A transgender woman was able to breastfeed her partner’s child after a hospital put her on a regimen of drugs licensed in Britain and Canada, but banned in the United States.
How did it happen?
The drugs included progesterone and estradiol, which are hormones that influence lactation and are typically found in pregnant people, and domperidone, an anti-nausea drug known to increase production of breast milk. The woman used a breast pump to stimulate her breasts.
The trans woman and her partner obtained the medications on their own from Canada, and were advised on dosage by doctors at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. The couple’s names and hometowns were not disclosed.
According to the Transgender Health medical journal, the 30-year-old was producing droplets of milk within a month. Within three months, two weeks before the baby’s due date, she had increased her production to eight ounces of milk a day.
In the end, according to the study, ‘she was able to achieve sufficient breast milk volume to be the sole source of nourishment for her child for six weeks.’
The study’s authors were Dr. Tamar Reisman of New York’s Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery and Zil Goldstein, a nurse practitioner and transgender activist. They believe the case illustrates that in some cases, modest but functional lactation can be induced in trans women who did not undergo surgery or give birth.
‘We believe that this is the first formal report in the medical literature of induced lactation in a transgender woman,’ the authors stated.
‘This is a very big deal,’ Joshua Safer of Boston Medical Center told New Scientist. ‘Many transgender women are looking to have as many of the experiences of non-transgender women as they can, so I can see this will be extremely popular.’
‘There have been self-reported cases online of transgender woman trying to D.I.Y. regiments to induce breast-feeding, but this is the first case of induced functional lactation in academic literature,’ Dr. Reisman wrote in the Transgender Health journal.
‘We all want to have the same experiences as women,’ Maria Clifford, a 38-year-old British transgender mother who has been using a surrogate to breastfeed her child, told the New York Times. ‘We need further testing and evidence to show that these drugs aren’t going to cause harm to the baby.’
The baby’s growth and future studies
During the six-week period the trans woman was able to breastfeed, doctors noted the child’s growth, feeding, and bowel habits were developing normally. After this period, the woman began using formula to supplement the milk due to concerns about milk volume.
The woman’s hormone regimen is considered safe and similar to ones used on cisgender mothers who are unable to produce milk. However, she continued to take the drug spironolactone, a testosterone blocker that’s actually excreted in human milk.
According to the study’s authors, future areas of research will include ‘the optimal dosing of estradiol, progesterone and galactogogues in inducing lactation, as well as the optimal frequency and duration of pump use.’
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