A transgender woman has successfully breastfed her child, in what is thought to be the first officially documented case of induced lactation. The incredible feat was achieved after the 30-year-old woman underwent a three-month drug treatment involving hormone therapy, a nausea drug, and physical breast stimulation.
The regime enabled the new mother to produce 227 grams (8 ounces) of milk a day, allowing her to feed her baby for a full six weeks until it was decided that the child needed more, and the breastfeeding was supplemented with formula milk. This is still short of the average 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of milk per day produced by cisgender women, but is still an incredible result.
The case report, published in the journal Transgender Health, details how the woman sought medical help at the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City when her partner was five and half months pregnant. According to the report, the pregnant partner had no interest in breastfeeding the baby, and so the transgender woman wanted to fill this role instead.
The woman had already been receiving hormone treatment for at least six years prior to starting the new course of drugs, without having undergone either breast augmentation or gender reassignment.
In the run-up to the baby being born, however, she was placed on a course of gradually increasing doses of estradiol and progesterone, to mimic the spike of these hormones during pregnancy, as well as the drug domperidone, which increases the hormone prolactin. In addition, she stimulated her breasts with a breast pump.
This is probably not the first time that a transgender woman has ever breastfed their child. There are plenty of anecdotal stories on the Internet from people who say that they have taken courses of drugs in a nonclinical setting, but as is often the case, it is difficult to determine to what extent these are true or how successful they may have been if they are.
Inevitably, there have been many questions raised as a result of this case about whether or not this means that it would be possible for a man to breastfeed, but this line of questioning is severely misplaced, say the authors. “That, implicitly, is saying that you see transgender women as cisgender men, which is transphobic,” Tamar Reisman, of Mount Sinai and one of the authors of the report, told The Guardian.
Whether or not all the drugs are actually necessary is another question to be answered, particularly as domperidone isn’t actually legally available in the US, and some think that breast stimulation on its own might be sufficient. Either way, this official documentation of such a case will very likely boost the popularity of such treatment among transgender women.