No matter how natural or beautiful it really is, breastfeeding has always been stigmatized. Whether it’s breastfeeding in public, pumping at work or choosing to formula feed your baby – everybody has an opinion on it. But before the option of formula milk was available to women who were unable to breastfeed, how do you think they fed their babies?
That is where the wet nurse came into the picture. A wet nurse breastfeeds other people’s babies. In the age of formula milk, you would think that women no longer rely on a wet nurse. But this 19th-century practice is still prevalent to everyone’s surprise.
Meet The Woman Who Breastfeeds Babies In Need
Samantha Gadsden is a mother of three from South Wales who has breastfed more babies than she could remember. Samantha has volunteered her time and her breasts innumerable times for breastfeeding other women’s babies since she first became a mother herself 11 years ago.
How It All Started..
In fact, rather than choosing to become a wet nurse, she stumbled upon this path by accident. The 48-year-old first became a wet nurse to help out one of her friends. Her friend Kelly had to stay at the hospital with her eldest son, and couldn’t take her 13-week-old baby to the hospital. She was in desperate need for help and asked Samantha if she could take care of him for a few days. Samantha agreed and asked her how to feed the baby. She said she was hoping that Samantha would breastfeed the baby since he wasn’t used to the bottle or formula milk. Samantha happily helped her out and that’s how the first of many stories began. Samantha says that it was a natural instinct as she could not bear to see a baby feeling hungry and missing the comfort of the breasts. And it also lessens the worry of the mum. She says that she would do it again in a heartbeat.
She had offered to breastfeed many babies ever since. There were mums who couldn’t breastfeed themselves and wanted breast milk for their little one, mums who were looking for donor milk online and then there were babies who were intolerant to formula milk. She was also able to donate her milk to one of her friend who wasn’t able to feed her baby since she had been diagnosed with cancer.
Other than offering her help (and breasts), Samantha works as a doula. She gives support, advice and helps women during and after pregnancy. For Samantha, wet nursing is not a paid profession, but something that she does to support fellow mothers. But she clarifies that she doesn’t find anything wrong in getting paid for breastfeeding other people’s kids.
Being a wet nurse doesn’t always garner a positive response from everyone. She says that women who are part of the breastfeeding community or are her friends think it’s fantastic, doing what she does. But others are usually shocked and even have some strong reactions. There were women who were concerned about breastfeeding babies of moms whom she met online, raising questions like what if she had AIDS.
Samantha says that if you are going to feed someone’s baby, there needs to be an element of trust there. The 48-year-old also believes that if more women knew they had the option of a wet nurse, more people would be using it.
Being a wet nurse, she doesn’t understand the stigma attached to feeding other babies who couldn’t feed themselves. She had met women who find it disgusting and think a better alternative would be to give the baby formula milk. But there are mums who have been in an emergency where their babies couldn’t tolerate formula milk or have never been bottle-fed. And we know for a fact that donor milk is better than formula milk (1). So why not let the baby suckle the goodness of breast milk regardless of whose breast it comes from? What are your thoughts about it? We’d like to hear from you.