Popular Posts

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Community Breast

Breastfeeding is taboo in this western culture, so nursing someone else's baby is something many of us have never seen.  In some traditional cultures, wet-nursing is demonstrating sisterhood support, communal work, trust, and bonding.  I always wondered how far my solidarity with other women could go.  Last week, I had the chance to test it out.
Kristina, Juan, and Hush Ke Niya minutes after birth

I met Kristina when she appeared on my Compton doorstep, pregnant, traumatized from her last birth, and anxious for support from a doula.  She was seeing a good friend of mine, who didn't expect any of this, so of course, I agreed to help them.  She was an amazing primal birther, who only needed reassurance and a calming, grounded presence.  Kristina and I became friends, and I had the honor of supporting her next, unassisted home birth.

She trusts me, knows my diet, temperament, and energy because we've been in high-intensity settings together.  So, when she nonchalantly said,

"Juan and I are going for a walk, watch the baby, yeah? You can nurse her if she wakes up", I naturally agreed.

As most babies do when their mothers leave the room, Manahuiya woke up.  Aubrey, a close friend soothed and held her until she cried without relief.

"Should I nurse her?", I asked Aubrey hesitantly.

"Well, yeah, Kristina said yeah...".  Aubrey said as she handed over Manahuiya.

Wet-nursing two month old Manahuiya.
I popped out my boob like the pro I am, and she immediately latched! She was ravenous.

"Aha! Now I understand what Kristina was saying about her shallow latch..." I gently said.

During one of my postpartum visits, after a traditional baño, Kristina and I went over suggestions for shallow latch.  Now, I experienced it, and felt more adequate in providing solutions.  I changed breasts, over to my emptier one, and her latch was great!  I admired her tiny little eyes and beautiful new skin.  I felt a veil being lifted from my face, and saw her in a new light.  She stared up at me with loving eyes, and Aubrey and I giggled.  Nursing a newborn without just giving birth made me feel so powerful.  She was light and tiny as I swayed her left to right.

By the time they got back, she was dozing off at the breast, and mom was thrilled.  I think Juan felt a little awkward, but when I asked him, he said:

"Ugh...it's disgusting! Nah, just kidding, it's cool, dude".

We all laughed and agreed that we can take each other's babies when we need a break.  Whether or not we ever do, it's comforting to know that my baby has a breast when he needs one.

Kristina, nursing her newborn, the other little ones, very interested.