Transgender and Non-Binary Nursing
LLL USA supports everyone in reaching their breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and human milk-feeding goals. Para información en Español
Trans men, trans women, and non-binary individuals may choose to breastfeed or chestfeed their babies. You do not need to have given birth to breastfeed or chestfeed, as we can also see in the experiences of those nursing adopted babies.
LLL Canada Leader and transgender dad Trevor MacDonald writes that, “It is equally important to note that some trans people experience severe gender dysphoria when breast or chestfeeding, and that they may decide not to nurse their babies for mental health reasons. Trans parents choosing to breast or chestfeed and those choosing to suppress lactation and bottlefeed may require the support of breastfeeding counsellors or lactation professionals.” It is also the case that some parents with gender dysphoria choose to pump and bottlefeed their milk to their baby. Whether you are pregnant, nursing your baby, pumping your milk, using donor milk, mixed feeding or considering your options La Leche League is here for you.
Please note that some of the links in this post will take you to articles or websites where you may notice gendered language.
Human milk is amazing. It has everything a growing baby needs in exactly the right amounts. Plus, babies can easily digest it all. Research shows that a baby who is not fed on human milk is more likely to suffer from illnesses and diseases, both as a child and later in life.
By meeting your baby’s needs for warmth, food, and security at your chest you give them a secure attachment so they can develop into a conﬁdent child.
Skin-to-skin contact is beneficial for babies and parents; it simply means holding your naked baby on your bare chest. You can drape a blanket over you both for warmth. Within minutes, you will see the benefits of skin-to-skin as you and your baby relax. Your baby’s body temperature, breathing, and heart rate will stabilize. Babies often latch on and nurse more efficiently during and after skin-to-skin contact.
It is a lovely way to nurture your baby even if you are not nursing.
YOUR MILK SUPPLY
Some transgender and non-binary parents have a full milk supply.
If you have had chest (top) surgery you may be able to produce some milk. Many factors will affect the amount of milk you can make.
Two reasons that a trans man or non-binary individual might have a reduced milk supply are:
- Milk-making tissue has been surgically removed, and/or ducts have been damaged in surgery.
- Testosterone interferes with the hormone necessary for lactation (prolactin) and can cause a significant decrease in milk supply. However, taking testosterone would not prevent someone from using an at-chest supplementer and having a nursing relationship.
Trans women can use a protocol similar to adoptive and other non-gestational parents and stimulate their milk supply: it is called the Newman-Goldfarb protocol. You can read more here. Transfeminine nursing parents may also need to take the hormone spironolactone to suppress their testosterone. Read a case report of induced lactation in a transgender woman here.
You can also give human milk or formula supplements using an at-breast supplementer. Your healthcare provider can help you look at your options, and your local LLL Leader can offer support with your breast or chestfeeding goals and journey.
You may find the following websites have useful information, you may notice gendered language in them:
Many parents worry about whether their baby is ‘getting enough’. LLL meetings are a good place to get support from others.
Be sure to check the Is my Baby Getting Enough Milk? to ensure baby is feeding effectively.
USING A NURSING SUPPLEMENTER
If your baby needs a supplement of expressed milk or formula you might want to consider using a nursing supplementer. Doing this can give your baby that extra milk while they are nursing.
Supplementers can help parents have an at-breast or at-chest relationship with their baby whether or not they are able to produce milk. Supplementer may also be called by the brandnames Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) or Lact-Aid Nursing Training System. There are also many low cost, do-it-yourself options that are just as effective.
Read about a transgender dad’s experience of using a supplementer here.
Read a mother’s story about the long term use of a supplementer here.
Some transgender and non-binary parents use milk banks to acquire human milk for their babies. LLL USA fully supports the use of human milk for babies; we cannot facilitate or set up milk sharing networks, though your local LLL Leader can help you with contact information for non-profit human milk banks, other regulated collection centers, and peer-to-peer milk sharing networks.
Read more about Milk Sharing.
Breastfeeding After Reduction (BFAR), Facebook
Induced Lactation and Relactation, LLL USA
My Journey: Non-Binary Nursing, LLL USA blog
Support and Reassurance in Meeting Chestfeeding Goals, LLL USA blog
Joint Statement on Use of the Term Chestfeeding, LLL USA and LLL Canada
Growing in LLLove, LLL USA blog
Trans Women and Breastfeeding: A Personal Interview, Milk Junkies
Trans Women and Breastfeeding: The Health Care Provider, Milk Junkies
A Trans Dad Shares His Family’s Experience with Donor Milk, GayWithKids.com
What It’s Like to Chestfeed, The Atlantic
Trans Breastfeeding FAQ, Diana West
Where’s the Mother? Stories from a Transgender Dad by Trevor MacDonald
Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery by Diana West
Breastfeeding Outside the Box Podcast to hear stories of other’s journeys
IS YOUR CONCERN OR QUESTION NOT COVERED HERE?
Please contact a local LLL Leader with your specific questions.
Medical questions and legal questions should be directed to appropriate health care and legal professionals.
Page updated January 2020
Resource partially adapted from LLLI materials.