It Takes A Village: Cross-Nursing
When my daughter, Annica, was 3 months old I got acute appendicitis. Annica was exclusively fed at the breast, she never had a bottle or pacifier. When it came time for my surgery I was sobbing, the nurses reassured me my surgery would be fine, they didn’t realize I wasn’t worried about myself, I was worried about my baby.
I was out of surgery around mid-night, I pumped and dumped to keep up my supply, while my husband tried to bottle feed her milk I had pumped ahead of time.
Anybody who tells you if a baby gets hungry enough they will eat probably has never tried that out. At 2 am my daughter was tired and angry, she didn’t want that strange, slick bottle nipple, and didn’t have any idea what to do with it; we were all desperate. In my desperation I called my aunt, she had had a baby just a few months before I did, and was also breastfeeding. What an amazing woman, that when I called her at 2 am she answered her phone and was more than willing to nurse my baby. My husband drove my daughter to my aunt’s and my aunt fed her anytime she needed it for the next ten hours while I was still in the hospital.
I know many moms are turned off by the idea of wet nursing because they don’t want their baby to have that special bond with another women. I love my aunt so much for taking care of my baby in that special way, but Annica did not create any special or lasting bond with her that night, and certainly not one that would be a threat to me in anyway. At only 3 months old, Annica knew that there was something different, she nursed and nursed well from my aunt. But her feedings were different. Instead of the long, leisurely feedings she enjoyed with me, her feedings were short and efficient. She would nurse to sleep, but unlatch rather than continue to dream feed.
When I nursed her again for the first time, she nursed well for just a few minutes, but wasn’t very hungry. Once she had her fill she stopped and looked right at me and smiled. It was the first time she initiated smiling at me. Then she latched again and fed lazily while she began to doze off. This is still one of my most treasured moments with my daughter. I will always remember that and how connected it made me feel to my baby.
Since then I have become a big advocate of wet nursing. So many moms struggle to leave the house because their baby won’t take milk from anything but a breast. So many moms in the beginning just need a break, and do not want to, or cannot use a bottle. I have talked about wet nursing in my mommy group, and those conversations have led to many cross-nursing and milk sharing relationships. I have nursed my friend’s babies a few times when they couldn’t for medical reasons, or were just too tired in those first days post baby. And there is lots of pumping and sharing milk that way too. We have a Facebook group for mothers to connect with other cross-nursing mothers. There have been a few times it has been used, but for the most part we all just feel better knowing that we have friends who will help our little ones if we are ever in need. I think that is incredibly special.