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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Milk Mama Diaries: Wet Nursing

Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (September). For this month, we will tackle milk sharing and how it can nurture the community, and how this spirit of giving can be sustained. Participants will share their thoughts, experiences, hopes and suggestions on the topic. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.

Wet nursing has been in existence for several centuries.  I previously wrote about a UK TV show which talked about other people's breastmilk.  Locally, milk sharing is done through milk banks or mother to mother donations.  And of course, we have all heard of Salma Hayek breastfeeding another baby.

Wet nursing is not prevalent in Metro Manila.  However, it is widely practiced in the barangays in the provinces.  In my own family, we had the chance to hire a wet nurse when one relative had multiples.  Our wet nurse, Tintin, was brought to us by Arugaan.  Tintin has been a wet nurse of several babies and has generously shared not only her time and milk but also her love for her nurslings.  I took this opportunity to interview her so she can share her story.

Tintin is a young mom with 4 children, ranging from 3 years old to 13 years old.  She has been a wet nurse for 3 years.  She first became a wet nurse when her youngest baby was 3 years old to support a baby who had a hole in the heart.  Since then she has gone on to nurse more babies - multiples, a baby who had a heart disease plus more babies who were affected during Ondoy.

Before becoming a wet nurse, Tintin undergoes a screening and an interview.  It is very subjective and depends on each family.  Sometimes she may be a match for a certain family and not be a match for another.  Tintin also emphasizes that as a wet nurse, she makes sure that the mother of the baby also breastfeeds and does not just rely on her.  Also, Tintin brings her baby to her workplace.  They are either "hatid-sundo" or their transportation fare is reimbursed.  She also emphasizes that she does not act as the "nanny" or "yaya" of the baby.  Meals are provided.  On her part, Tintin provides breastfeeding advice and support to the mothers.

Including the Ondoy babies, Tintin estimates that she has breastfed about 100 babies including her own.  Wet nursing is a gift from the heart and it is not just a profession.  Tintin finds it easiest to nurse young babies "na hindi nangigilala".  However, she shares that from experience, she found that even older babies who recognize their own mom still breastfeed from her, maybe because they feel that she is giving them the gift of herself in acting as their wet nurse.

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When my preemie niece was born, I had already weaned from the pump as N was already 2 years old.  However, to support my sister, I went back to pump in the office and did it for the next 8 months.  The gift of breastmilk is something that should not be taken for granted.  This is why I am saddened whenever I receive messages from other mom-donors sharing how they were disappointed when Recipient X told them to text them if they have stored 30 bags of milk before Recipient X will pick up.   I already shared my concerns as a donor mom in a previous post.

In commemoration of World Milk Sharing Week 2012, share your own experiences as a milk donor or a recipient.  Don't forget to visit the other participants of our blog carnival:

Brenda has notes on breast milk givers and takers
Mafeth wrote about being a milk donee
Cris donated her liquid gold
Pat had a happy problem donating solved
Jenny wrote about wet nursing from a relative's experience
Rachel discussed how she felt about receiving donated milk and nursing an adoptee's baby
Mec insists it takes two to Milk Share Tango
Cai received milk from her sister
Nats has a Milk Sharing Story too

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