When it comes to comforting a fussy baby, anything goes. But for Meg Nagle, it was an easy choice to offer her breast to her sleepy 4-month-old nephew, who refused to take a bottle of his mother’s expressed breast milk from Nagle while his mother was at work.
“I had just met my nephew a few days before as I am visiting from Australia,” Nagle said. “Since my nephew is so little, I knew he would still want to breastfeed frequently and had some issues accepting the bottle, so I asked my sister beforehand if it was OK if I nursed him if he wouldn't take a bottle, and she said that it was fine.”
American-born Nagle, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in Queensland, Australia, posted a picture on her professional Facebook page of her sleeping and sated nephew on her breast with a caption that said the baby “fell asleep in minutes” once she gave him her breast.
The picture now has 3.6K likes on Facebook and more than 300 comments, some of them questioning Nagle’s decision to breastfeed her sister’s baby, many of them giving Nagle support and relating similar stories.
Nagle wrote a book about breastfeeding called "Boobin' All Day...Boobin' All Night: A Gentle Approach To Sleep For Breastfeeding Families" and also runs a blog for her private lactation consulting practice, The Milk Meg. She is visiting her sister in New Hampshire and is a mother of three boys of her own, ages 12, 9 and 3. She has wet nursed before for two different friends, and her own child was comforted by another breastfeeding mother once until she could get back to him.
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“Wet-nursing is something that we have done since…forever,” said Nagle. “As a breastfeeding mother, when you see a baby who is in need of comfort or milk and the mother is not there or does not have enough milk, many of us feel a motherly instinct to nurse the child, as it's just a biological pull.
“It's interesting, because people don't think twice about giving their child cow's milk or formula made from cow's milk, but they freak out about the thought of having human milk from another breastfeeding mother,” Nagle added. “Some of this is due to their worries over disease transition. However there are very clear guidelines as to what can pass through breast milk and the risks and benefits associated with milk sharing. It's important to understand these to make informed decisions.”
TODAY parenting and youth development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa said breastfeeding other people’s children can have great benefits as long as the women involved have clean bills of health.
"If the wet nurse is willing to document her health as certified by a knowledgeable health-care provider, this is a lovely and healthy way to offer the benefits of breast milk to babies and the flexibility of ‘village life’ to families,” Gilboa said.