Is It Safe To Breastfeed Someone Else’s Baby?

A few weeks ago, one mother's picture went viral because it showed her breastfeeding — not just her son, but her friend's son as well. Apparently, the mother, Jessica Colletti, had offered to breastfeed her friend's son because her friend had to go back to work full time and had trouble with breastfeeding and her work schedule.

Honestly, I have no opinion about the picture or the arrangement. To each her own when it comes to breastfeeding in my book because the American Academy of Pediatrics states that breastfeeding can be continued “as long as mutually desired” by both mother and child. There are no known negative consequences to extended breastfeeding. 

But I was curious about the medical aspect of breastfeeding someone else's baby: Is it ever a safety concern?

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Image via Flickr/ UNICEF Ukraine

Because milk banks are severely lacking and most donated breast milk is used for premature babies, it can be difficult for mothers who want to use breast milk but are unable to produce any themselves, so many do choose informal milk sharing, whether through unconventional arrangements like Jessica's or a milk donor bank

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While human breast milk is considered superior, health-wise, to formula, the main concerns with milk sharing, or using another woman's milk, are:

  • Contamination. This seems to be more of an issue if the milk is being stored and shipped, so technically, having another woman actually feed your baby may reduce that risk. 
  • Medications/herbs. The woman feeding your baby will be giving milk that will contain any medication or herbs she may be taking, so this is always a concern because you never really know 100% what else may be in the milk, no matter how well you know the donor. 
  • Diseases. According to the CDC, breast milk is actually not considered a bodily fluid that needs special precautions for handling. The risk for acquiring HIV is pretty small, but there is a risk for transmission of HIV from a mother who is breastfeeding the child if she is HIV positive. 

Currently, there are no studies that have proven which option, if donated milk or actually having a woman breastfeed your baby, is the safer option, so if this is a choice you are considering, you will have to speak with your own care provider and weigh the benefits and drawbacks for you and your baby. The La Leche League also offers a helpful guide for mothers wishing to explore donor breast milk. 

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Would you breastfeed someone else's baby? 

What do you think?

Is It Safe To Breastfeed Someone Else’s Baby?

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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5 comments

  1. Profile photo of Amber Amber says:

    ARe we so far removed from our past that we don’t remember wet nurses? I mean before formula this was the only option. Why now with all the medical advances does it all have to be so complicated?

  2. Profile photo of Wendy Wendy says:

    I find it funny that this topic just came up. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who is caring for her nieces baby because her niece is trying to finish high school. The baby has a very sensitive tummy, so the only formula they have found that he doesn’t give right back is the sensitive kind, and WIC won’t help her pay for that kind of formula anymore. The cans of formula up here are $35 each (for the smaller can), and close to $100 for the tall cans! That’s one of the BAD things about island life, is you have to pay extra for EVERYTHING! So I was totally considering offering to breastfeed her baby, because my son just turned 1 and is pretty much done with me, haha. How do you go about offering to someone you don’t know though?? I just am thinking of the baby and how he might benefit from breastmilk.

  3. Profile photo of Daniece Daniece says:

    I wouldn’t mind if another woman breastfed my baby if I was unable to produce milk. I think it is a very selfless and kind thing for another mother to share what was meant for her child with another child. Especially since breastfeeding can be so exhausting.

  4. Profile photo of madonna madonna says:

    Breastfeeding another’s baby has been around since Old Testament times. They were called wet nurses.

  5. Profile photo of Jenna Jenna says:

    Breastfeeding is such an intense bond, I don’t know how I’d feel about someone else having that bond with my baby. I really wouldn’t like if my baby started rooting around to nurse and that meant it was time for someone else to feed them…I think I’d prefer bottle feeding, but that’s just me.

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