First off "what is a wet nurse?"
A wet nurse is a woman who breastfeeds a child who is not her own!
I can hear one half of you gagging and the second half rolling your eyes at the first half!
Ewwww... Gross... That's so wrong!
Well, if you are thinking that then now might be a good time to bugger off as I'm a person who likes to talk loudly about placentas and mucus plugs at the dinner table!
Also there are "brelfies" in this blog (breastfeeding selfies)!
So, what was it like, my day as a wet nurse?
Fun! ... And stressful (two babies!) , but mostly snuggley and fun!
My dear friend had to go to a conference for work a couple of states away so I offered to babysit her 5 month old daughter, Daisy.
I have a 10 month old daughter of my own (Lilly) whom I breastfeed so I also offered to wet nurse.
She took me up on it and off we went!
I have to say, I was weirdly excited about being able to feed a friends baby.
I think it's a beautiful connection and I knew it would take a load off my friends mind knowing her baby would be fed and cuddled while she was away.
The first time I fed Daisy she was just waking up from a nap and I think she was a little surprised to find someone who wasn't mum attached to the other end of the boob!
My daughter, Lilly, soon woke from her nap and they enjoyed a tandem feed together!
Feeding two babies and taking a photo is tricky! - Ballarat Birth Support- Tandem Breastfeeding Wet Nurse
The trickiest part was trying to keep them from wriggling and kicking each other!
The rest of the day was a snuggley mix Babywearing, boobing and convincing my daughter that she had to share her "milkies"!
I was going to give a brief history of wet nursing but there is just too much to say!
In short- it's (been) in almost every culture across the globe, it's noted in many Holy books, can be found in ancient artworks and old texts.
I do want to say that although wet nursing is a gorgeous act, it has often been used in inhuman ways by forcing servants, workers and slaves to feed children who are not their own. I encourage you to do some research to better understand and support our Black brothers and sisters in particular.
Here are some pictures of wet-nursing throughout history-
"Wet Nurse". Library of Congress and Nurses. 1848
"Caritas"- Lucas Cranach, early 16th Century
'The Wet Nurse"- Marguerite Gerard. 1802
Mother Breastfeeding, Vigeland Sculpture Park, Norway.
One of my favourite pieces of history on wet nursing is a text written in Ancient Rome titled Advice On Hiring A Wet Nurse.
It was written in 1st Century A.D and list hilarious "requirements" that a good wet nurse would meet.
A "good" wet nurse was described as being large formed, not younger than 20 but not older than 40 , has at least 2-3 children of her own, should be Greek, have "good colour" and have medium size breasts.
She should also not be known for murmuring or her maniacal ways!
Hilariously Soranus also explains that a potential wet nurse should abstain from sex, drinking and "lewdness" because if a woman is interested in sex her interest in the baby and her milk would "spoil and suppress"!
The Wrap Up?
I thought it would feel different or big and exciting to breastfeed Daisy... As I thought it was a Big Deal.
But come the day it was really just like any other day except with an extra babe in my arms!
The only way it really felt different was that my daughter has teeth and Daisy doesn't!
It felt so natural, to care for and feed another sweet babe.
It's part of being part of a tribe, a village, a community of friends and mothers who know that breastfeeding is just a normal part of parenting and caring for children
So, who needs a wet nurse?!
Love your wet nurse, bobbin' Doula
ps- If you would like to know more about the ancient wet nurse requirements check out here!
Need some support with breastfeeding?
Australian Breastfeeding Association
Australian Breastfeeding Project
Looking for donor milk or a wet nurse?
Australian Wet Nurses