06 August 2008

Green Milk

I can't imagine actually nursing someone else's child, or handing mine over to another woman for suckling.

That said, there was a weekend that I was staying at my mother's house, when my child was about six weeks old, and I was pumping ALL THE TIME with a schlepped hospital grade pump. My sister was there too, but without her children, specifically her still nursing toddler.

One thing led to another, and my sister availed herself of the pump to relieve pressure. We were decidedly amused to discover that her milk was tinged with green - lord knows what she'd been eating, especially since it was the middle of the winter. Her pumped milk went into the fridge, and the next day I fed it to my child.

But, it was my sister. It would have been a waste to throw it out. And it was sort of funny, especially because it was green and all. And some day we'll get to tell my child that she drank her aunt's breastmilk and thoroughly disgust her.

Would you cross-nurse another's child?


Kelly said...

I would cross-nurse someone's child, but probably with some reluctance. It's such an intimate act between mother and child, and I'd feel somehow like I was interfering in that.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I would.

Back when I was exclusively pumping for Jack and still trying to get him to nurse, I read about cross nursing, and it made sense to me. If I could get an experienced mom to nurse my inexperienced baby, we'd have a better chance of figuring the whole thing out. Similarly, if I could nurse an experienced baby, I'd have more of a clue of how the whole thing was supposed to go.

But I didn't know anyone well enough back then who was also nursing to ask such an enormous favor of them.

Today, though, I would do it for another mom in a similar situation.

Also, back then, I stored many bags of milk in my freezer only to find that I had that excess lipase problem that made my frozen milk go bad in a matter of days. I ended up dumping something like 100 ounces of frozen milk.

But before all this happened, I fantasized about being one of those women who had an oversupply and could send her excess milk to milk banks to feed more babies. I wanted to feed the world.

Her Grace said...

My mom and I were watching my brother and SIL's kids while I was still nursing my firstborn. My niece was just a baby and breastfed and was really, really fussy. She didn't want to take the bottle at all. It crossed my mind that she would probably calm down if I would nurse her, but would never have done it unless her parents suggested it in the first place. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with it, but those are boundaries that should be crossed carefully and with explicit permission. Like Kelly said, it's such an intimate act.

Sunshine said...

My MIL and her best friend had babies at the same time and nursed each other's babies (this was 30 years ago). Interestingly enough, my MIL's best friend's baby pretty much screamed all the time except when my MIL would nurse her. Long after, they figured out she was probably allergic (or was averse in some fashion) to her own mother's milk and spent all the months she nursed completely miserable. But when my MIL nursed her, she was actually quite happy.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't that long ago when a wet nurse was common. I see nothing wrong at all with nursing another baby in need. I pumped breastmilk when I was a surrogate. My MIL (40 yrs ago while my FIL was stationed in Germany) often pumped and gave breastmilk to village women in need of milk for sickly babies. Sometimes I think we women need to get over ourselves and just do what is best for a baby at the time of the need.

Kyddryn said...

If I could have nursed my own, I wouldn't have had any trouble nursing someone else's.

My wonderful friends would have happily nursed the Evil Genius (who wasn't the Evil Genius at the time, but rather the Cutest Baby Ever Who Slept Through The Night Right Away, Thereby Making Me the Most Hated Woman Ever), if only any of them were lactating at the time. Alas, no such luck.

I've often thought milk banks or exchanges would be a wonderful resource for women who have...ahem...extra, and women who don't produce enough (or, in my case, any).

I don't think it's icky - I think it's tremendous. I am a touch granola, though, and I was raised by feral hippies, so maybe my perspective is skewed.

Shade and Sweetwater,

S. said...

I'm struck by how different the comments are here from at the post you linked to. I like your commenters better!

I realized I would be comfortable with cross-nursing, but I can't really imagine it coming up. When I taught high school I had two students who'd known each other all their lives (well, duh!) whose mothers had cross-nursed and it was part of their relationship that they were open about in the semi-embarrassed way that teenagers have about something that makes them different and a little weird but that they're actually proud of.

I liked it. Milk sisters instead of blood brothers. So much healthier.

Mayberry said...

I'd do it in a situation like the one you described. I'd do it to help a friend in need.

I've had acquaintances who donated to milk banks; I was in awe of their willingness to pump EXTRA on behalf of strangers.

She She said...

I remember being at my first son's daycare and a baby was screaming because he was hungry and his mother hadn't brought enough milk. I felt the strongest desire to nurse him myself. I didn't, of course.

I could see nursing someone else's baby, but I couldn't see anyone else nursing mine.

Aunt Becky said...

I'd do it if I needed to.

thailandchani said...

Absolutely.. if it was needed and was a logical solution for someone's child - or my child -, I sure would!


Awesome Mom said...

I would but not a complete stranger. There would have to be some sort of preexisting relationship since there are some things that can be passed on through breast milk.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's any big deal at all, especially when you're describing it as expressed milk, bottle-fed. I suppose in a situation of dire need, I would even have actually nursed another baby. The first time I was BF, I thought I would like to donate milk, but it turned out pumping didn't work very well for me. My kids never even took a bottle. The second time, I was ever so glad for it to be over with.

Kate Lord Brown said...

There's a great story about my husband's grandmother (now a very feisty 93), who had so much milk during the war when all the other mothers were wasting away that she fed a ward of babies. Hoping my little girl gets the good genes :)

Jennifer S said...


Just wondering if you called your baby Popeye after that? :-)

Not sure how I feel about cross-nursing, but will stay out of the discussion since my children are years beyond it. (Sorry for the cop-out.)

Anonymous said...

My mom said she and her sister did this all the time with my sister and my cousin who were the same age.

I have no problem with it. However, I find my own breast milk kind of disgusting for some reason. (I got OCD and some kind of germphobia after my child's birth so this is probably the reason for that.)

I would definitely do it and let someone else nurse my child if she was hungry. It would feel funny but I think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, that nursing is not sexual and that breast milk is good and hungry babies should eat.

I read about a milk bank and it said that they test the milk that comes in and it is always great and there are almost no cases of anyone hurting a baby through donating breast milk.

We freak out about the body in this country. I do, also, but try to fight it.

Julia said...

I am the oversupply lady. Genetic, I think-- my grandma and my mom had the same thing. My daughter could only ever consume the contents of one breast, and usually not completely. I had to pump the other breast, or I would explode. So I had this huge supply of frozen milk. A friend had her daughter 4 months after I had mine. She then lost her supply completely when her baby was 4 months old. So all my frozen stash went to them. Kept the other baby off formula entirely for another 4 months. By that point they caught up with us in time, and I was finishing b/f, and had less in the old cans. So I have a milk daughter, and am damned proud of it. But that's cross-feeding. Cross-nursing I never did, and am not sure how I would feel about it because of the mother-child bond aspect of it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't nurse my son, but would have loved to.

That being said, if I could, and the other child needed it? Sure. I think.

flutter said...

I don't even know if I will nurse my own when i have them

Unknown said...

If needed, sure. I'd do it.

Woman in a Window said...

I'd certainly give but I'm not sure about the take. Take if I needed it, I suppose. It's a situation that never came up. I suppose if we were in need for some reason there would be no question. Not necessarily the right answer, just my answer.

Spinach fortified?

Anonymous said...

No I could not do it. I just couldn't. I think it's too personal and intimate of an act.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We'd have to be on a desert island and the child's mother would have to be incapacitated.

Lifesaving situation only.

niobe said...

I wouldn't even nurse my own kid.*

But despite (or, perhaps, because of) that, if someone else wanted to breastfeed/pump milk for my child, I'd have absolutely no problem with it.

*What can I say? I have, uh, issues. But you knew that already.

Anonymous said...

I think I would.

But, it is SUCH a personal act, almost ritualistic, almost spiritual, and it would definitely feel strange. I suppose only the first time would feel that way, though - after that, it might be old hat!

Minnesota Matron said...

Yes! When my second child was a few months old, I became seriously ill and needed to go on some intense medication. When the time came, a dear friend offered to nurse Scarlett so she wouldn't have to be weaned before she was ready. Turns out, I was able to nurse through it, but I was prepared to hand her over to my friend, who volunteered to do this. I would too!

Tracee Sioux, Sioux Ink: Soul Purpose Publishing said...

This used to be an everyday thing. What do you think a wet nurse is?

My mother traded babysitting in college with another mother and they nursed each other's children.

I would do it. One baby is like another.

There was a cop, breastfeeding mother, who nursed the orphaned babies and kept them alive during the earthquake. They gave her a medal of honor.

Mad said...

My friend tried to nurse Miss M when I was having so many difficulties. Miss M would have none of it. Instead my friend gave me bottles of expressed milk which Miss M greedily gobbled up.