A mother left unable to feed her baby son after she was rushed to hospital, was inundated with offers from a 1,000-strong army of volunteer breastfeeders.
Ronja Wiedenbeck, 26, was suddenly taken ill and put on strong medication which left her unable to feed 11 month-old, Rio.
The worried single mother-of-two logged onto the ‘Breastfeeding Yummy Mummies’ Facebook group from her hospital bed asking for volunteer ‘wet nurses’ – and she let five complete strangers breastfeed baby Rio.
Ronja Wiedenbeck (pictured) was suddenly taken ill and put on strong medication which left her unable to feed her 11 month-old, Rio
Ronja put out a Facebook appeal asking for other women to help her. The first ‘feeder’, Leigh Anne Fearn (pictured) saw the shout-out and immediately messaged Ronja before joining her in hospital an hour later
Within just one hour a stranger was by her hospital bed nursing little Rio – who won’t drink milk from a bottle or formula.
And she was reduced to tears of joy as she was bombarded with nearly 1,000 offers from women all over the country offering to feed him.
Ronja, who was at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, said she was ‘totally overwhelmed’ after receiving the kind responses.
Rachel Richardson was among the 1,000 women from around the country who offered her services
Amateur model Ronja has suffered with ovarian cysts throughout her life and was rushed to hospital from her home in Penzance, Cornwall and was in extreme pain.
She was given morphine and anti-sickness drugs which make it impossible for her to safely feed her son, and put a shout-out to other mums on Facebook.
The mother, who breastfed her now six-year-old daughter Lily Eve for three years, had plenty of frozen expressed milk in the freezer, but Rio doesn’t like using a cup.
The first ‘feeder’, Lee Ann Fearn, saw the shout out and immediately messaged Ronja before joining her in hospital around an hour later.
Ronja said she had never considered wet-nursing before but was worried about her son becoming dehydrated.
Poorly Ronja (pictured) was astonished after her call for help was met by an army of ‘wet nurses’
She added: ‘I was pumped full of morphine and it seemed instinctive for someone to feed him in a way that he has been used to and he’s comfortable with.
‘When he was about to be fed by the first lady he looked over at me, almost to ask for approval, it filled my heart with such joy and massive relief.
‘I’m so grateful and totally overwhelmed with the response to the message. It is such a loving and selfless act and incredibly heart warming to see.
‘There is so much negativity around breast feeding, it is absolutely incredible to have this support when I needed it.’
ARE THERE ANY HEALTH RISKS IN A STRANGER’S MILK?
The World Health Organization lists ‘wet-nursing’ and milk banks as being equal alternatives when a mother’s own milk is not available.
However, while milk-sharing may be convenient, it is not without risk.
Donor mothers may have diseases that could be transmitted through the milk; some may not even know that they are infected.
They may also be taking drugs or herbs that could cause harm to the baby.
And, while most donor mothers want to take all reasonable precautions to make sure their milk poses no risk, there is always the element of the unknown. Even when using milk donated by friends or family.
In addition, there is no official place for mothers to report negative experiences, which means there’s no formal way of factually analysing risk Vs. benefit.
She wrote on Facebook: ‘I am in Treliske Hospital in Truro, Cornwall. I have a 10 month old baby boy who I can’t nurse due to being pumped full of Morphine.
‘I don’t suppose there is anyone who would come and nurse my son for me a couple of times today please? I’d be ever so grateful.’
‘The response was absolutely overwhelmingly amazing,’ said Ronja.
‘I thought Rio would look over at me and be like ‘mum, I’m not doing this’ but as soon as she picked him up he was tugging at her top.
‘He looked at me as if looking for approval, and I said ‘go on Rio’ and he latched on brilliantly.
‘It was incredible.
‘I thought it might feel unusual because it is something special that only Rio and I had shared, but it just felt totally instinctive for another mum to help him in a way he was used to.’
Ronja says around 1,000 women from the 13,000 strong group contacted her offering to breastfeed Rio, and a friend has been sifting through the messages to coordinate feeds.
Five different women fed him – including two in their own homes – before she was allowed home at the weekend.
The women had previously undergone CRB checks and were accompanied by Ronja or another family member or trusted friend.
Mum-of-three Michelle Netherton, 28, from Truro, breastfed Rio in the hospital the day after Ronja posted her appeal.
The full-time mum, who has son Johan, four, Ruben, 21 months and Malachi, 20 weeks, spent two-and-a-half hours feeding Rio.
Within one hour of Ronja posting this message, a stranger was by her hospital bed nursing little Rio who won’t drink milk from a bottle or formula and is transitioning to solid foods
Speaking after her Facebook appeal, Ronja said: ‘I will never be able to express my gratitude to each and every one of you, specially the angel mummy’s who have come to nurture my son. The adoration and sheer love and respect I have for you ladies is totally indescribable’
Lucky baby Rio had an army of nurses ready and willing to help care for him
BREASTFEEDING YUMMY MUMMIES
‘Breastfeeding Yummy Mummies’ is a Facebook support group which allows mothers to support one another.
It is open to those who are breastfeeding and looking to meet others in the same situation for support or advice or are pregnant and thinking about or planning to breastfeed.
However, the group ‘does not tolerate’ recommendations of introducing formula or early weaning.
‘I am constantly pumping off excess milk so it was nice for it to go to a baby.
‘I was a bit nervous that he might cry and not latch on, but he didn’t mind whose boob it was – as long as it was a boob!
‘It’s amazing to hear the amount of people who have helped or offered to help Ronja – that’s mummy power for you.’
Ronja is now at home and able to feed, and doctors are carrying out further tests.
She added: ‘There are so many negative stories out there about breastfeeding it is so heart-warming to have witnessed the support I have had.