Requesting Cross-Nursing in Your Will
If I Die, Will You Nurse My Child?
After I had Kieran, I developed an irrational fear of dying and leaving him without a mother.1 The one good thing that came from my fear was that Tom and I were motivated to draw up a will and name guardians in case we both passed.2 It gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing that our children will be provided for financially and in a good home of our choosing if the unthinkable were to happen. Added bonus – my sister (the named guardian) respects our parenting choices and will try her best to continue on a “natural parenting” path.
Along with our will, we wrote a codicil or “letter of instruction.” This letter is included with our will, and we’ve given copies to our named guardian as well as several other people.
Our letter touches on our parenting choices at the moment – that our kids sleep in our bed, that we use gentle, respectful discipline, that we practice child-led weaning, etc. I recently updated our letter, and I included part of it at the end of this post.
One of the most important parts of our letter is that if I am ever unable to nurse (and no one can latch our child(ren) on for me), we want our nursling(s) to have mamas available who will nurse them in my place.
I included a list of several lactating mothers who live nearby and have agreed to nurse my children.
In addition to cross-nursing, I want human donor milk available. Luckily, I have friends across the country (my coworkers at Natural Parents Network) who have agreed to send milk in an emergency. There are also milk banks we can purchase milk from for the short- or long-term.3
The Safety of Cross-Nursing
Last week I read a heart-warming story about a woman who found and nursed an abandoned newborn4 – saving the baby’s life. When I shared the story on my Facebook page, one of my readers asked whether infections could be passed via cross-nursing.
The main concerns you may have when finding someone to cross-nurse your baby are thrush, HIV/AIDS, bacteria or viruses, and other infectious agents.5 If you are comfortable asking a friend to nurse your baby, please also feel free to verify with her that she is free from infection. (And when I say infection, I mean the dangerous, life-threatening kind. I wouldn’t blink at the thought of a mama with a cold nursing my little ones.) Most mothers should have some idea about whether they have contracted one of these infections, because obstetricians normally check in the standard pregnancy blood test. For more information, talk to your physician.6
Of course there is also the chance that an infection could be passed from baby to the nursing mother, particularly if the baby has thrush. If your child has a permanent or recurring infection that could be passed via cross-nursing, you should inform anyone who may nurse your child in an emergency.
Our Letter of Instruction
Following is a portion of our letter of instruction. We sent this to our named guardians, the mothers who have agreed to nurse our children in case of emergency, and a few family members who would be notified in case of an emergency.
Dear Friends and Family –
This letter is a supplement to our will, which is stored with (name/website of our attorney) and in (a specific location).
We wanted to put a few things in writing to touch briefly on some of our parenting values and desires for our children, even though you probably know most of this already.
It is my deepest desire that if anything ever happens to me, my children are given breastmilk for at least the first two years of their lives. We practice child-led weaning, and at the time of this writing (Ailia is 7 months old), about 99% of Ailia’s nutrition comes from breastmilk. Kieran, at 4.5 years old, appears to have weaned (at least he has not nursed in almost three weeks).
In the event I am incapacitated or otherwise unable to nurse, I ask that my child(ren) be allowed to nurse with one of the lactating friends or family members listed below. It is very important to me that my child(ren) be allowed to actually breastfeed – especially if I am suddenly just gone (or in surgery, or whatever). A breastfeeding baby may be frantic without having the comfort of nursing, and I would want my love to shine through the act of nursing by one of my lactating family or friends.
If my child(ren) are placed with a non-lactating guardian long-term, I would wholeheartedly bless (but do not require/expect) either induced lactation and/or the use of an SNS, if the guardian is comfortable with either. (SNS is a supplemental nursing system – you have a bag and a tube, you put donor milk in the bag, let the baby nurse, and put the tube in baby’s mouth so he gets the donor milk but still maintains the comfort of nursing).
To be clear, in an emergency I do NOT want someone to give my child(ren) a bottle. They are accustomed to nursing. They will be comforted by nursing.
Here are the names and numbers of mamas who have expressly agreed to nurse my children in any emergency (they will also be excellent resources to help you figure things out with other parenting questions; of course my sister, Shawna, would also nurse my children if she is still lactating):
(Names, addresses, and phone numbers of three local friends)
And if you need to find donor milk, here are some resources:
(The site for my local parenting group.) There will be other lactating mamas on there who will be willing to nurse in an emergency or donate breast milk for an SNS. These mamas will also be amazing in an emergency (and afterwards), do not hesitate to ask for help/comfort/information. Plus, our children are familiar with many of them and their children.
For long-term milk donation, contact Lauren Wayne, my friend and Natural Parents Network co-founder. She will help organize an effort from my NPN friends to send donor milk. (email address and phone number) If any of my NPN coworkers are in town for any reason, they’d be welcome to cross-nurse as well.
Eats on Feets (http://www.eatsonfeets.org/): Eats On Feets facilitates a world-wide network of parents and professionals who have made the informed choice to share or support the sharing of breastmilk.
Human Milk for Human Babies (http://www.hm4hb.net/): The mission of Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network is to promote the nourishment of babies and children around the world with human milk. We are dedicated to fostering community between local families who have chosen to share breastmilk.
Human Milk Banking Association of North America (http://www.hmbana.org/): This website provides information on milk banking and how to contact a milk bank to donate milk or to order donor human milk.
MilkShare (http://milkshare.birthingforlife.com/): A resource to help you learn about milk donation and to connect families who can help each other.
Our children are accustomed to sleeping all night with us in our family bed. An hour before bedtime we have a snack, enjoy some wrestle/play time, brush and floss, then read in bed. Ailia nurses to sleep (sometimes she’ll even let me lay her down once she’s asleep). I rub Kieran’s back as he drops off to sleep (usually around 8-8:30pm).
We never practice sleep training or allow our children to “cry it out.”
We practice gentle discipline with our kids, and it is vital to us that all of the people who care for them will too. In a nutshell, this means that we will not use physical or emotional punishment (i.e. spanking, shaming, isolation), and we try to show our kids the same respect that we would an adult.
We believe in first seeking natural remedies for healthcare problems. (Information on healthcare and on our delayed/selective vaccination schedule.)
(Names and phone numbers of our family doctor and pediatric dentist)
Obviously we can’t sum up our parenting philosophy in an email, but I hope that we model our beliefs enough to give you a good idea of how we’d like our children to be raised in our absence. We trust you all to keep our wishes and our children’s best interests in mind.
Dionna & Tom
Do you have a letter of instruction with your will? What does it include?
- I’ve since learned that a fear of death and dying can be a sign of PPD. ↩
- For quick and relevant advice about wills and other legal matters for parents, see Wear Clean Underwear: A Fast, Fun, Friendly, and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents by Alexis Martin. ↩
- Check out Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feets. ↩
- Translated from this news story. ↩
- LLLI lists “tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis-associated antigen, cytomegalovirus, herpes virus, HIV and other infectious agents.” ↩
- The CDC has some information. ↩
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"Requesting Cross-Nursing in Your Will"
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