Breastfeeding Another Woman’s Baby – Is It Safe?

Nursing by another mother - Is it Safe or Unsafe?

It is a known fact that breast milk is best for babies. It helps them fight various infections & strengthen their immune system. Breastfeeding a baby also helps in developing a strong emotional bond between the mother and her baby. But did you ever think of nursing someone else’s baby or asking another mother to nurse your baby? Not all mothers are comfortable with this, but before formula milk came into existence, the concept of ‘wet-nursing’ was very common in various countries. If you don’t know what it is, read this blog to get a better understanding of it.

What is Wet Nursing?

Wet nursing or cross-nursing is basically nursing another woman’s child when the mother is unable to feed her baby or chooses not to feed for some reason. Earlier, wet nursing was a common practice and it was the best way to keep an infant alive because if a baby didn’t get breast milk, his chances of survival were very low.

Risk Factors

Nowadays, the concept of wet nursing is not very common worldwide as there is a high risk of viral transmission through breast milk. Viruses like Parvovirus, HIV, Herpes, Hepatitis A, B and C, Rubella and CMV can make their way to a baby’s body through breast milk. Besides this, if the nursing woman has cracked nipples, the chances of a baby contracting yeast infection also increase. However, physicians believe that the chances of such transmission are rare. Also, the composition of breast milk keeps changing with the age of the baby. For example, the milk produced immediately after the delivery of a baby is high in protein (colostrum), which decreases after 4-5 days of birth. The contents of breast milk keep changing with time. Also, a woman may not produce breast milk as per another the requirements of another child.

Alternate Options

If a mother is unable to breastfeed her baby, there are a few alternative options she can consider –

  1. Breast pumps
  2. Formula milk
  3. Milk banks

Although there are certain risk factors involved while nursing someone else’s baby, wet nursing is still practised in some parts of the world where people can’t afford the alternatives.

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