A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away my mother told me she’d heard that T and T’s cousin had breastfed each others infants when they babysat for each other. My mother said it was perfectly natural – I was horrified and threw up in my mouth. Flash-forward fifteen years to me walking up the steps of my daughter’s preschool. I bump into a parent carrying her neighbor’s newborn daughter. The neighbor had denied the pregnancy until the onset of labor and shortly after being discharged from the hospital left town on business (?). The newborn before me is less than two weeks old. The dad, desperate to keep his job and his baby, is stringing together whatever care-givers he can find. And here is my preschool friend/his neighbor-lady, carrying this newborn into school, a look of shock, horror and disbelief on her stunned face. Before I could even think, words jumped out of my mouth. I offered to nurse her, a gut reaction, nothing I could have predicted. I was sincere and would have done it had she said yes. But she only smiled as if I were vaguely crazy. It was a good thing, because in those very rare cases, infections are usually passed from baby to mother and I certainly didn’t want to put the health of my boys at risk. Who knows what this poor sweet baby had been exposed to in her short life? I’ve thought of this baby every day since.
One week later came a girls night where I learned of the media frenzy over Salma Hayek nursing someone else’s baby-in-need. Nobody in my group seemed to think there was anything wrong with it. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know the baby. When D was born a close friend had been banking breast-milk for us. We were set to use it when our pediatrician cautioned us that bodily fluids should always been screened for safety reasons. The screening process was expensive and time-consuming, and in the end, we chickened out. If I had it to do over again I’d take the breast milk.
Now the subject comes up again. This must mean that breast feeding families are starting to make a dent in the mainstream. People are talking. I was shocked to learn that less than 60 percent of women who give birth nurse their babies. Those who do stop by six months. Very few make it to one year and hardly anyone goes beyond that, although doctors agree the longer the better. Judging by what I see in my classes this here is Ground Zero for Extended Breastfeeding. I regularly see two and three year-olds nursing. I’ve heard of at least three cases of four and five year olds who still nurse. Regardless of how I feel about it, this whole scene is yet another reason I’m in love with Portland.