Chloe Whitcomb, who looks after little Effie for her photographer mum, tells The New Day a return to wetnursing will help women get back to work
As Chloe Whitcomb breastfeeds seven-month-old baby Effie, lovingly stroking her soft hair they look every inch the contented mother and baby
But Effie isn’t Chloe’s daughter – she is just looking after her for the day while her busy mum photographer Leann goes to work.
Nanny Chloe, 26, also sometimes feeds her own two-year-old son Rudy at the same time and the two working mothers claim they have found the perfect childcare arrangement.
The bizarre set up is enough to turn many people squeamish. But while this is the first time Chloe has worked as a milk donor nanny she now hopes to be able to offer the service to others.
In fact, both mums think a return to the times of wet nurses would help mums get back to work.
Leann, 26, who also has three-year-old daughter Cornelia at pre-school explained: “Like many mums I was desperate to get back to work part-time just to get out of the house and feel myself again after having a baby.
“It was important to me that Effie carried on having breast milk. But whenever I had tried to give her my milk in a bottle before she would just refuse and always cry.
“Effie also has a dairy allergy which means she can’t drink formula. So I initially thought there was no way I could return to work because I would have to stop breastfeeding.
“Then when Chloe offered to not only look after Effie while I went to work but breastfeed her I didn’t think twice about it – it seemed the perfect option.
“It is so reassuring to see how content my baby is with Chloe and she’s not upset and screaming because she’s hungry.”
Chloe explains: “Caring for children was the perfect job for me because I can do it in my own home and get to look after my two-year-old son and continue to breastfeed him too.
“I offered to wet nurse Leann’s baby because I thought it made sense. It feels perfectly natural feeding her and she has settled so well with me.
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“She feeds from the right breast and my son Rudy feeds from the left. I thought he may get a bit jealous but he even strokes her on the back when they are feeding. It’s so beautiful to watch.”
Chloe and Leann, both from the West Midlands, became firm friends after meeting at a breastfeeding support group in August last year.
Chloe, who lives with fiancé Ricky Robinson, says: “We both share very passionate views about breastfeeding and started to meet up with our children.
“I feed my two-year-old son Rudy on demand and would like to continue feeding him until he wants to stop.
“I am very proud to do it in public and sometimes people stare and tut at me but I honestly don’t care.”
Leann added: “I fed my eldest Cornelia until she self weaned at 12 months but I wasn’t ready to stop. Nursing a baby creates such an amazing bond with your child.
“I want to continue feeding Effie for as long as I can.”
But when Leann started to think about returning to work on a part-time basis she started to panic.
She says: “Being at work would mean I would need to start pumping milk.
“But Effie has never wanted to take the bottle so I knew it was going to be hard.
“One day I was with Chloe when I took my daughter to the toilet and Effie started to cry.
“When I came back Chloe was holding her and said: ‘I nearly breastfed Effie then.’ It felt like the most natural thing in the world for her to do.
“We then started talking about wet nursing – I didn’t know an awful lot about it but I started to think it was a very good idea.
“Chloe, who was setting up as a nanny, suddenly offered to look after Effie when I returned to work and breastfeed her. To me it was the ideal option and I was very grateful.”
Leann now works 16 hours a week while Chloe looks after Effie and she also sometimes babysits in the evening. She says: “The first time she looked after Effie she sent me a picture of her breastfeeding her and her son together.
“I just thought it was the most beautiful thing and my eyes filled up.
“It was an emotional moment. It is amazing how settled and content Effie is with Chloe. It means I can relax and concentrate on my work.”
Chloe adds: “My grandmother was a wet nurse and to me it is something that is perfectly natural. Because Rudy has always just fed from my left breast Effie has my right one.
“It has created a lovely bond between the two of them too. I’d like to feed the both of them for as long as possible.”
But Leann’s partner Brett and some friends have not been so positive about the arrangement.
She says: “Brett isn’t hugely pro breastfeeding because he wanted to be able to bottle feed Effie so it can help him bond more. But he also understands the huge health benefits of breastfeeding.
“I told him what I had decided to do and he wasn’t thrilled but agreed it was the best thing for Effie.
“One friend was a bit shocked and asked me if I was bothered that it wasn’t my milk she was drinking and I pointed out that she drank cows milk but it could be any cow.”
Chloe has even agreed to become a vegan in order to breastfeed Effie as she has quite a severe dairy intolerance.
She explains: “I’m very committed to this and I’ve changed my diet completely so I can feed Effie.
“My partner doesn’t bat an eyelid. Being a nanny is perfect for me I love children and it means I get to be with Rudy in the day. I’d be happy to offer to breastfeed to other children I look after.
“Wet nursing is something which isn’t talked about much but is a perfectly normal thing to do and is a much-needed service for some women who are unable to feed.”
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