Salma hayek breastfeeds starving African child .

Charlie - posted on 06/15/2010 ( 32 moms have responded )




A video of Salma Hayek breastfeeding another woman's baby boy in Sierra Leone has ignited a week's worth of controversy on the Internet.
The video clip generated millions of Web hits along with a slew of passionate comments by people including women who were moved to tears by Hayek's generosity, some calling Hayek disloyal to her own breastfeeding daughter and others who responded with a simple, "That is so wrong."
But why does America care so much?

"We're messed up," said Dr. Miriam Labbok, a physician, professor and director for the Carolina Global Breastfeeding
Labbok has traveled the world working with nursing mothers, public health experts and breast milk banks. Based on her research and personal experience, Labbok said she's noticed that the United States has an extreme view of breastfeeding compared to many other countries.

"We've lost the concept that breastfeeding is normal and human in the United States," said Labbok. "In most of the world, it's [nursing someone else's baby is] as common as breastfeeding" one's own.

"In many African cultures, it is not just a nice thing to do, it's expected -- although it's mostly within families," she said. "Anybody who is able to lactate and who does not feed a crying child is considered not doing the right thing."

Labbok met Hayek during her work with the United Nations Children's Fund, commonly known by the acronym UNICEF.

"She's a generous woman," said Labbok, who guessed that Hayek likely asked the baby's mother for permission.

Scientifically, Labbok said it is a natural reaction for a lactating woman's body to "let down" milk when she hears any crying baby.
How Common Is Cross-Breastfeeding?

However, there can be rare health concerns to the practice of wet nurses. Labbok said that while there's little chance of a baby passing a disease to a nursing woman, it is known that some diseases, such as HIV, can be passed from nursing woman's milk to the child.

That concern is one reason why the numbers of women cross-nursing in the United States aren't very well known, said Labbok.

"There's just so much concern about spreading disease in the U.S. that you run a [legal] risk to encourage it as a doctor," said Labbok.

Breastfeeding Another Woman's Child

However, anecdotes about the practice abound. Self-proclaimed "mommy blogger" Carrie Lauth learned that she was breastfed by her friend's mother in a time of need.

"I think the number one thing is the culturally misunderstanding that we have in the Western world is of breastfeeding being a sexual thing, almost like she's being unfaithful to her baby," said Lauth, of Natural Moms Talk Radio.
"I'm watching the video and just remembered that I myself was cross-nursed when I was five days old," she said.

At the time, Lauth's mother had to go back to the hospital with complications from birth.

"My dad had to take care of me, and he was terrified because I would not take the bottles," said Lauth.

Luckily, her mother's friend who was nursing came over and helped out.

"That was the only food that I had for two days," said Lauth. "I think it's a lot more common that we even realize."


Marabeth - posted on 06/17/2010




i never said formula companies should not exist. maybe i should have clarified when i said i blame formula companies, not mothers who feed formula. i blame them for their misleading, misinformation and over the top methods for selling product. it's a business first and foremost.

just because you breastfeed your baby doesn't mean you "never had a problem producing milk." i said i don't blame formula feeding mothers, i don't think they're doing anything wrong--they are mothers too who love their children just as much as a breastfeeding mother loves theirs. i *never* said anything to the opposite.

that is neat that you had a family member breastfeed around you but i think i mean more like i wish our whole culture and society was more open with breastfeeding. maybe not one isolated incident. i feel like we'd have higher success rates. sorry if i was unclear or stated my case wrong.

and guys, what's with the attacks? i *completely honestly* see no where in my posts personal attacks, not towards groups of women or individual women. so why attack me? it's really below the belt and sort of "moots your point." could we please attack the issues and the opinions with our own thoughts and research and not attack people themselves? namely me? :)

Sharon - posted on 06/17/2010




Marabeth - for gods sake???? REALLY? Everything is perfect in your world isn't it? There is no reason under the sun a woman can't feed her child breastmilk? UGH people like you disgust me beyond all belief. I want to puke when I realise how piss ignorant people can be.

Salma is awesome. I have no issue with what she did. I wish there had been more follow up on the child versus Salmas' boobs or the well being of her incredibly well off child.

The baby got fed and Salma didn't orgasm from feeding the child so nothing was weird. People need to get over themselves and realise they have nothing to say about what went on between those two mothers and the infant.

Lyndsay - posted on 06/17/2010




I don't see the problem with it. I'm actually very conservative when it comes to breastfeeding (doing it in public is okay, but at least cover up... not everybody wants to watch), but if you had a sandwich and you saw a starving child you'd probably give him the sandwich. I don't see much of a difference.

Amie - posted on 06/17/2010




"how many of us growing up have actually learned about nursing from a family member first-hand and close up? or even seen a nursing mother in our family? maybe if we grew up with a more relaxed, comfortable view of breasts it would come easier to us as mothers."

I DID! Every family member of mine has BF (most of mine and family friends have as well). We've all (at one time or another) BF in front of each other. That had NOTHING to do with my choices. With my first my milk dried up by 3 months old. My doctor and the lactation consultant at the hospital tried to figure out why. We couldn't, the best bet they could figure was my diet. Which wasn't all that plausible to me since I was eating 3 meals a day and snacks when I needed them. I was HUNGRY (as most mothers are) when BFing my LO's.

The only person who has ever been uncomfortable around me BFing is my FIL. A lot of that had to do with my husband though. Whenever he'd watch me my husband would pipe up and go "Trying to sneak a peek at her breasts old man?" LOL! I thought it was funny, my FIL would go "oh f*ck off I'm just watching the baby".

I have known a few people who have chosen to FF. It had nothing to do with a lack of knowing how to BF. That is a poor excuse in this day and age, especially in the western world. Before you even leave the hospital they make sure you have all the information. A lactation consultant comes to you and shows you. Even me with my 4th. I had to tell her to go away I knew what I was doing, it was my 4th after all! Though this may be different in some areas. I have heard from a couple of people on CoM's where the nurses just bottle fed the babies without the mothers consent. Which to me is ridiculous! The nurses around me never even thought about it. I had one friend who had some issues with nurses because she had chosen to FF. I had to bring out my bitch hat for that one. I was not impressed.

Regardless of the reasons though, whether a person BF or FF. The reasons behind it are not anyone's business. Higher success rates, how do you know? We are an entirely different culture than there. We are completely different people. We have the opportunities that they do not.

What Salma did was a great gesture. One that is needed and common place over there because of reasons Cathy has pointed out. Formula is not an option because of poor water quality, not to mention the price! The situation there though can not and should not be easily compared to here. We have the options, they do not in the majority of cases.

Iris - posted on 06/17/2010




I think what she did was very generous and loving. I'd do the same.

This conversation has been closed to further comments


View replies by

[deleted account]

I personally don't see why this is a big deal. My son was both breastfed and bottlefed. Had another woman been able to nurse my son when I had to stop (due to strong anti-seizure meds), I would have cried with gratitude. Americans simply bought into the bottle-is-better mantra from WW2 and on. Slick marketing cemented the deal. Good for Salma. I rarely pay any attention to celebrity news but this was a good one. Good for her. Nice to see someone actually doing SOMETHING even if it is small. She gave that child BOTH nourishment, antibodies AND a warm human touch. If I were a theist, I'd say Bless her!

Cyndel - posted on 06/17/2010




I know of a couple of women who did this. One woman had a six month old went to see her best friend the day after she gave birth, her milk always takes about three days to be much more then water so even though she had just nursed her son was still hungry and crying so her friend took him and nursed him with her more filling milk. It was generous and nothing weird between them. I would do it for any hungry baby.

[deleted account]

I think if a baby was crying in hunger and there was no one else around to feed it then any mother would pick that child up and feed it.

Shelley - posted on 06/17/2010




Yeah sorry your exactly right i should have added that sorry if anyone took offence.
Having worked in third world countries there is a difference to the weastern world in relation to the safe availability of an alternative to breast milk.
Therefor you find higher rates of breastfeeding in third world counties.
Women who cant feed their babies in third world counties the infant will die in most cases. So its a case of everyone breastfeeds and anyone who can't the baby dies and is not counted as a non breastfed baby.
higher brestfeeding rates have nothing to do with sexualisation of the breast.

C. - posted on 06/17/2010




"I think that women choose not to breastfeed.."

There are some instances where it cannot become a choice for the woman as to whether or not she feeds her baby. Sometimes it's just not possible and when your child is suffering b/c of it, you HAVE to find an alternative. Not picking, Michelle, just saying..

Shelley - posted on 06/17/2010




I think its fine and would do the same.
I think that women choose not to breastfeed because their are healthy alternitives available not because of over sexualisation of the breasts if you go to any country on earth and there are men they are going to find breasts attractive and sexual.

C. - posted on 06/17/2010




Quoting Marabeth: "i mean come on, your body created a child from an egg and a sperm, sustained it for nine months and then gave birth to it. why would women at that point, all of a sudden lack the ability to feed it?"

Seriously? It's very apparent that you, yourself, has never had a problem producing milk. I am one of the few on this forum that Amie was talking about that tried and tried and just couldn't do it. Some people just cannot produce enough! And for your information, I used to go in and watch my sister breastfeed (the only sister of mine that COULD BF). It's not that people weren't brought up around it. Sure there are some cases like that. But I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case with every mother that couldn't BF their own baby.

And another thing.. Why don't you ask the woman whose child was BF by Salma that same question? ("why would women at that point, all of a sudden lack the ability to feed it?")

"and on the other hand how hard is it as a nursing mother to pick up a distraught child and put them to your breast for a few quiet moments? i would love it."

You should never feed your baby just for 'a few quiet moments'. You should only feed them when they are hungry.

And I have a question, Marabeth.. Why blame something on formula companies?? Do you have ANY idea how great it was to have access to formula when my son was losing weight b/c I could not BF him?

Whether or not you meant to come off as rude and critical to those of us that could not BF our child(ren), you did. It's pretty obvious that you need to branch out and meet some people in person that haven't had that ability and maybe it would open your eyes. There are many that don't do it b/c we simply want to. I WANTED to be able to BF my son. I would cry every time I had to make a bottle b/c I felt as if I'd failed!


I apologize for going off-topic.. That just really irked me that someone would have the audacity to say something like that.

Sarah - posted on 06/17/2010




I think it's great that she did this. I mean, if it was a grown up or a child and I was munching a sandwich, and they were stood their starving, I'd give them the sandwich!!
She was providing the baby with food. That's all.

I can kinda understand why some people would find it "weird". Not necessarily from a sexual thing, but just because I know I would have felt uncomfortable if someone else had breastfed my babies. (I didn't actually breastfeed) If my girls had been starving though, I wouldn't have cared how "weird" it was to see another woman breastfeed my kids, I would have just been grateful!!!

So I don't really see why it's a big issue. It was basically supply and demand.......she had it, baby needed it, baby got it! Everyone's a winner! :)

Marabeth - posted on 06/16/2010




sorry if my posts seem off-topic here but to me they aren't. my point in relation to the original post is that when she was abroad in another culture that supports breastfeeding a baby/child who asks for it if you're a nursing mother she didn't expect everyone to get all upset about it. in the situation she was in if she denied the child access to her breast it would have been strange to those around her! she didn't do it for shock value. she did it because it was the normal thing to do. how great would it feel as a nursing mother to not have to worry about being the sole source of nourishment for our little ones? to be able to know that if we had to spend an extra hour at work that it would be okay because our little one could just nurse with so and so to tie them over until mommy got home. and on the other hand how hard is it as a nursing mother to pick up a distraught child and put them to your breast for a few quiet moments? i would love it.

Marabeth - posted on 06/16/2010




i don't mean to offend, i was just pointing out that countries (especially the US) that control weaning and cut children off early (for whatever reason) seem to be obsessed with breasts, oversexualize them even. countries that allow infants and children the access they want to breasts seem to have a very healthy view of breasts--that they are the normal and natural way of feeding our young.

i never blamed or pointed fingers or name called or anything.. i don't blame (american or otherwise) women for what breastfeeding has become but i do blame formula companies, doctors, insurance companies, "science," etc.. if breastfeeding education/support was more of a priority the rates would go up. i mean come on, your body created a child from an egg and a sperm, sustained it for nine months and then gave birth to it. why would women at that point, all of a sudden lack the ability to feed it? i feel that all this hiding and covering up of breasts has made us as women forget the power of our bodies and lose the belief that we can indeed nourish our young. how many of us growing up have actually learned about nursing from a family member first-hand and close up? or even seen a nursing mother in our family? maybe if we grew up with a more relaxed, comfortable view of breasts it would come easier to us as mothers. certain types of gorillas (can't remember which ones, sorry! i'd have to find the research again) who have never seen another nurse will never nurse her young after she gives birth. her baby will die without her being able to do anything simply because she doesn't know how to breastfeed.

C. - posted on 06/16/2010




I'm on the fence about this. I actually read this last night and started replying, but held off so I could think about it more. I'm still unsure.

While I disagree with someone BFing someone else's baby for various reasons, this is a little different. This mother probably didn't have access to other milk that was safe for her baby, whereas many moms nowadays do. So I think maybe in this case, I'd actually have to commend her for it.

Becky - posted on 06/16/2010




Honestly, I don't understand why this causes an uproar. I think it was a wonderful thing she did. No, it didn't solve all this little boy's problems. Yes, he'll get hungry again. But she provided him with the nourishment he needed in that moment, and I think that was wonderful. I hope that I would do the same if I saw the need!
While I'd feel a little weird actually breastfeeding someone else's child, I could overcome that if it were a matter of life and death for that child. And I definitly have no issue with sharing breastmilk with another. I've done it before and would do it again.

Johnny - posted on 06/16/2010




Having not had enough milk to exclusively feed my daughter, I relied on donor milk until she was no longer eligible. So if I had enough, I would definitely donate or wet nurse if necessary. I think Salma did a wonderful thing to raise awareness and it disturbs me that people condemn or question such as selfless act.

Krista - posted on 06/16/2010




As long as the baby's mother was cool with it (which I'm sure she was), then I really don't see the issue. I think it was very kind of Salma to feed that child, and I would absolutely have done the same thing had I been in her shoes (or bra...)

Caitlin - posted on 06/16/2010




I have no problem with it, and I would do the same for a friend or family if I could. Since I have no issues with supply, I'd definately consider doing it if there was a need, I applaud her efforts and it probably gave that little boy quite the comfort to feel his belly full. Sometimes all the mother needs is a few extra hours without a screaming baby for her milk to build up again, I know when I'm hugry and stressed, my milk doesn't come so easily.

I don't get peoples hang ups about it.

Ez - posted on 06/16/2010




I think it's fabulous and would do it in a heartbeat. There is nothing 'weird' about it unless you view breastfeeding as sexual.

I've always loved Salma Hayek. She saw a need, she had the means to solve the problem (even if only temporarily), so she breastfed that baby. She didn't worry about the controversial aspect of it, because for her it was completely natural (as explained by her story about her great-grandmother). As long as the mother approved, which considering their cultural stance on BFing I'm sure she did, how is this not a good thing??

Rosie - posted on 06/16/2010




i can't help but think it's weird, and i would never do it. however i do think it is a nice gesture, and very generous of her.

Jaime - posted on 06/16/2010




This is absolutely a non-issue for me. I don't think it's disgusting or wrong or anything negative. As for depriving her own daughter of the regenerates so that point is moot.

I think it was a noble move on Hayek's part to help this sick boy. Even if she only fed him once, she gave his body so many good vitamins and antibodies that he would not have had otherwise. That might have been enough to extend his life and aid in his recovery. Would the world have been more comfortable if she pumped and bottle fed? What really is the big deal if she shared an intimate experience with a baby that was not hers? If she had adopted her daughter and decided to breastfeed her, she's still feeding a foreign body apart from her own so again, that point is also moot. People just need to let go of all the hang ups about breastfeeding. If I had the means to help a starving, sick child and I knew that my own child was well-fed and by no means being deprived then I wouldn't hesitate to breast feed another person's child. And I couldn't breastfeed but if I knew someone that offered to provide breast milk for my son I would not have hesitated to do that either. It's just a breast and some milk....jebus.

Joanna - posted on 06/16/2010




Way to go Salma. It was a starving child, I don't get what the big deal was. Babies can't eat sandwiches or I'm sure Salma would've had a plateful, but she had her enormous ladies with her, why not put them to use?

Cynthia - posted on 06/16/2010




I remember this too. I could never do it, it would be too uncomfortable of a situation for me. But I applaud Salma for doing it, she is such a strong and amazing woman to be able to help a child in need like this! I think it's great.

Amie - posted on 06/15/2010




Oh and while I applaud her efforts. What happened after she left? How did the baby eat then? Does anyone know?

It's not something I could do either. I always loved my quiet moments with my children during BFing. It wouldn't be the same for me personally staring down at another child that wasn't mine.

Amie - posted on 06/15/2010




I think it's a lot more common then people realize too. I have two family members who have cross breastfed when it was needed. I will not say which ones because they are not comfortable with letting the entire world know. (This is the www after all)

They are uncomfortable with it though because it is seen as a close bonding moment between mother and child. In other places, it is seen as a babies only option for food. Here we have other options if our bodies don't produce. Not everyone looks for a wet nurse first, if at all. Some don't even try BF'ing either. As is their right, no matter how many people try to harass them about it.

Marabeth what exactly is disturbing behavior?

Not everyone CAN BF either. I am sure that could be construed as offensive to the mothers (there are a few on this forum) who tried and tried and tried. Got help and advice from everyone, including professionals. Their bodies just did not produce. That is not their fault.

To insinuate that the LACK of BFing is a reason for the sexualization of breasts is off. There are other parts of the world that consider different body parts as alluring to men so women have to cover them up.

Marabeth - posted on 06/15/2010




i remember when this happened. i think it's funny too that in america where mothers generally control the weaning process and consequently wean their children way before they are ready or wean them on accident because of lack of information is where breasts are the most over-sexualized. countries where breastfeeding to a natural duration according to the child's cues leads to a society where breasts are for feeding children, not titillating men on television or magazines. maybe our premature yanking of such an important childhood necessity is causing us to never let go of our needs well into adulthood when they contort and change into disturbing behavior.

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms