When I was a brand new mommy I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I had never been around a nursing mom, I didn’t have any friends with babies. My baby and I struggled at first but with many tears and omitting dairy foods in my diet we got the hang of it and before long were exclusively breastfeeding. I met some other mom friends through La Leche Leaugue meetings and a Meet Up group and we quickly became BFF’s. One day, during a chaotic playdate with about 4 of us, one of my friends piped up “I just want you to know that if my baby ever needs breastmilk and I’m not around, I’m OK with you nursing him”. Frankly I was shocked and I couldn’t imagine nursing her baby or saying back to her that it was OK to nurse mine. It was so outside of my comfort zone at that point. I think we all kind of nodded and moved on.
Fast forward a few years and a second child. Another friend (from that same group) and I decided to babysit swap with our kids. We were both nursing one year olds. I tried to casually bring it up “so, if your toddler asks for milk, is it OK with you if I nurse her?” My friend was totally fine with it and I think relieved because that meant she didn’t have to pump and leave milk. Later that evening when I was nursing my daughter, hers curled up next to me and kind of pulled at my shirt. So, I offered her the other side and tandem nursed our sweet girls together. It was a completely beautiful moment and her little one was comforted even though she was missing her mama. A few weeks later, that friend watched my kids and nursed my daughter when she asked for it. Something that seemed like a big deal a few years ago turned out to be so easy and natural.
I can’t help wondering if women were casual about breast sharing could we be more successful at breastfeeding?
Take for instance this past fall when my neice was born. My sister-in-law struggled in the early days with breastfeeding (as many moms do). She wondered “am I doing this right? Is baby getting enough milk? It feels like she wants to nurse all the time!” I messaged her, texted with my brother and sent her articles (she lives in another state). But imagine how powerful it would have been if I had taken my neice to my breast and said “here, this is what it looks like”. If she could have seen me with my newborn nursing around the clock and known that it is completely normal.
Or what about a new friend? A woman I met through the project and I’m just getting to know but feel that friendship connection with already. Can I offer to nurse her baby? Would she be shocked at the idea just as I was as a new mom? Perhaps if I had read a story about breast sharing before my baby was born, I would have been more open to the idea from the beginning.
So, what do you think? Is the idea of another woman nursing your baby OK with you? Do you have a story of a time when you nursed a baby that was not your own? Has anyone else ever breastfed your baby? How did you feel about it?
Let’s tell our stories and begin to normalize this beautiful gift: breastfeeding each other’s babies.