Monday, July 28, 2008

Breast-Friends...


Good Morning America had a segment on "cross nursing" which is breast-feeding your friends or families babies. Not looking to make my judgment as of now, but honoring my initial knee-jerk reaction which is, "Hmmmm, this might be a little beyond my realm of comfort bordering on weird." As if I'm one to talk and be a noter of "weird", I think this topic warrants some good dialogue. So prior to putting out judgments, but acknowledging our initial reactions, let's just put some facts, arguments for or against out there, basically let's have some fun with this and intellectually grapple for a moment.

Totally Functional Vs. Relationship
If you look at breast feeding as a matter of function or in my sister's words, viewing "boobs as bottles" it would really be a matter of your children's friends "eating over at your house." It would boil down to smashed peas, carrots or breast milk? However, if you look at it in a relationship or attachment perspective, it feels like a really intimate experience with your baby that doesn't warrent sharing with others.

Health Concerns

The Le' Leche league doesn't support cross nursing due to the unknown disease and health risks associated with another mother's milk. Diseases such: HIV, TB, Hepatitis among others. They recommend if a mother can't breast feed but would like her babe to have breast milk, to obtain the resource from a "milk bank" where the milk is screened prior to distribution.

Bonding but not Sexual
Though the feeding is associated with "breasts", breast feeding is not a sexual act. Our society tends to sexual acts that simply arn't sexual in the orgasmic sense. Breast feeding is the natural form of feeding babies. Cross nursers feel a bond with the friends they share their breasts with.

With some of this initial information, what are you thoughts, reactions, facts?

9 comments:

Mom said...

It's nice we live in a culture where we have the luxury to wonder about, discuss, and "grapple" with this subject. In a lot of other cultures cross nursing is the norm and most times a neccesity. At this moment, I'm not sure how I feel about it--this was just my first gut reaction. I look forward to reading more comments....

aimee heff said...

When I was a kid my aunt and cousin lived with us. He was 3 months younger than me and one night when she was babysitting me apparently I wouldn't stop crying for some "bonding time" with my mom's boobies. So my aunt just decided it time she had her own "bonding time" with me.

It didn't kill me and I love my aunt dearly.

I guess it can't be all bad. I am my corks that I could blame on this experience but for the most part I am a pretty normal gal.

I am in favor of breast-friends only in emergency crying situations. There is my grapple on the issue!

Fun post!

Pikes Pickles said...

Funny you should ask....

When my oldest daughter was about 6 weeks old I had to go to a meeting without her. I left her at a close friends house who also had a 6 week old baby. I was expecting the meeting would only last an hour. I nursed her just before I dashed out the door.

When I returned 2 hours later due to the meeting running over and a snowstorm. My friend said " Oh, she was fine. She got a little cranky and so I nursed her"

My heart stopped. I had this huge dilemma running through my mind. I would trust my life to this friend...why was this so huge? Was I offended? Was I upset because we hadn't discussed it? If I was offended..why? Hundreds of thoughts were running through my head when the friend burst out laughing and told me it was a joke. I'll never forget the lessons I learned that day in those few minutes.

Would I let my friend nurse my baby? Maybe.

Rebecca said...

I vividly remember my mother nursing my baby cousin who is as old as my little sister. At the time, I found it creepy and disconcerting; keep in mind though, I thought breast feeding was creepy all growing up and my mom breast fed all of us.

I haven't really thought about it all that much, but my initial response is that cross nursing is probably one of those things that sits in a similar realm as all birthing decisions: a woman's choice about what to do with her body and her child. The only legitimate issue that I could see would be the health concerns associated with it. However, cross-nursing between close friends, family, etc., would probably mean those risks were minimal.

As far as the functional vs. relationship, I think it may come down to the well-being of the child. If there was a situation where nursing someone else's baby was in the best interest of the child and the caregiver (the mother was sick or tired or away, the child wouldn't take a bottle, the child was inconsolable to the point of over-stressing the caregiver, the mother didn't have milk available), it would obviously be appropriate for cross nursing to occur. A child/cross nurser's bonding experience is going to be a limited experience. As for sexualizing- I think it again comes down to the fact that this sort of circumstance would/should arise only with people who are in the trusted circle of the mother.

I'm going on and on. I guess I'd say that I think it's a perfectly normal thing to do under the right circumstances.

camihubrich said...

I think that reading the above comment about the friend who casually mentioned that she'd breast fed her daughter while she was out represents my true feelings. It ended up that she was joking, but wow. I think that this topic, as with most topics, I try to take a "It may not be for me, but how can I say it shouldn't be for you," approach. However, I would have a very hard time with it if someone did that without my consent. I have no problem telling Kristin that this is one part of our friendship that will not be explored. True emergency to me is stranded on a desert island, not stuck babysitting for a few extra hours with an inconsolable baby. There are a lot of mothers who can't breast feed or choose not to breast feed and their babies turn out just fine. Although Aimee seems awfully normal too, so who knows...

I guess that I feel the strongest and have the most emotions about the idea of someone doing it to my child without my consent, not the actual idea of it all. Although, it's still a lot to get my head around for some reason. I don't need to have a super strong opinion about it I guess. I just need to make sure that those around me are aware of my wishes and whatever they want to do with their family is their own bidness.

Candace said...

My sister and I have nursed each other's babies. But if the baby is a bit older, they look at you funny, like "Oh, you have those too?" "Can I really?" And then they taste it, look at you even funnier and get down to go do something else. In a pinch, an emergency, or a desperate screaming session while one is babysitting the other, AND it's my sister, I feel fine about it. It's better than formula.

BMarie said...

I consider myself pretty open minded but I have thought about this topic before and not one ounce of my being thinks it's normal or acceptable - with saying that I mean for just me. I won't/don't judge others for doing it, but I always think of that scene in the Hand that Rocks the Cradle where the lady does that to a child that's not hers. Ok yes, that is a little different because that lady was creepy to begin with but still too weird for me. While reading Pikes Pickles comment above and her friend stated "..... so I nursed her." I wanted to punch her friend. It's a very intimate bond a mother shares with her child and I don't think anyone else should intrude UNLESS of course you ask them to or give your permission. See I could go on forever about this but my own personal opinion for what I believe would be best for me and my child stays the same - "No Way Jose!"

Sycamore Girl said...

Ok, so here is my experience with this: My mother was tending Tally just a few weeks ago while I was in a seminar. I called during lunch to check up on her and this is what my mother said so me: "Oh, she's fine. She's just asleep at my breast."

I had to laugh, but also choke back some initial angry energy. Who the hell does she think she is doing that? She isnt even lactating! In this case I felt like my mother was just being nostalgic- taking herself back to the days when she was continually nursing her six children. I felt like it was sort of a selfish thing for her to do...However, my daughter WAS asleep and was probably comforted in my absence. So it couldnt be such a bad thing. I really didnt know what to think. I am still confused as to whether that happened becuase Tally was inconsolable, or becuase my mom thought it would be neat. I dont know that I will ever know- and frankly, I am not sure how to have that conversation with my mother. "Uh, please dont let my kid latch on to you. In fact, could you please just keep your shirt on?" Yeah. Not sure how to approach that one.
That is a bond that is special between mother and child. I can certainly appreciate the use of a family members' breast in times of dire circumstances- but not for leisure.
In Africa and some countries, the village mothers feed each others' babies. I dont think it is a matter of how the kid will turn out or what diseases could be communicated as much as it seems to be a social fo paux in these parts, namely the US of A. There also seems to be a social stigma attatched with the longevity of breastfeeding a child.

Perhaps this can be the next topic of discussion: How long is TOO long to breastfeed your child? My father says that when it gets to looking too "national geographic-ish" it is time to stop...

What say you?

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are this: it would have to be life threatening and last resort, formula isn't available. I don't see anything wrong with formula. The only reason I want to breast feed is for the connection between baby and mother, baby feeling loved that sort of thing, plus it is cheaper and it will be the only time I have breast. In this day and age I wouldn’t see there being any reason for cross feeding. I guess I will make sure to have formula on hand and packed in the diaper bag.