Menu ENN Search

A review of wet nursing experiences, motivations, facilitators and barriers

Research snapshot1

Wet nursing, the practice of a woman breastfeeding a non-biological child, is recommended in the World Health Organization/UNICEF Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding (2006) in situations where maternal breastfeeding is not possible. A literature review of open access evidence of medical, social/cultural and religious factors that support or hinder wet nursing was undertaken by Save the Children to understand how this recommendation can be applied.

Results show that wet nursing has been widely practiced since 2000 years BCE and has historically been widely and positively accepted by society, culture and religion, although it has in some contexts been used as a form of slavery (ancient Rome and the southern United States during the 18th and early 19th centuries). Since 1500, wet nursing has mostly been practiced within close circles of families and friends to ensure child survival.  It has declined as a practice with increased use of artificial feeding and marketing by formula manufacturers.

Factors identified in the review that facilitate wet nursing include wide acceptance within society, culture and religion; knowledge of the importance of breastmilk; when wet nurses and mothers/caregivers know each other; availability of milk-sharing websites; appropriate support from health facilities and authorities; access to lactation consultants or nurses equipped to provide support for wet nursing; and breast-milk screening. Factors identified that hinder wet nursing include availability and promotion of artificial feeding; fear of disease transmission; practical limitations for wet nurses (such as cost of travel); unwillingness to wet nurse outside known relationships; lack of facilities (milk banks; milk storage; pasteurisation); and lack of protocols and support from health authorities.

A significant limiting factor of the review was a paucity of studies or documented experiences on wet nursing in emergencies and low and middle-income countries, and a consequent lack of guidelines on the operationalisation of wet nursing in emergency contexts.  This is a critical gap area to address to put global recommendations into practice.

Read more...

Endnote

1Teshome, S. (2018) Wet-nursing: A review of wet nursing experiences, motivations and factors that helped or hinder wet nursing. Save the Children UK https://www.ennonline.net/wetnursingreview

More like this

FEX: Infant Feeding Alternatives for HIV Positive Mothers in Kenya

By Tom Oguta, Abiud Omwega and Jaswant Sehmi Tom Oguta is currently a PhD student of Nutrition at the University of Nairobi. He has worked as a Research Officer at KIRDI...

FEX: Infant Feeding in Emergencies: Experiences from Rwanda

Frances O'Keefe field worker Gisenyi - Concern Worldwide Between October and December last year escalating civil conflict led to hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees...

Resource: A review of wet nursing experiences, motivations, facilitators and barriers

Wet nursing, the practice of a woman breastfeeding a non-biological child, is recommended in the World Health Organization/UNICEF Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child...

FEX: Putting IFE guidance into practice: operational challenges in Myanmar

By Victoria Sibson Victoria Sibson has been the emergency nutrition adviser for Save the Children UK since April 2007, with a focus on treatment of acute malnutrition and...

FEX: Wet nursing for refugee orphans in Bangladesh

By Yara Sfeir, UNHCR Bangladesh Yara Sfeir is an International United Nations Volunteer posted as a Nutrition Coordinator for the two Rohingya refugee camps of Nayapara and...

en-net: Safe alternatives to breast milk in rural sub-Saharan Africa that are not formula milk?

In South Sudan, many women report not being able to breastfeed. Whilst in some cases this is about traditional beliefs and practices around infant feeding, maternal nutrition...

en-net: Should you recommend wet nursing in HIV prevalent areas where replacement feeding is not safe but there is no HIV testing available?

Current WHO guidance on infant feeding and HIV (2010) emphasises a public health approach to infant feeding choice in the HIV context. It emphasises that feeding...

FEX: Qualitative study of supplementary suckling as a treatment for SAM in Infants

This article summarises key findings of an MSc thesis1 By Natasha Lelijveld Natasha Lelijveld has recently completed her MSc in International Child Health at UCL. She is...

en-net: breastfeeding

What knowledge gaps are there currently in breastfeeding? What are some of the challenges mothers are getting in practising exclusive breasfeeding, especially in third world...

FEX: Contributing to the Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E) response in the Philippines: a local NGO perspective

By Romelei Camiling-Alfonso, Donna Isabel S. Capili, Katherine Ann V. Reyes, A.M. Francesca Tatad and Maria Asuncion Silvestre Romelei Camiling-Alfonso has worked for the...

en-net: Perceptions of SAM treatment amongst infants under 6 months

The latest edition of Nutrition Exchange has an article that shares summary findings of a study of the...

FEX: Infant and young child feeding support in Lebanon: strengthening the national system

By Pressila Darjani and Linda Shaker Berbari Pressila Derjany is the Infant and Young Child Coordinator at IOCC. She has a B.Sc. in Nutrition and Dietetics. She joined IOCC...

FEX: Infant Feeding in Emergencies: Experiences from Former Yugoslavia

Anne Walsh - Health Adviser, Children's Aid Direct. War in the former Yugoslavia presented a relatively new situation to the international aid community whose prior emergency...

FEX: Artificial feeding in emergencies: experiences from the ongoing Syrian crisis

By Suzanne Mboya Suzanne Mboya is a consultant nutritionist. In 2014 she completed a sixth month mission supporting the Syrian crisis IYCF-E response through a partnership...

en-net: Relactating Exercise

I do want to study more about relactation exercise for mothers who had ceased breastfeeding for long time. And, other is that does a woman who never marriage (never delivered...

en-net: Disaster Preparedness and Consent for Cross Nursing

In the event of a disaster cross nursing ( wet nursing) may become critical for infant survival. Does anyone have a consent form and or protocol they can share? Of course...

en-net: Exclusive Breastfeeding of triplets

Dear Colleagues Am working in North Eastern province of Kenya and was presented with the following case: A mother delivered triplets in a hospital and as i was counseling on...

FEX: Letter asking for guidance on BMS for orphans in Rwanda, by Ros O'Loughlin (and response by ENN)

Dear Field Exchange, I read with great interest the articles on infant feeding in the first issue of Field Exchange. I was at the time working in a centre for unaccompanied...

FEX: Increased diarrhoea following infant formula distribution in 2006 earthquake response in Indonesia: evidence and actions

By Fitsum Assefa, Sri Sukotjo (Ninik), Anna Winoto and David Hipgrave Fitsum Assefa is a nutritionist with over 15 years experience working on public nutrition in various...

Resource: Relactation - An overview

Roy Brown Pediatrics 1977 Vol 60, pp 116-120 Work in Vietnam and elsewhere using relactation and induced lactation rather than artificial feeding to deal with situations in...

Close

Reference this page

A review of wet nursing experiences, motivations, facilitators and barriers. Field Exchange 59, January 2019. p17. www.ennonline.net/fex/59/wetnursing