What is a wet nurse?
A wet nurse is a woman other than the baby's birth mother who breastfeeds a child. A wet nurse breastfeeds the child for different reasons, but usually because the birth mother is unable or does not want to breastfeed the baby herself.
The idea of wet nursing is one that left the western culture in the United States many years ago. Women chose to breastfeed their own infants or choose formula is they were unable to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is an extremely personal activity that bonds an infant with the mother, but it is also a direct mental reflection of womanhood. If a woman cannot or will not breastfeed, she doesn’t want another woman fulfilling that role for her. But, in small towns and big cities all over the United States, women are starting to take a second look at outsourcing breastfeeding.
Check out our Breastfeeding Guide!
Wet nurse or cross-nursing
Today, the idea of nursing another woman’s infant is not called being a wet nurse. It is called cross-nursing. Typically, multiple mothers join a cross-nursing group and all breastfeed each other’s babies as support. Imagine the idea of “It takes a village to raise a child” taken to an extreme level.
Rich clients may also choose wet nurses over breastfeeding. There are nanny companies that specialize in wet nursing. Typically, wet nurses are in-home nannies that charge a minimum of $1,000 a week for wet nurse services and race doesn’t appear to be an issue. There are African-American mothers wet nursing white children and vice versa.
Wet nursing and cross-nursing are old ideas that have somehow bled into the rich community. Wet nursing tends to be reserved for rich clients with money to spend, while cross-nursing is more about bonding with multiple children and raising those children as a community. Sometimes neighbors cross-nurse their children and other times there is a group of women who live close together and choose to breastfeed each other’s children.