Cross Nursing - Natural extension or disgusting and weird?

Filed under: Babies, Nutrition: Health, In The News

We're all familiar with the "breast is best" campaign, but some women are taking their commitment to nursing far beyond the comfort zone of others.

Experts have noted an increase in cross-nursing, the breastfeeding of a baby other than your own. According to Lisa Moran, editor of Babytalk magazine, cross-nursing is to be expected.

"Cross-nursing is the logical extension to the rise in breast-feeding rates that we've seen in the past 15 years," she told "Good Morning America." "Moms are really committed to breast-feeding exclusively and finding new ways to do that. Cross-feeding, cross-nursing is one of those."

Cross-nursing or serving as a wet nurse wasn't uncommon in the past (my father-in-law was nursed by a neighbor in the 1920's because his own mother wasn't able) but isn't an accepted practice in developed nations where infant formula is readily available. According to a poll in Babytalk, 45% of respondents find cross-nursing "disgusting" or "weird", whereas the Chinese policewoman who nursed nine babies after the earthquake was considered a national hero.

Surprisingly, the most ardent supporters of nursing, The La Leche League is firmly opposed to wet nurses or cross-nursing. According to their website:

A Leader shall not ever suggest an informal milk-donation arrangement, including wet-nursing or cross-nursing. If a mother wishes to discuss these options, the Leader's role is to provide information about the risks and benefits so that the mother can make her own informed decision based on her situation.

The risks listed in cross-nursing included the transmission of disease or unhealthy habits (alcohol, drugs, caffeine, etc.) via breast milk, decrease of milk production in the non-nursing mother, and confusion in the bond between mother and child.

When I was in the midst of my own nursing years (I nursed all four of my kids) nursing a friend's baby wouldn't have been more intimate to me than giving them a bottle, simply a means to END THE CRYING. However, I was in a completely different mindset where breasts were purely utilitarian baby feeding devices. I'm no longer at that point, and can understand people being grossed out at the thought of breastfeeding someone else's child.

What are your thoughts on cross-nursing?
If there's absolutely no other choice, maybe.9414 (40.7%)
It's not big deal, that's what breasts are for.9523 (41.2%)
I find it sick and wrong.4200 (18.2%)

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.