Breastfeeding is pretty controversial all on its own, for some strange reason. But what about nursing someone else's baby, or having a friend or relative breastfeed yours, while you are at work? In some cultures past and present this is totally normal. How do you feel about the practice, and would you ever do it?
I have read a few news stories about newborns getting mixed up in hospitals, only to be returned to their real mothers after a few hours. Many of them, to my surprise, tell the local paper's journalist that the worst thing about the experience was learning that their baby had been breastfed by another new mother, or even just the theoretical possibility that this may have happened, when it didn't actually occur. Breast milk is seen as an intimate bodily fluid, and breastfeeding is seen as something really private and personal. Of course, the idea that another woman with health issues (perhaps she's even HIV positive!) could have harmed your baby by passing a disease on through her milk is rather scary. But how about a woman you know very well? It sounds creepy, doesn't it?
Well, a few years back, a close friend of mine with a baby the same age as my baby son had to leave her daughter with me overnight because of a medical emergency her mom had. At first, we thought that she was only going to be with us for a few hours. My friend had supplied baby food (she was six months old at the time), but after a while, she was obviously hungry, missing her mom, and crying hysterically. Nursing her was the only thing I thought may calm her. So I called my friend, and asked if she wanted me to breastfeed her baby. She obviously wanted her baby to be happy and fed, so I ended up nursing the baby. Later, that same friend also breastfed my son once, while she was babysitting. It all seemed so very normal for something many people perceive to be so creepy. And though nursing someone else's baby is a bit strange, at the end of the day, breast milk feeds babies and when mom is not around, a close substitute can do just fine.