Childrearing

I Breastfed My Friend’s Baby And Loved It

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cat nursingMy 5-year-old is finally weaned. Think that’s shocking? It’s good you didn’t know me when she was a baby. Because the length of time her breastfeeding continued is nothing compared to the frequency of her breastfeeding as a newborn. Most babies eat every three hours or so, but she was more likely to unlatch after three hours — for about three minutes — and then latch on again. I was lucky enough to have ample supply and the desire and ability to quit working, but breastfeeding her was still time-consuming, draining and utterly exhausting.

I used to lie in bed for hours on end, baby firmly latched to my boob, and fantasize about a few minutes alone. Sometimes I thought it would be nice if I got severely ill and had to go to the hospital for a few days, because then I’d get to sleep. But mostly, I wished for a break. Just a few hours. I wanted to go sit at a coffee shop for an afternoon and not worry that my baby was screaming for me the entire time I was gone.

But with a baby who refused a bottle or a pacifier and wailed whenever her mouth wasn’t latched onto my boob, there was only one solution I could imagine that would have given me the break I needed.

What I really wanted, I decided, was a wet nurse.

At the time, I thought wet nursing was a practice that disappeared around the same time as live-in servants and horse-drawn carriages. That didn’t stop me from daydreaming. I imagined living in a tent with a hunter-gatherer tribe, surrounded by friends and sister wives who were all breastfeeding. I would walk away to gather berries or fetch water, leaving my baby happily cradled in the arms of another woman and latched onto her boob instead of mine. For an hour or so, I would be alone. Baby-less. Free.

Occasionally, I brought the idea up to other moms. In my neighborhood playgroup, where all the kids were close in age and most were breastfeeding, I jokingly mentioned how nice it would be to trade off occasionally. I laughed when I said it, and if my laugh had an edge of desperation, no one noticed. They also didn’t take me up on it. I brought the idea up more seriously with my sister-in-law, whose baby was two days older than mine. She hid her shock well, but she made it plain she wasn’t interested. And so I breastfed on — and on, and on — alone.

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