I couldn’t get too fired up on some “strange” woman feeding my kiddos. Perhaps as a matter of life or death, but not just as a matter of convenience. Colostrum particularly is an important part of building a person’s immunity. And that lasts a lifetime.

    Beyond that, and even though I have never read anything to support this, I believe there has to be some benefit of the child receiving milk from the very person with whom they share 1/2 of their genetic makeup. That genetic code is in every DNA strand in every single cell of milk produced. Even if science hasn’t proven the specific benefit yet, I have to think that there is no way to improvement on the design of the Creator.

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author


      Despite your lack of estrogen, you’ve taken the plunge and entered the conversation. For that, I applaud you!

      I do think science has proven that baby receives extra immunity from his/her mother. So, your line of thinking would be correct.

      Such an interesting topic. One I’ve not considered until this week.


    2. Mya

      Each mother produces different antibodies in their milk so that each mother the child nurses from will give it different kinds of protection, it does not matter who nurses the baby it will receive great healthy immune protection. Actually the more different mothers milk each child receives, the more great protection it receives! I would wet nurse and use one if needed! There is a really great milk donation program out there for mothers who cannot nurse but still want to take advantage of the natural antibodies in breast milk.

  28. Mindy

    Listen here. According to the mammo tech, I am already sagging, so what’s a little more? I wouldn’t mind bearing someone else’s child. I wouldn’t mind feeding a child. I just don’t want the child to stay 24/7. Cross nursing, no problem. Just come get ’em when they are full and need to be changed. Thank you very much. ~Mindy

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      Yes, I fully agree. NO diapers for me. The idea of feeding a child who is not my own, doesn’t gross me out. In fact, I don’t think it would be a big deal to me all, especially because I have already come up with 50 ‘worst case scenerios’ that would make a wet nurse necessary.


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