Why Not Surrogate Breast-feeding?

Aug 2, 2010

(World Breast-feeding Week is being celebrated from August 1 to 7).
Will Durant says: “ No man who is in a hurry is quite civilised”. But, personal characteristics like hurry are often ascribed to heredity which has two parts – mother and father. Of their respective roles, Charles Dickens says: “The virtues of mothers shall occasionally be visited upon the children, as well as the sins of the fathers.” Which of these have preponderance is a matter of conjecture. There is a cynical saying that mother is a fact and father myth.

 But one thing is obvious. Mother has a physical relationship with children spread over two distinct periods – the traditionally accepted nine months in the womb and the breast-feeding period which can extend up to two years or more, even if there is nothing to feed on. Beyond feeding, there is physical bonding between mothers and their children.
Coming back to heredity, one writer says: “Nearly every man is a firm believer in heredity until his son makes a fool of himself.” I have made a fool of myself many times over. But my family doesn’t blame it on heredity. They blame it on the breast milk I had from many sources besides my mother. She was frail and had no milk for her son. But, there were a number of workers who had settled on our farm. They had their own fresh brood and the mothers were in lactation. I was made to take turns to have their breast milk. So, any wrong I did later was promptly disowned by my family and ascribed to the farm workers who were kind enough to breast-feed me.
So, if I do anything wrong or stupid my mother is kept out of the line of responsibility for it. Breast-feeding by the farm workers, as in my case, is nothing uncommon in rural societies. But, in modern urban society, some mothers do not want to breast feed their children, mainly for two reasons – cosmetic and career. Career advancement requires the shortest possible maternity leave, leaving the child to be fed on alternate baby foods. Secondly, mothers may not want to spoil their figure with children suckling on their breast. National and international health organisations have declared that the breast-feeding is the best nourishment and to promote it there are even bans on baby food advertising.
If the mother is unwilling to breast-feed her baby what is the way out? Surrogate breast-feeding like the one I had without having the high sounding name. Surrogate motherhood is in vogue for women who can’t have their own babies or do not want to have because stretch marks and low strung sarees go ill together or even the fear of child-bearing and delivery.
Surrogate breast-feeding is a simpler process. Initially one may have to look out for lactating mothers in the neighbourhood. This can develop into a major business like play schools and kindergarten for kids. There can emerge day care centres where surrogate breast-feeders can offer their services in shifts, allowing mothers to pursue their careers and maintain their tout figures. It is a fair exchange where those who can afford pay for breast-milk from those who may need the money. It is like professional blood “donation”.
It may also help parents to disown responsibility for the deviant behavior of their offspring by blaming it all on surrogate breast-feeding. We have an expression:” Hope lives eternal in the human breast “. Under the surrogate breast-feeding regime, we may have a mimic expression: “Hope lives eternal in the mother’s breast”.

John B, Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).

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By John B. Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Joseph, Doha, Qatar

    Thu, Aug 05 2010

    Often heard of surrogate considered by many as a slang language & in the wrong perspective. Asked myself why surrogate who stood as alternate to natural mothers was not considered legal. Thanks to the creator there is a substitute for natural mothers, just in case… probably was waiting for author like Mr. John Monteiro to break open his silence & pen down his experiences.

    Wish to narrate an incident – my wife’s father was very healthy, besides the habit of smoking 6-7 packs of Prakash beedies like normal Kodialgars, he had no other vices. He was in Mangalore for a short vacation to counter depression (due to the closure of his textile mill in 1993 & expired there at 53 years) he couldn’t sustain the shock of the loss of his job. The gulf boom and family’s priorities forced his wife to work in Kuwait. During my visit to my wife’s relations in Mangalore last year, my wife showed me the other surrogate mothers whose milk he had suckled.

    She told me the best part - when her father was born he was privileged to have suckled breast milk from 5 different lactating mothers, not that his mother had a deficit of milk supply. It was considered auspicious so that the child would have a strong IQ and grow in wisdom. So the next time he cried, his mother passed him on to other ladies for breastfeeding him. They loved this humanitarian service and did it 'free-of-cost'. They were readily queuing up as relievers and willingly took turns to breastfeed. Her father was their favourite baby.

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Tue, Aug 03 2010

    When my first child was born (now
    34), the Far Eastern-born Pediatrician came to the hospital
    room and lectured very strongly
    "no breast milk" but only the baby
    formula. I felt very fishy about
    his high pressure sales of formula
    but my daughter was breast-fed
    for a long time. She was free from
    many childhood sickness of colds
    etc. On the other hand, my son
    didn't have that opportunity due to my wife's work, and he had
    been to the doctor's office so
    many times.

    Now, breast-feeding is highly recommended by the hospitals and
    Doctors for better immunity for the
    children. It will create a better
    psychological and emotional closeness with the mother. There
    are some conclusion, though not
    very solid, that breast-fed mothers
    have less incidence of breast cancer.

    But the character and habits of the
    children are basically inherited
    through genes of the parents.
    Our genes, surroundings and each
    individual's personal dreams
    and God's will shall determine the destiny of life. When God created the mammary glads for the
    women, it had its specific purpose
    for feeding the children a wholesome liquid food. Formulas
    are man-made, but breat milk is
    God's design.

  • adshenoy, mangloor

    Tue, Aug 03 2010

    Breasts are for milk for baby. Surrogate, perhaps yes( only when mother, for some reason has no milk) but Mothers breast milk is a must because it has all in one nutrients which no other food has.

    So beauty concious ladies- keep your breasts for your childs nutrition otherwise there is no beauty in breasts if they dont serve Gods/natures purpose.

  • Antony Herbert Crasta, Mangalore/Sydney,Australia

    Mon, Aug 02 2010

    Yes, I was told by my mother that when she went out of breast milk suddenly for some reason, I was breast fed regularly for a while by a lady in the neighbourhood who had her own baby similar to my age. I believe the tinned stuff was not available then, and it was the common practice to surrogate the breast feeding. I wonder why they did not make use of the cow or buffaloe milk, or for that matter goat, as substitution. I would have easily survived I suppose, and it was available in plenty on our farm then! Too late, I can`t ask her now, as she is not around any more. Perhaps, someone can enlighten me on this! By the way, I agree with Shahnawaz when he says that it`s not the milk that decides one`s habits and behaviour, but the culture, family background and the way one is brought up and educated.

  • ashfaq, mangalore

    Mon, Aug 02 2010

    Surrogate parenting involves a woman bearing the child of another woman who is not in a position to bear children as a result of blocked fallopian tubes or lack of a uterus. To be a surrogate mother is, so to say, "leasing her womb", for the child that one gives birth to does not "legally" become one's own but is the child of the couple who pays the surrogate mother for that particular purpose. In some of the states in America it is a legal venture. But in the United Kingdom it has not as yet been legalised. This procedure no doubt allows an infertile couple to have a child who would have the genetic complement of the husband, if the husband's sperm is used to fertilise the ovum of the surrogate woman. But, the problem arises in fertilising the ovum of another woman by the sperm of a man not her husband. Is this to be regarded as an adulterous union? Clearly it would be illegal under Islamic law.

  • aboobaker uppala, uppala/Holy Makkah

    Mon, Aug 02 2010


  • shahnawaz kukkikatte, dubai/udupi

    Mon, Aug 02 2010

    Surrogate breast feeding has been in the society ever since Adam was created and it shall continue to be there. But in urban culuture, it may not sound good and practical, but in villages and hamlet, still it is being practiced, but not for commercial purpose. In many joint families this practice is still there and there is no harm in that. The last and final prophet sent by God to human race, the prophet of Islam, Muhammed (PBUH) was breast fed by surrogate mother known as Dayee Halima, though his biological mother Amina was lactating, as it was the then custom/tradtion prevailed in Arabia. Its not the milk that decides ones habits, but the culture, family background, association and upbringing and parental tastes influence ones behaviour. Why unnecessarily we are blaming the surrogate mother and is it the way we are returning her favours????????

  • Andrade, Keman/ Belle/ USA

    Mon, Aug 02 2010

    Great article.I thought i will comment on the breast milk use. Please be advised that the Breast milk transmits diseases/ virus from mother to the baby through breast milk like HIV, Hepatitis, CMV and may more.I do know that lactating mothers are tested and breast milk is tested daily and if sample is contaminated, they may not use them in developed countries. I am not sure how far we are in keeping up the promise to promote well being of the society in India?

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Mon, Aug 02 2010

    Mr. Monteiro,

    Just as you said, there is news that a Kolkata Hospital is to open Breast-Milk Bank (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata-/Kolkata-hospital-to-open-breast-milk-bank/articleshow/6247024.cms). Though some beauty-conscious mothers do avoid breast-feeding, doctors strictly advise breast-feeding at-least until six months as it makes important impact on a child's growth. For working mothers, there are modern methods like extraction and preservation to use in absence. For many health related reasons, women can't lactate, as such, those who are capable of it, must make use of natural gift than avoiding it. Giving birth and lactating is one natural gift for which a woman is held to very high esteem. Women must enjoy this honour than resenting it.

  • Charles D'Mello, Pangala

    Mon, Aug 02 2010

    Why not ? But better not..! Why produce offspring, if cannot be taken care of properly..???

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