My Exclusively Breastfed Baby and the Time I Needed a Wet Nurse


There’s nothing I love more than seeing moms helping other moms.

I can think of numerous times that another mom has eased my burden in some way. Whether it’s the time a friend gave me an extra coffee maker she had when ours broke or the time I got maternity clothes from a mom in the babywearing group, or when a friend brought me soup while I was on bed rest or that time I needed a wet nurse.

So you might be thinking A wet nurse? Really? Isn’t that a thing of the past? An outdated practice? Nope, and it turned out to be the best thing for my family.

Cups and bottles that didn't work and resulted in the need for a wet nurse.
A Sample of the cups and bottles we tried!

See, my daughter is exclusively breastfed. Around 3 months ago, when she was just a few months old, my husband and I started trying to give her a bottle. She simply wasn’t interested. We tried many, many kinds of bottles without luck. As time went on, she got older and continued to fight bottles. So I decided to abandon bottles and try to feed her with a sippy cup or straw cup. I was especially motivated because I had an all day training to attend and needed to leave her at home with my husband. We practiced and tried so many things, but she just wouldn’t take milk except from the breast. We left her with sitters, increased her intake of solids, and bought even more bottles and cups to try- with no luck. When she was away from me, she’d just cry and cry and not eat.

With just days to go before my training, I started to panic and reached out with a desperate cry for help to a moms group on Facebook:

Hey, mamas! A while back, I posted that my 9-month-old wouldn’t take a bottle and that I was going back to work part time. Well… we haven’t made any progress with the bottle. I then tried a sippy cup, a regular cup, a straw- all with varying levels of success, but she just wants her milk from the source.  I’ve been working with her on solids as well and she’s definitely eating more but still nursing a ton. Tomorrow is my all day training and I don’t know what to do. I’m worried she’ll cry and not eat all day! My family will be watching her so I know she’ll be in good hands. Should I try and figure out a way to bring them with me? Or will she be OK for the day?”

My friend Erin commented that she’d be willing to nurse C for me while I had to be away. More than a few things went through my head…. Concerns, fears, gratitude and relief- and then I said yes. This made sense to me. C needs to eat. She’ll only eat from the breast and my breasts would be elsewhere. Using Erin as a wet nurse was the best possible option for us. C would be fed and happy,  and I could participate in this one-time opportunity without stressing and worrying about my baby going all day without eating and being miserable.

A Happy Fed Baby with her Wet Nurse
A Happy Fed Baby

Curious why Erin would offer such a gift? Her baby was the same in terms of refusing a bottle, and it impacted her ability to go back to work. She totally understood my situation and wanted to help. Our daughters are close in age too. I am so lucky to have such a compassionate and generous friend.

My baby nursing from another woman.

We decided to have a trial run a day in advance of my training. I didn’t know if C would latch on to Erin with me in the room, but my baby knew exactly what to do! She latched on and even “threw herself a little party” slapping Erin gleefully and smiling. I had already coordinated family to be the primary caregivers for my kids during the day of my training, but Erin came to my home and nursed C, along with her own daughter. C nursed several times throughout the day with no trouble and was her usual happy self. No more tears than normal. When I got home, I had a moment of panic and wondered if C would be confused, but she just latched onto me and nursed in her happy way.

Two happy sleepy babies with my friend, and wet nurse.
Two happy sleepy babies

What Erin did for me was a simple thing, a small moment in time in the scheme of her life, but her gracious kindness was hugely meaningful for me and my family. Erin’s selfless act allowed me to feel a moment of independence, to provide for my family, and to also feel confident that my baby was happy and fed. Erin said, I knew what I had to do. I offered to nurse her baby. It was something I wish I had for Willow when she was young.”

Super Mom and wet nurse
Super Mom

Have you ever used a wet nurse or nursed another person’s child? What do you think about this ancient but still useful practice?



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