A Pennsylvania mother who has sparked controversy with a picture of herself nursing her best friend’s son alongside her own child says she’s only doing what comes naturally.
“People are misinformed,” Jessica Anne Colletti, 27, tells PEOPLE. Now she is scolding her critics for trying to “sexualize” breastfeeding and make it look unnatural.
“I think people have misinformation and fear. They think it’s gross bodily fluid that shouldn’t be shared or transferred in any way. And I can understand, if people are receiving donated breast milk, they want to have it tested, but if you know the mother directly and she’s healthy, and you know everything about her, it’s a perfectly healthy relationship to have,” she says.
Colletti, from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, has been babysitting 18-month-old Mateo for her best friend, Charlie Interrante, 24, since he was 5 months old. When Mateo gets hungry, Colletti doesn’t hesitate to let him suckle on her breast – alongside her own 16-month-old son Lucian, if need be. The arrangement works so well that Interrante recently moved in with Colletti and her husband.
It originally started when Interrante began to fret about giving her son formula because he wasn’t responding well to it and she’s not able to pump breast milk at work. Colletti asked if it would be okay for her to breastfeed Mateo while she babysat him. “It was a natural progression to breastfeeding both of them,” explains Colletti.
Colletti believes women should be allowed to breastfeed their own babies – and others’ babies – openly and in public. However, she’s aware many people do not hold those views. That’s the reason she shared her breastfeeding photo, she says.
Not everyone agrees with what Colletti is doing. Among the 700 comments the photo has garnered on Facebook, many users said what she’s doing is “sickening” or “wrong” or accused her of stealing Mateo’s special bond with his mom.
For every negative comment, however, several mothers weighed in with stories of breastfeeding another mother’s child when the mother became too sick or otherwise could not.
Originally, Colletti and Interrante took turns breastfeeding each other’s children. Colletti took the morning and afternoon shifts and Interrante would nurse both babies into the night.
Interrante tells PEOPLE that arrangement was a great help: “She didn’t have enough milk left from nursing both of them throughout the day. It would save me from having to pump.”
The shift swap stopped as the babies got closer to turning 1. Both women say Interrante’s milk supply began to dwindle since she wasn’t able to pump at work.
The experience has brought the women closer, literally. About a month ago, Interrante and Mateo moved in with Colletti, her husband, Ben, and little Lucian.
“It’s a lot easier for us to all live under the same roof. It develops a routine for the babies together,” explains Colletti. She stresses that living under one roof is about logistics and friendship, adding that she and her husband are in a committed, monogamous relationship.
“This works really well for us,” says Colletti.