To think that 'wet nursing' should not cause a public outcry.

(56 Posts)
Tweenangst Tue 06-Aug-13 15:19:53

I don't know how to put a link up but there is an article on daily mail (sorry!) about a French nurse offering her services for a hundred euros a day. Surely this is just a supply/demand thing and if she is fit and healthy and the parents are happy, why do people think its gross? The comments on the article have to be seen to be believed .

Isildur Tue 06-Aug-13 15:23:45

Yes, but it's the Daily Mail, so not exactly reflecting the opinions of most reasonable people.

I would have thought that most people would find it interesting for as long as it takes to read the story, and then put it to the back of their minds.

I've not heard the story mentioned by anyone at all, much less a national outcry.

Tweenangst Tue 06-Aug-13 15:25:35

I may has slightly exaggerated with the "public outcry" isildur!! I must stop reading that bloody stupid website.

CustardOmlet Tue 06-Aug-13 15:55:46

I must stop reading it too, but I find the comments entertaining!

WorraLiberty Tue 06-Aug-13 15:57:42

Did you comment on the article OP?

Mia4 Tue 06-Aug-13 16:02:28

Wet nursing isn't anything new, so i don't get why they'd be an outcry that it's gross but on article regarding things like excess breast milk, blood etc, I have seen an outcry of 'why not give it for free', breast milk for preemie babies' for example.

The comments seem to be more anti-gay which isn't all that surprising for the Daily fail, rather then breastfeeding = gross.

ComposHat Tue 06-Aug-13 16:18:27

Ahh.... this is my PhD topic and I could bore for Scotland on this.

Wet nursing has a long history and in ancient Egypt was considered a religious duty. It has been practised in the UK since the middle ages at least and was the 'norm' for the wives of middle class shopkeepers.

It was facilitated throughout the C19th by organisations such as the Foundling Hospital and Queen's Charlotte's hospital who would arrange for the children of unmarried mothers to be dry nursed, whilst their mothers were employed as wet nursed by the upper middle classes. The consequence of this was that their off-spring died in large as safe formula milk was unavailable and the dry nurse would feed them all sorts of unsuitable foodstuffs.

Certain reactionaries got very het up as they argued that this gave women a perverse incentive to get pregnant. Wet nurses were amongst the highest paid female servants. Much as similar reactionaries today rave on about teenage mothers getting pregnant to get a council house.

The point of this.... that aside from the fact I am a boring turd, is that wet nursing is nothing new or frightening.

Fakebook Tue 06-Aug-13 16:21:44

Without reading the article, I still find it weird. I don't think I'd like anyone else breastfeeding my baby, even a relative. I'll probably be labelled as selfish, but I wouldn't even consider it if I couldn't breastfeed due to health reasons.

It's not really a new concept either, I'm sure it was quite popular before formula milk and bottles were invented.

NatashaBee Tue 06-Aug-13 16:30:26

Just out of interest... does a wet nurse respond in the same way to the baby's need for certain antibodies (I believe triggered by the baby's saliva), milk content and supply that a mother would?

Personally I would rather my baby have breast milk (anyone's breast milk) than formula, as long as there were stringent health checks on the person who supplied it.

PeriodMath Tue 06-Aug-13 16:35:07

Fakebook, I would find it weird too. But if we lived a hundred years ago when it was common practice we probably wouldn't find it weird at all.

I find the dry nursing of unmarried mothers' babies a very sad story. They were less important than rich people's babies?

SofiaVagueara Tue 06-Aug-13 16:46:36

I know for certain that HIV and AIDS can be transmitted via breastmilk as can Lyme disease and other serious infections. I would want to know for certain that the person breast feeding my child had been fully health screened.

Also there is the difficulty that it you bring money into it you may end up with the same problems they had in the states re paid blood donors.

If people are being paid to donate a bodily substance it makes them much more likely to be deceitful about the safety of it even if they know it has been compromised because they want to protect their cash flow.

Also, presumably she would be doing it for payment for people who didn't want to do it (at 100 euros a day most likely women going back to work) rather than those who couldn't. And it that case it would be much better for the mothers to express their own milk which is tailor made for their babies immune systems rather than paying other people to do it.

FunnysInLaJardin Tue 06-Aug-13 16:49:14

I don't think it's gross but I really wouldn't want another woman BF my children, not for one minute. It's far too intimate IMO

Tweenangst Tue 06-Aug-13 16:50:48

Worria, no didn't comment, just found the whole tone of the article off. I have breast fed both my children but don't have an opinion on people who choose not to/can't. But I find it astounding that people who choose to go down this road are critiqued. And yes, I can see that the being paid for it element is somewhat off putting, and I know that there is a breast milk donation bank available to prems. But if people are not in the position to BF but can afford and are happy to pay someone, where is the issue?

SofiaVagueara Tue 06-Aug-13 16:54:19

NatashaBee nobody can be conclusively tested as HIV negative to wet nurse because it takes 3 weeks to 3 months for a test to show as positive and someone could have a negative test whilst they were already positive and then pass on the infection to the baby. They could also become infected whilst in the process of wet nursing.

Hepatitis can be passed on too.

If you are nursing your own child you are aware of your own sexual history and how you are behaving sexually at the time.

I think you would have to be pretty brave to trust a paid employee not to take any risks.

Lavidaenrosa Tue 06-Aug-13 17:34:06

I would be happy to be a wet nurse (for free). I've got plenty of milk. I am healthy and I wanted to donate my milk, but I do not have a big enough freezer to store the milk. Shame.

EBearhug Tue 06-Aug-13 17:57:35

nobody can be conclusively tested as HIV negative to wet nurse because it takes 3 weeks to 3 months for a test to show as positive and someone could have a negative test whilst they were already positive and then pass on the infection to the baby. They could also become infected whilst in the process of wet nursing.
Yes, but you'd at least cut out people who are already infected, just as they do with blood donations. (Not quite the same, as they check every time you donate, and that wouldn't be feasible with milk. But you should still pick up preexisting infections.)

MoominsYonisAreScary Tue 06-Aug-13 18:06:53

The idea doesn't bother me but I wouldn't do it myself, I don't like bf enough to bf someone roses child.

Unless I had a very prem baby I wouldn't bother with a wet nurse, id just ff

MoominsYonisAreScary Tue 06-Aug-13 18:09:10

Elses, not roses!

Binkybix Tue 06-Aug-13 18:24:32

I'm not enjoying BFing my newborn. I'd love a wet nurse!

Mrchip Tue 06-Aug-13 19:01:37

Composhat that's really interesting.
Any references as I'd be really interested to read further on the history of wet nursing.

Mrchip Tue 06-Aug-13 19:02:26

I'd happily be a daytime wet-nurse. Would want at least double time for nights though!

Shrugged Tue 06-Aug-13 19:25:54

I was intrigued to discover when I lived in the ME that in Islam, a man and woman who have both been breastfed by the same woman may not marry, because they are counted as 'milk siblings', even if they are not biological siblings. So a friend's son that your mother happened to breastfeed as a baby for some reason would be counted as your brother and haram (forbidden) to marry you. (He also couldn't marry the unrelated woman who breastfed him, because she counts the same as his mother.)

It has the corollary that because he counts as ypur brother, you don't have to be covered/wear a headscarf in front of him and can mix freely with him, so sometimes women have deliberately breastfed one another's children in order that their families can mix like siblings when they are older.

The reason this came up was that some Saudi imam issued a fatwah when we were living in the UAE suggesting that women who mixed in the workplace with unrelated men should breastfeed them in order to make them members of their immediate family in the eyes of Sharia law and remove impropriety.

My mind did a fair bit of boggling at the idea of whipping out a breast in the photocopy room...

mrsjay Tue 06-Aug-13 19:34:04

But it is the Daily mail dearie of course they are clutching pearls about it, but tbh wet nursing was usually done by women who needed the money it was never a glamour maternal career choice, she usually had either lost a baby or kept lactating to feed her family

mrsjay Tue 06-Aug-13 19:35:43

compos that wasnt boring that was interesting smile

Composhat, very interesting!

phantomnamechanger Tue 06-Aug-13 19:44:04

I happily breastfed all 3 of my babies for 18months-2 years. I commend those who donate breast milk and would have done so if there was a local call/appeal while I was still lactating.

If people want to use a wet nurse for whatever reasons, then it is no business of anyone elses. personally, while I would be happy to donate to a milk bank I would not feel able to feed someone elses baby becaue of the bonding . Similarly, it would kill me to see someone else feeding my own baby if I could not, because of the way that baby would react to their voice and smell over me.

I've vaguely wondered whether I'd be able to B/F any grandchildren I may have one day. I think I heard that if you've lactated once or more it can be re-established at a later date ? Young babies are always rooting about for a boob, so why not give it to them if you have it shock

Don't know what my DD or DIL of the future would think of the idea though !

GinAndaDashOfLime Tue 06-Aug-13 19:46:20

Personally I would rather my baby have breast milk (anyone's breast milk) than formula
Seriously? WTAF?? This is the kind of attitude which makes life so difficult for my friends who FF, and makes me so angry. You have been properly brainwashed by the BF Nazis Natasha - formula isn't poison you know!!
(And I speak as one who EBM all 3 of my dc's till 18 months).

phantomnamechanger Tue 06-Aug-13 19:47:29

juggling - we all know exactly how your DIL would react, and there would be much posting on here and resounding YANBU if she came on saying her MIL wanted to BF her baby!! LOL

have you seen the threads about GM who want the baby to call them mummy, or mama etc. utterly bonkers.

phantomnamechanger Tue 06-Aug-13 19:49:08

Gin - don't overreact, posters are quite at liberty to say what they personally would prefer, no one said formula was toxic or those who FF are bad mothers.

phantomnamechanger Tue 06-Aug-13 19:52:49

and Gin, if there was more breast milk donated or available to buy, as a 3rd option if you like, maybe some FFers would happily choose that over FF because of the health benefits? (assuming the milk could be tested as safe). The poster was only saying that she would rather have the option of using someone elses BM rather than FF if she were not able to BF herself.

Viviennemary Tue 06-Aug-13 19:54:49

This practice went on for centuries without anybody batting an eyelid. I suppose it's because when people can't or choose not to breastfeed there is formula milk which they didn't have in the past. So really can't see what the fuss is about. But I suppose it's not something I'd like to do. But I expect that's just because we've been conditioned to find it not acceptable. I just saw Composhat's post. Very interesting!

KingRollo Tue 06-Aug-13 20:01:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

midori1999 Tue 06-Aug-13 20:01:22

Gin I too would prefer my baby to have donor breastmilk than formula. Perhaps rather than being brainwashed by 'breastfeeding nazis' that actually just means I haven't been brainwashed by formula companies with all their 'closest to breastmilk' hype. Formula is a perfectly acceptable breastmilk substitute for those who want or need to use it, but it will never be and can never be anything like breastmilk.

I don't see the big deal with wet nurses. I'd be happy to nurse someone else's baby or have someone else nurse mine if the need was there. I don't agree with charging for donor milk or paid milk sharing normally, but in the case of wet nurses where someone is being paid for their time, I don't necessarily have a problem with it.

BrianTheMole Tue 06-Aug-13 20:01:45

Its just a personal choice gin, everyones entitled to one.

Tweenangst Tue 06-Aug-13 20:17:39

Composhat, I am really interested in this topic, would it be possible for you to send any links to your workings? It is amazing how this topic divides people. I wonder if back in the day people thought the same way about giving/receiving blood?

Loopytiles Tue 06-Aug-13 20:30:38

Tes yes composhat, please tell us more!

CalmOnTheSurface Tue 06-Aug-13 20:37:00

Composhat finally de-lurking here: from one obscure PhD student (aren't we all?) to another, yours sounds absolutely fascinating!

shrugged that's interesting too

SofiaVagueara Tue 06-Aug-13 20:39:55

It's not just infection. There is the risk of alcohol and illegal and prescription drugs.

When it was common and the done thing for the aristocracy to have wet nurses one of our Princes of Wales was actually fed by a wet nurse who was exposed as a drunk after she had been feeding him for some time.

If my baby was in an incubator on on an ICU and I couldn't feed then I would accept donor milk given altruistically without a thought. If I had a trusted friend who I knew inside out and trusted totally I would also do it.

But when money was changing hands which would give people the incentive to be dishonest about what was in their milk or any infection. No way. Particularly that there have been many cases before where people have been deceitful about such things when selling bodily fluids such as blood. And the screening for breast milk would not be as stringent as for blood.

I think if the only choice was to buy breast milk anybody who would take it would have to be crazy and would be driven more by ideological zeal than common sense.

Formula might not be great but at least you will know your child isn't being pumped full of valium, anti-depressants or amphetamines or anything else.

As I understand the antibodies in breast milk are there because your body produces antibodies when you are exposed to virues, which it meets for the first time or which it has encountered before. For this reason you could maybe argue that if the wet nurse was doing the majority of the childcare during the day, then their bm would be more effective than if you expressed milk to be given to your own baby while you were at work.

For example imagine a nanny took your child to a toddler group where another child had chickenpox (and nanny had previously had CP). Both your child and the nanny would be exposed to CP, you at work would not be. The exposure would prompt the nanny's body to produce lots of CP antibodies so that she would not be ill again. If she was wet nursing your child some of those antibodies would pass to your child and so offer some protection. If instead she was offering your expressed bm it would not have many antibodies as these are not produced in large numbers unless you are re-exposed. Therefore it would be best for the baby to be always fed bm from the person it is with when it encounters viruses (nanny during week, you when you take it socialising on the weekend). Despite the theory I don't think I would want someone to wet nurse my dc.

MikeOxard Tue 06-Aug-13 21:00:21

It was the daily mail, and had both breastfeeding, and helping gay people to parent, so a double bashing was inevitable. I bet the editor was rubbing his hands together when he found a way to make this story 'news'.

If I could make money wet-nursing, it would be my dream job! Looking after a baby and feeding it all day, AND you get paid for it, yes please. I'm due back at work very soon as my (breastfed) baby has just turned 1, any offers of wet-nursing employment gratefully received. grin

Caboodle Tue 06-Aug-13 21:09:15

Me too-I'd love to be a wet nurse.

McNewPants2013 Tue 06-Aug-13 21:26:57

For my DC I would prefer to ff than to have a wet nurse. Because regardless where the milk came from I enjoyed feeding my babies.

Ds was breastfed till 5-6 months ( can't remember now) and Dd 3-4 days.

With dd at home I often had skin to skin contact while feeding even thought she was ff.

Mrchip Tue 06-Aug-13 22:03:45

If my baby was prem I would desperately want breast milk for them from a milk bank.
I couldn't watch a friend or family member feed my baby though.

If I couldn't breastfeed I would use formula for a term baby.
If however, safe tested milk bank milk was available I would use it. It would seem a fantastic alternative and be less personal.
I can imagine it would be costly though as pumping is time employing a wet nurse directly would poss work out cheaper.

I think it would be great that babies born to gay men have the opportunity to receive breast milk, as the majority of other babies do.

PeriodMath Tue 06-Aug-13 22:30:34

Gin, nobody has said it's poison. People are entitled to prefer one over the other.

MrChips, I find the thought of a child "born to" gay men being fed a stranger's breast milk instead of its mother's somehow very sad.

Mrchip Wed 07-Aug-13 00:03:02

Yes I know what you mean. It struck me as one of the only things (besides from a 'mother' figure) that you could say they would really miss out on. Same issue with surrogacy I guess.

Difficult though as many babies are formula fed from birth. Saying you feel sad for them would not go down well......
However when my DS was on neonates for the 1st 9 days of life it was so important to me to feed him/pump. There were several stages where formula was considered (jaundice type bloood issue/ breathing probs) but for me he was 'entitled' to the best start I could provide. I felt very sad at the thought of him not being breastfed.

RonaldMcDonald Wed 07-Aug-13 00:07:24

People are insane

Mrchip Wed 07-Aug-13 00:10:21

Eh cats are crazy

Any other random comments?

5madthings Wed 07-Aug-13 00:18:21

I and to stop bfeeding two to mynchidlren earlier than I wanted, whilst I woidltn be comfortable with them haivgn bmilk straight from another woman's breasts everyday (purely because of the bonding aspect) I would have liked to be able to have fed them with expressed milk.

When I did bfeed I always and mases of milkmand looked into donating but it isn't done in my area.

RonaldMcDonald Wed 07-Aug-13 08:18:20

Blah blah women who are notorious drunks and drug addicts are also working as wet nurses
The germs
The breast cooties


If it floats your boat, you can afford it and feel you need it for your baby then it seems great that you can avail of a wet nurse.

If you'd rather FF then equally great

SofiaVagueara Wed 07-Aug-13 10:46:35

Oh, Ronald McDonald so you are going for the scientific method of deciding that somebodies breast milk is going to be okay to give your baby because they seem nice on first meeting and they'll do it for cash?

Really? Do you use the same criteria when choosing which people you will allow to introduce bodily fluid into yourself?

I don't know why people would take a risk with their child that they wouldn't take with themselves.

When cash starts changing hands you're taking a big risk. You can't necessarily tell a persons sexual history and activity by looking at them. You can't tell a drug addict by looking at them.

Morloth Wed 07-Aug-13 11:12:38

I too would have preferred for my children to have human milk over any other milk if I had not been able to breastfeed them myself.

People are entitled to their preferences.

I almost breastfed a friend's baby once, we had babies of around the same age, mine was sleeping, she was cooking and her baby started crying, my had my bra unhooked and the baby half out of his basket before my brain kicked in.

There are a couple of people I would have trusted to breastfeed my babies before I fed them formula.

Happily it never came up.

RonaldMcDonald Wed 07-Aug-13 12:12:01

I think that there really is a great deal of blethering on this site.

Crucially this is something that will never affect the vast vast majority of you.
For those that it will they can make the decisions

sofia yes patently every person who is a wet nurse carries a disease...oooooo

Morloth Wed 07-Aug-13 12:32:55

RonaldMcDonald 'I think that there really is a great deal of blethering on this site.'

Well, yeah. Blethering is pretty much the point!

RonaldMcDonald Wed 07-Aug-13 12:49:02


thanks for the clarification

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