Now that the issue of breast versus bottle no longer merits much discussion, new moms have another question to consider: "Your breast - or mine?"
Sharing the boob (or the milk) was not something people talked much about when my kids were hungry infants. Mind you, nobody was using fancy phrases like "co-sleeping" or "attachment parenting" back then either, even though plenty of folks were doing those things.
To me, anything that promotes the idea of breastfeeding and makes it easier for new moms isn't a bad thing. But the latest discussion is jumbling up a whole bunch of separate issues. First, there are moms who can't nurse but want their babies to have the nutritional benefits of breast milk. So they may turn to a "wet nurse" to breastfeed their infants. Or fill their bottles with breast milk from other nursing moms or breast milk banks. Then there's "cross-nursing" - when mothers breastfeed each other's babies, largely for convenience, or when they're looking after them for an afternoon.
But aside from the health risks, which even the breastfeeding support organization La Leche League has expressed concern about, this issue is about a lot more than nutrition. As someone who nursed four babies, I'm not sure I'd be willing to share those intimate moments with another mother, convenient or not. It's also understandable why a mom who's unable to nurse might not want to hand her baby over to someone who can. Just because a baby drinks milk from a bottle doesn't mean feeding time can't be an intimate time of bonding and closeness.
And here's one more thing. Let's make sure this trend doesn't become one more way to pass judgment on what makes a "good mother." Or to start laying the guilt on moms who decide to skip the milk bank and feed their babies formula instead.
Yes, we know breast is best. But not at the cost of a mother's physical or mental health. Or her right to make this very personal decision.