'Milk Siblings' Breast-Feeding Viral Photo Sparks Controversy

These two toddlers are not related by blood, but are nursing from the same woman, fueling a heated debate.
6:04 | 08/13/15

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Transcript for 'Milk Siblings' Breast-Feeding Viral Photo Sparks Controversy
Tonight the latest controversy over breastfeeding. This time the uproar involves a picture that went viral. A picture of one woman nursing two kids. One of whom is not her own. Why the fuss when wetnurses have been around since the dawn of history? Here's ABC's Rebecca Jarvis. Reporter: In celebration of breastfeeding week, 27-year-old Jessica Coletti posted this picture to a nursing blog. There she is breastfeeding two boys. One is her son, the other is not. I feel like he's my son. And I treat him as my son. Reporter: On the right, her 16-month-old. On the left, her friend carl Charlie's son. It's Normal for us. We did what was best for our children. Reporter: It all started out of necessity. Charlie was busy working full-time and unable to find time to pump breast milk and began substituting it with formula. How did you make the decision to have Jessica nurse Mateo? Mateo was struggling. He was in pain constantly. Having so many stomach issues he wasn't sleeping through the night. It was miserable. I was at my wits' end. Reporter: That's where Jessica comes in. She was babysitting Mateo and made an incredible offer. The first time she came over I asked her if it was okay if I nursed him. And she said sure. Had you ever nursed another person's child at that point? No. It was very natural, it was very -- it seemed very natural. Just another baby that was hungry. Reporter: Charlie and Jessica describe their kids as milk brothers. And that picture has stirred up plenty of buzz online. While many applaud the gesture of friendship, others have been taking issue. One writing, I found this picture disturbing. Another, nothing wrong with breastfeeding but why not cover up? Besides, these two children are old enough to eat solid foods. Were you surprised by the response? I only posted it to a few Facebook groups. But then it took off from there. I'm happy that it did because the whole point was to raise awareness. Reporter: The concept of using a wetnurse is not a new one. The world health organization lists mill frk a healthy wetnurse or human milk bank as the best alternative to milk from an infant's own mother. Of course there's risk with anything you do that's not the biological mom's breast milk. If the woman is screened, if she's healthy, it shouldn't be a problem. If it concern you if she had something happening in her life you weren't aware of you could be putting him in danger? It did owe counter to me. At that point we were communicating openly with each other, we weren't afraid to ask those questions. She knows everything she needs to know to make an informed decision about me breastfeeding her son. Reporter: Two months ago Charlie and Mateo moved in to save money on rent. Do you worry, Charlie that Mateo will have a closer bond with Jessica? Never. I think our bond was so special. He loves jess like a mother, that's his mama jess. But he always knows I'm mama. Reporter: With human milk widely seen as the most beneficial for babies, lactation expert Kathleen Mccue applauds their decision but isn't surprised by the backlash. Breastfeeding hasn't been normalized in this country. I think anything that is not common to us is something we say, oh my gosh, this is Normal? Is this okay? Is this right? As a teenager when he sees the picture what do you think he'll think? He'll think he had a very cool mom. And a babysitter who started a bit of a revolution around the idea of sharing something that's so beautiful and important. Reporter: Certainly Jessica isn't the first woman willing to share her milk and talk about it publicly. In 2009, "Nightline" traveled to a rural health clinic in Sierra Leone with Salma Hayek. At the time the actress was still breastfeeding her own baby. When she came across a hungry child she couldn't help but feed it. I thought about it. Am I being disloyal to my child by giving her milk away? And I actually think that my baby would be very proud to share her milk. Reporter: But milk-sharing is just another part of the seemingly never-ending breastfeeding debate. Just three months ago, supermodel Nicole came under fire when she graced the cover of Australia "Elle" with her suckling son Zion and breast in full view. He was on set with me all day. There were periods I had to feed him. The stylist was, wow, that looks amazing, let's move you on-set to have this picture taken. Reporter: The cover appeared in the subscriber-only issue. This cover appeared on regular stands sparking an online controversy with women all over the world posting pictures of themselves breastfeeding, in private and public, all united under #normalizebreastfeeding. Tweeting, a shame it didn't go on newsstands. If my son is hungry, I'm going to feed him. If it is uncomfortable for you, then don't look. And a few years ago, a then-26-year-old Jamie Lynn caused a controversy when she appeared on the cover of "Time" magazine breastfeeding her almost 4-year-old son. Our intentions were to try to help relieve the stigma attached to breastfeeding past infancy. Reporter: And that takes us back to Jessica and Charlie. Who say they'll continue raising their boys as milk brothers no matter what. How long are you comfortable with Jessica breastfeeding Mateo? For as long as she's willing to nurse him. If he wants it then I'm comfortable with it. If he's 5? And he wants it? I'd be okay with that. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Ro berebecca Jarvis. Up next, supergirl and the

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