Wet nurses wanted in China

The Australian reports that wet nurses are cashing in  on the poisoned milk scandal in China.

MANY middle-class Chinese families already have a maid, or aiyi. Now they are rushing to hire a wet nurse, or nai ma, too, as anxiety surges about milk-powder poisoning.

Agencies throughout the country that routinely hire out domestic servants for house-cleaning, cooking and child minding, are now adding wet nurses as a new category.

In the wealthy southern city of Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, the Daily Sunshine newspaper said that rich families seeking wet nurses were prepared to pay $3150 a month – more than three times the average income.

One domestic services agency in Shenzhen has been receiving 50 calls a day from parents wanting wet nurses.

Manager Ai Xiaoxiong said: “We only had one or two such inquiries a year in the past.”

Most Chinese parents have in recent years been feeding their babies bottled milk, promoted as more nutritious and better for the mothers’ figures. But the panic over the safety of China’s dairy products, after four babies died and 53,000 were taken to hospital as a result of consuming milk contaminated by melamine, has changed attitudes overnight.

Yanhong Wheeler, a best-selling Chinese author on raising children, under the name Xiao Wu, said: “There are more than 400 nutrients in breast milk that no milk powder can imitate. But no melamine.”

Paying a wet nurse enables well-paid mothers to continue working more easily, as well as meeting the need for reliable milk for their children.

Mr Ai said that wet nurses’ pay had more than tripled following the milk disaster.

The rewards are attracting young women to become career wet nurses. The Shenzhen Daily spoke with a woman who was a department store sales person in Sichuan province, before she quit in order to give birth last month. Now she is already planning a new job as a wet nurse: “I have plenty of breast milk. Why not? It’s a very good offer, as I only made 2000 yuan before” – about $350 per month, a typical wage. Now she can afford to buy expensive imported milk powder for her own baby.

Zhongjia Housework Agency manager Zhang Guixui said that parents were focused on the wet nurse’s health, so her agency insisted on “a strict physical check on everything from HIV to skin diseases”. She knew a case where a wet nurse was required by the parents to drink only fresh chicken soup, made from birds air-freighted from overseas.

The World Health Organisation is opposed to any advertsing of breast-milk substitutes and this is adhered to in western countries. That baby formula has been promoted in China, and no doubt other countries, as better than breast milk is another scandal.

And what does is say about the desperate circumstances of a woman that she will breast feed someone else’s child yet put her own on forumula?

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