CAN YOU BREASTFEED WITHOUT GIVING BIRTH?
Many people are surprised to hear the answer is yes. That’s right–anyone with breasts or chests can breastfeed or chestfeed a baby. (And while this article may use the word “breasts,” “woman,” or “mother,” know that these words are used for simplicity and are not meant to be exclusive).
Although the hormones of childbirth are what typically jumpstart lactation, or milk production, milk production can also occur through other means, such as breast and nipple stimulation or simulating the hormonal changes that occur after delivery. Certain medications may also help non-gestational parents to induce lactation.
WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN BREASTFEEDING WITHOUT GIVING BIRTH?
- Adoptive parents
- Non-gestational lesbian mother
- Trans woman
- Woman who desires to “relactate” after a period of not lactating
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NON-GESTATIONAL BREASTFEEDING (THE BASICS)
- It’s really possible
- The benefits of breastfeeding are more than just breast milk, and breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing. So even being able to breastfeed with very little or no milk production still produces benefits for the parent and the baby.
- A period of hormonal contraception prior to attempting to initiate lactation can be helpful for simulating the hormonal changes of pregnancy and childbirth but is not absolutely necessary. Nipple stimulation alone or nipple stimulation in conjunction with medications and herbs may produce a partial milk supply.
- You don’t need to have experienced a previous pregnancy in order for lactation to work.
- An SNS, or supplemental nursing system, can help a woman without a full milk supply to supplement her baby at the breast.
For the basics about inducing lactation, check out Sweet Pea Breastfeeding’s “Basics of Inducing Lactation.” or the book Breastfeeding Without Birthing. Professional assistance from a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) or postpartum doula may also be beneficial.
THE CHICAGO DOULAS BELIEVES IN INCLUSIVITY, AND WE’RE HERE TO SUPPORT YOUR UNIQUE BREASTFEEDING AND PARENTING GOALS.
By Maura Winkler, RN, IBCLC