Wet Nurses Milk China's Tainted Formula Crisis

As babies fall ill, the rich turn to a stranger's arms, rented breast
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2008 7:06 AM CDT
A boy waits for health checkups at a hospital in Hong Kong Monday, Sept. 22, 2008.    (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
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(Newser) – Many Chinese mothers are returning to breastfeeding as infant formula sickens thousands of babies, reports the Wall Street Journal, but in a growing number of wealthy families the breasts are rented. The ancient practice of wet nursing has been reborn, but with a capitalist bent: "Many people look down on this job. I do it because I have no other method to earn more money," says one wet nurse.

With wages for a wet nurse often coming in at more than 10 times a secretary's pay, there is no shortage of women willing to suckle for bucks, but officials worry that the practice can lead to exploitation of poor women. Some employers refuse to allow nurses to bring their own babies to work.  "We can feed our baby with some other food, such as rice water," one prospective wet nurse said.