'Milk Siblings' Breast-Feeding Photo Sparks Controversy

A mother is criticized for photo online of her breast-feeding a friend's child.

— -- A remarkable photo of a woman breast-feeding not just her own baby, but her friend’s as well, is sparking major debate.

Charlie Interrante, 25, wanted her 18-month-old son Mateo to breast-feed even if she couldn’t do it herself.

“I did what was best for my son in a time that he needed something more,” Interrante of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, told ABC News.

When Interrante was unable to pump at her job as a barber, Mateo began reacting badly to formula. So her friend Jessica Colletti suggested the unique solution that she could nurse Mateo while also nursing her own son, 16-month-old Lucian.

“It was just miserable for both of us,” Interrante explained. “I was at my wits’ end and when she offered, I was just nothing but thankful for it.”

Colletti, 27, had never nursed another person’s child before but said, “It was very natural; it seemed very natural. He was just another baby that was hungry.”

The photo of Colletti breastfeeding two babies at the same time is now going wildly viral after she posted it on the blog, Mama Bean Parenting.

Interrante says it doesn’t concern her that when Mateo gets older he may feel strange about another woman breast-feeding him in the photo.

“She treats him like a son and I think he’ll grow up and always look at her like that and I’ll always be open about the relationship they have,” she said.

While many are applauding the gesture of friendship, some are taking issue with it. “I found this picture disturbing,” one person wrote.

Wrote another: “Nothing wrong with breastfeeding, but why not cover up? Besides, these two children are old enough to eat solid foods.”

But Interrante is comfortable with Colletti’s breast-feeding her son “for as long as he would want to nurse,” she said.

The concept of using a “wet nurse” is not a new one. The World Health Organization lists milk from a “healthy wet-nurse” or “human-milk bank” as the best alternative to milk from an infant’s own mother.

“Of course there’s a risk with anything you do that’s not the biological mom’s breast milk, but if that woman has been screened, if she’s healthy, if she is substance free, if her child is healthy as well, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Kathleen F. McCue, a nurse practitioner and board-certified lactation consultant in Bethesda, Maryland, explained.

And Colletti isn’t the only woman willing to share her milk.

Salma Hayek made a bold statement at a rural health clinic in Sierra Leone in 2009 when she chose to feed a hungry infant at that clinic. At the time, the actress was still breast-feeding her 1-year-old daughter.

“Am I being disloyal to my child by giving her milk away?" Hayek told “Nightline” at the time. "I actually think my baby would be very proud to share her milk. And when she grows up I'm going to make sure she continues to be a generous, caring person."

As for these two friends, they not only describe their sons as “milk brothers,” but they’re now raising them together under one roof. Interrante moved in with Colletti and her husband two months ago.

“Right now,” Interrante said, “this is what works and makes me happy and Mateo’s happy and I have no complaints.”