The Difference Between Cross Nurse and Wet Nurse Explained
If you’re a woman who has ever been pregnant, you’ve probably wondered whether or not your child could benefit from being nursed by another woman. This has been practiced for centuries and can be helpful to both the baby and the mother.
This practice is known as cross or wet nursing. It refers to a situation where a woman nurses another woman’s child, usually under one year of age. Royalty has been used worldwide throughout history, but it’s still common today in some cultures.
It is when someone else breastfeeds your baby temporarily. For example, the mother has gone for a walk and is delayed; her baby is hungry and will not take a bottle; another lactating mother breastfeeds her baby until the biological mother returns home.
Cross-nursing usually occurs between very close women, like two sisters or cousins. Sometimes, close friends with children of the same age may cross-nurse. Strangers will rarely breastfeed your baby without your permission.
It is when someone else breastfeeds your baby permanently. The practice can be traced back to ancient times and was widespread in Europe until the 19th century. There is a long and complicated history regarding wet nursing: it probably started in ancient times when a mother died during childbirth, and another woman breastfed & raised the motherless baby. It’s still practiced in some parts of the world today, but it’s not widely used anymore in developed countries like ours.
Royalty often used wet nurses because they didn’t want their children growing up with servants as their primary caregivers—they wanted their children raised by other people so that they could have more freedom during their childhoods. By the 16th to 18th centuries, it became unfashionable to breastfeed your baby. Some of this came from Royalty wanting large families with 10+ children. The birth mother would hire one or more wet nurses to feed the newborn so she could regain fertility and get pregnant again. Since Royalty didn’t breastfeed their own, other women of wealth did the same. This led to the attitude that breastfeeding was only done by the poor & lower class.
Group nursing is when a baby is passed around and breastfed by many women (scarce in modern times, but it happened all the time in the past).
Wet Nursing after baby formulas came to light.
When baby formulas were commercially available, wet nurses were needed less and less. In the 1980s, it was discovered that AIDS and other viruses could be transferred to breast milk, so wet nurses were used even less. [This is true in the United States, but in developing countries, wet nurses are still very common].
Surprisingly, wet nursing is making a comeback. Breast milk has many benefits that cannot be duplicated in infant formulas. So, more and more families want to feed their babies breast milk. Here is a list of reasons why a woman may choose to hire a wet nurse instead of breastfeeding herself:
- Mother is dead or is highly ill/weak and cannot breastfeed.
- Mother does not make breast milk (for example, if she has breast implants or breast surgery).
- Mother has an illness such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, or AIDS.
- Mother is taking certain drugs/medications.
- Mother wants to get pregnant again. (Breastfeeding prevents ovulation).
- A high-powered, working mother’s schedule does not allow for breastfeeding.
- Mothers with multiple births may hire a wet nurse to help feed the babies.
Wet nursing – public opinions
The public is divided when it comes to wet nursing. Some people think that it is beautiful. What better thing to give a baby than breast milk? If the birth mother cannot supply the milk, another willing mother should. It’s no different than offering milk from a cow’s udder – except that the breast milk is infinitely better.
Others feel that breastfeeding should be between mother & child only. This sacred relationship should not be “outsourced” to another woman. Still, others feel that wet nursing and cross-nursing are indecent and weird. Sociologists believe that some people object to wet nursing because they mistakenly equate breastfeeding with sexuality and eroticism.
Currently, the La Leche League discourages wet nursing and cross nursing because there is a chance of transmitting disease in the breast milk.
Wet nursing cons
The composition of breast milk is different depending on the baby’s age. Thus, a wet nurse with a six-month-old child will have milk that is best for a six-month-old. This milk would not be optimal for a newborn.
The birth mother’s milk supply will decrease if she gives the baby to someone else to breastfeed. This is especially true in the case of multiple births.
The mother and baby will not experience the special mother-to-child bonding during breastfeeding.
Despite all this, if you still wish to hire someone to breastfeed your baby, consider these safety precautions:
- She should be healthy, well-nourished, and taking no medication. Ideally, her baby is the same age as your baby.
- She should be screened for tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis-associated antigen, cytomegalovirus, herpes virus, HIV, and other infectious agents.
- She should not smoke, drink alcohol, or consume large amounts of caffeine or artificial sweeteners.
- Her baby should be healthy, gaining well, and infection-free.
Because babies need to eat at all hours of the day, some affluent women will hire a wet nurse as a live-in nanny to always be available for breastfeeding.
Can you be a wet nurse without being pregnant?
Yes! A woman does not need to be pregnant to produce milk; it comes from the pituitary gland in her brain, which releases prolactin when stimulated through suckling or nipple stimulation alone (i.e., without pregnancy). As long as this continues, the woman will continue producing milk even if no baby is at her breast.
How long can you be a wet nurse?
A woman who wants to become a wet nurse should wait until she is 18 and has had her first period before doing so. She should also ensure she has no diseases or conditions that could harm the baby while breastfeeding, such as HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis (TB). If these conditions are present, she should not become a wet nurse as they could make both herself and the infant sicker than they already are!