Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cross-nursing and wet-nursing

Wet-nursing: the complete nursing of another's infant, often for pay.

Cross-nursing: the occasional nursing of another's infant while the mother continues to nurse her own child, often in a child care situation.



My first son was six weeks old when my sister-in-law had her baby girl. We were fortunate to be able to depend on each other for baby support and advice. One afternoon she was unable to feed her daughter and she did not have a stock of milk put away. So I decided to nurse my niece. After all they were just six weeks apart in age and she was only three months old at the time. These situations are rare, but they do exist. I cross-nursed for the first time.

When I returned to work after my second son was born, he refused to take the bottle, regardless if it was my own milk in it. For some reason beyond my comprehension he would take the bottle only from me. And this is when my sister-in-law returned the favor. She nursed him. She was breastfeeding her ten month old and my two month old for one whole day.

Cross-nursing is not something to be taken lightly. There is the hazard for infection for mother and baby. The mother who is cross-nursing may experience a reduced milk supply for her own baby. Babies of different ages need a specific composition of milk. Cross-nursing can also affect a baby psychologically. A difference in the let-down, either in the timing or the forcefulness, can confuse and frustrate an infant. In many cases, a baby will refuse to nurse from a cross-nursing mother/ child care provider, especially if the baby is four months or older.

In our family we do not only have cousins growing up together, we also have milk siblings.

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