Many people have no idea what co-breastfeeding is, much less that it’s a viable option for same-sex couples who both want to share in breastfeeding their babies.
As a mom who previously carried and breastfed the first two children my wife Tiffany and I have, I already knew the health and bonding benefits breastfeeding can offer. So when we decided to have another child, who Tiffany would carry this time, we wondered, what if we could both share that experience? Is it even possible? And can we find medical professionals who will support us? Those questions turned into a journey that ultimately led us to understand that co-breastfeeding is possible and, as we’ve recently found out, it’s amazing.
Now That We’ve Made The Decision, How Do We Even Do This?
Induced lactation is a way to mirror the normal production of breastmilk for mothers who are not pregnant. Some methods of allowing a non-pregnant person to lactate involve herbal supplements, hand expression of the breast to stimulate breast milk production and, in our case, hormone therapy.
While studying and researching our options (as with anything, the internet is a place for both good and misleading information, so you have to make sure you only look at reliable sources and work with health care professionals), we found the Newman Goldfarb Protocol and chose it as our method for me to begin lactating.
The Newman Goldfarb Protocol isn’t the only way to induce lactation, but after doing extensive research, I found that it appeared to be the most popular and most effective for individuals looking to co-breastfeed. The process starts by “tricking” your body into thinking it’s pregnant with a combination of birth control (active only pills) and a medication called Domperidone, which increases the body’s prolactin levels. These hormones all have roles to play in preparing your breasts to make milk and are necessary to achieve lactation.
The protocol suggests having at least 22 to 24 weeks of preparation time before beginning to breastfeed, and it’s very important to start the protocol as early as possible for the best results.
It Takes A Village
Unfortunately, as Tiffany and I started this process, I received the most pushback from doctors, many of whom didn’t even know that inducing lactation was possible. In fact, I had to see four different doctors before I found one who was willing to work with me. Still, being under the care of a doctor was very important to me because I had never done this before and I knew I would be taking medications. Persistence and determination paid off, and I finally found the right doctor by calling health care professionals until someone was willing and able to help. Many were honest and told me that they had never heard of this process but finally, I found Dr. Rodbell from DyadCare in Atlanta, Georgia. Not only did he have the experience that we needed, he was incredibly supportive and excited to help us during this journey, something that was important to us as well.
We were also supported by members of the “Inducing Lactation - Surrogacy, Co-Nursing and Adoptive” Facebook group, which we discovered during our research. The women we met there have been there for us from the start. Looking back now, I don’t think I would have been able to go through this without them.
Once I started the protocol and began taking birth control, I really didn’t experience any unexpected issues. I had taken birth control before, so I knew what to expect. Most days, the hormones made me very emotional, but then again, I am always emotional! Everyone is different, but for me, I was blessed to go through this journey mostly unscathed. The one exception, which I was aware of before I began to prep for co-breastfeeding, was the 30-pound weight gain I experienced and which is a totally normal side effect of the protocol.
Baby Orion’s Arrival
After so much preparation and anticipation, we were thrilled to welcome our son, Orion, to the world on Sept. 2, 2018. My pumping routine has changed a lot from when I first started to pump nine weeks before Orion’s due date. Before Orion was born, I pumped exactly every three hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Like a lot of moms, I have pumped almost everywhere ― at my desk at work, in bathrooms, in airports, at baseball games, in doctor’s offices and at friends or family members’ houses. Now, I only pump four times a day and I alternate nursing Orion with my wife during early mornings and in the evenings and on weekends. The biggest challenges during this experience for me were remembering to take my medications and stopping everything I was doing to pump.
At first, I was very nervous to open up to my family and friends about inducing lactation because I was afraid of them not understanding what and accepting what I had chosen to do. Surprisingly, everyone was great once we told them but, as expected, they had questions about how this was even possible.
Everyone in our circle was very respectful of our choice and even though not everyone understood why we had chosen to co-breastfeed, they still supported us. I recently spoke with my mom when she visited and she admitted that while she will always unconditionally support me, but she initially didn’t believe in me or my choice to inducing lactation. However, when she saw how much I pumped and co-breastfed ― how dedicated I was to this process ― she was so amazed and apologized for not believing in me. In the end, I am lucky to have such open-minded and respectful friends and family and their love and support has made all the difference in this journey. Now when I visit friends and family, I don’t feel like I have to hide anything. I openly nurse my son and it feels so amazing and liberating.
Before finding out that inducing lactation was possible, I was emotionally lost. I had a hard time trying to understand exactly what my place would be with our unborn child and how we would connect. I have always been the one to carry our children and I have such a maternal instinct that I just couldn’t comprehend what my role in Tiffany’s pregnancy would be. Choosing to induce lactation to be able to breastfeed Orion will always be one of my greatest accomplishments in life, and I am so proud of myself for deciding to go through this. I fought so hard to have a special relationship with my son, and spent countless days taking pills and pumping around the clock in order to make that happen. It was all worth it and I cherish every second that I get to nurse Orion, and I would do it all over again.
Telling my story and sharing my family’s journey to co-breastfeeding is important to me because when I started down this path, I really did not have many places to turn for advice and support. My message is that breastfeeding is possible for many types of families and with the right preparation, expectations, and support, all kinds of different moms can provide their children with the benefits of breastmilk.
Glenis Liz-Decuir lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her wife, Tiffany, and their three beautiful children, ages 12, 10, and two months. She is a passionate advocate for all breastfeeding women, and you can follow her co-breastfeeding journey on her Instagram page.