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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.


  1. I think this is, and should be considered, normal. women helping women and nursing the babies as needed.

    1. I agree! The woman who's baby I nursed recently told me that she feels at peace knowing her daughter has a breast away from Mom if anything should happen to her. We have the potential to transmit so much to our babies and each other through nursing!

  2. This is such an amazing and powerful post! It gave me chills! It really shows that there are many ways we can help each other out, and further the idea of sisterhood and solidarity and continue that sense of community -- which is what it's all about. I'm SO glad I found this post!!

  3. Hi,
    Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Motherhood Community? Our members will appreciate it.
    Members include: Moms, Mommies, Mothers, Motherhood Experts, Etc.
    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Articles, Photos, Videos and Classifieds if you like.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    Please feel free to share as often and as much as you like.
    The Motherhood Community: http://www.vorts.com/motherhood/
    I hope you consider sharing with us.
    Thank you,
    James Kaufman, Editor