"Is she being over-dramatic or am I a big hippie?"
That's the question one woman is asking after she breastfed her sister's baby while the infant was in her care. And her sister is furious.
In a post to Reddit, the woman shared that she and her sister had their babies three months apart. Her baby is now two months old and her nephew is five months.
"My sister had to go to an appointment in the hospital and because of all the Covid 19 she didn't want to take her baby so she asked if I could care for him," she continues. "We both breastfeed our babies so she expressed enough milk to last the day so I could bottle feed."
But each time the woman fed her nephew she said he always seemed hungry afterwards.
"So I heated another ounce of milk at a time so as not to heat too much and have to throw it away. I tried my best to make the milk last but I was down to 6oz (170g) left and I wasn't expecting my sister back for another 5 hours."
As she was already breastfeeding her own baby, and didn't feel she was able to contact her sister who was in surgery, she continued: "I just put my sister's baby on my other boob. He drank a little bit then fell asleep. The same thing happened a couple of hours later and again, I ran out of milk. My sister had been delayed with her procedure and wasn't back yet so I just fed my nephew from the breast"
But when her sister returned she went "ballistic".
"She said it was so disrespectful and I should have given formula if it wasn't enough. I would never give my kid formula if I could help it and I don't have any in the house."
Acknowledging that it's a "very personal thing to feed your baby," the woman continues, "but I'm not a stranger. He's my nephew and he was hungry."
Later, her sister sent a text saying that the woman had crossed a line - and asked how she would have felt. "I think I would have been glad she didn't give my baby formula," she noted.
The post attracted over 400 comments - and a mix of heated views.
"Breast milk is still a body fluid, family or not, and breast feeding is a personal activity for a mother and her child," wrote one woman who identified herself as a NICU nurse. "In the hospital we treat breast milk as a high risk medication and require two licensed people to sign off its administration because it is a bodily fluid and even donor milk cannot be given without parental consent.
"Each person gets to weigh the risk/benefit/emotional aspects of their child getting another woman's milk for themselves. Moreover, putting the baby to your breast was entirely wrong without your sister's consent. That's much too personal of an action to take without making sure your sister was okay with her child eating from another woman's breast."
And her advice was clear:
"I think this was an accidental boundary crossing as your didn't know your sister's feelings, and I think your sister has a reasonable boundary about this. You need to apologise, stress that this was accidental as you would feel differently and didn't consider her feelings."
But not everyone agreed.
"Her sister was in surgery and dad isn't around. She had no formula and was caring for two infants, and couldn't just run to the store with them in a pandemic without a car seat for the second baby," said another. "I can understand the sister being upset, but OP is literally being roasted for feeding a hungry baby the only way she could because its mother didn't prepare well and send enough food for her growing child. Fed is best."
"What was she supposed to do, feed the baby corn chips?" said another.
When it comes to informal milk-sharing the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) notes:
"The Association believes that a mother's own milk is the ideal food for her baby and child, and with the right information and support, most mothers can produce enough breast milk for their babies. In cases where mothers do not have enough breast milk to nourish their babies, or where breastfeeding is not possible, the Association believes that human milk from another woman is the next best alternative, and supports women to make informed choices about the available alternatives, including donor milk.
The Association also recognises that some mothers will choose to source human milk from private donors (informal milk sharing arrangements). There are risks involved in using privately-sourced donor milk. The Association strongly encourages mothers to ensure that they are well informed of the potential risks and benefits of donated human milk, methods available for minimising risks, and to make decisions based on their own individual circumstances."