There can be more hurdles for LGBTQ+ families than other families — from sorting through the paths to parenthood to addressing legal barriers — but according to a study by Family Equality, 63% of LGBTQ+ millennials are considering growing their families. This is on track with national averages.
How to induce lactation
If you’re finding yourself expecting a new baby as an LGBTQ+ family, you may be thinking about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding a baby if you’re the non-gestational parent is called induced lactation and is becoming more common and more visible for two-mom families or families that include transgender parents who can lactate.
It doesn’t matter whether non-gestational parents hoping to breastfeed have been pregnant in the past, and while hormone treatments can be an important part of the process for some parents, often all that’s needed is suction from an electric breast pump and, later, nursing.
In most cases, the milk produced isn’t enough to sustain a newborn on its own, and works best when it’s supplemented by formula, banked milk, the gestational parent’s milk, or, once the baby is older, solid food.
If you’re interested in induced lactation, bring it up with your provider or get in touch with a lactation consultant — a great resource for finding out more about how to induce lactation specifically and breastfeeding in general.
Why induce lactation?
Breastfeeding has so many benefits including providing a time for emotional bonding through skin-to-skin contact with baby, and boosting their immune system. Non-gestational parents who choose to breastfeed their babies generally do so for the same reasons that any birthing parent does.
All parents have to navigate how parenting roles match up with each individual parent. And this can take a little time to work out. Inducing lactation in non-gestational parents can help some families work out a way of sharing feeding and bonding time.
How can I start?
For many non-gestational parents, regular nipple stimulation can be enough to start the process of inducing lactation. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe hormones or a birth control pill to simulate the hormonal experience of pregnancy before starting to try to induce lactation. There are also regimens which use medication to stimulate prolactin production. Nipple stimulation to induce lactation can be done with a breast pump before birth and with a breast pump, dry nursing, or nursing by feeding Baby with an at-breast supplementer after birth.
On the subject of inducing lactation, the Mayo Clinic suggests beginning by using an electric breast pump for 10 minutes on each side once every three or four hours, with at least one pumping session at night for the first week or two, before switching to 15 to 20 minutes per side every two or three hours.
A few weeks in, most people working to induce lactation will begin to produce a small amount of milk, and that amount will increase as time goes on.
In families where both the gestational and non-gestational parent decide to nurse, in the first few weeks it can be a good idea for whichever parent isn’t nursing at a particular feeding time to pump during that time to keep supply up.
There’s a good chance that the non-gestational parent will produce a lot less milk, so it’s important not to make comparisons.
Families where both parents are breastfeeding can have a lot of flexibility that other families don’t. This can be a very emotional issue, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open throughout the process of inducing lactation.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- F.P. Biervliet, et al. “Induction of lactation in the intended mother of a surrogate pregnancy: Case report.” Human Reproduction. 16(3). March 2001. Retrieved October 23 2017. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/16/3/581/642453/Induction-of-lactation-in-the-intended-mother-of-a.
- Alice Farrow. “When Two Women Share Parenting.” Breastfeeding Today. La Leche League International, May 4 2014. Retrieved October 23 2017. http://breastfeedingtoday-llli.org/when-two-women-share-parenting/.
- Elizabeth LaFleur. “I’m adopting a newborn, and I’d like to breastfeed him when I bring him home. Can I produce breast milk if I haven’t been pregnant?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, January 20 2016. Retrieved October 23 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/induced-lactation/faq-20058403.