Transgender women can breastfeed, first case study shows

February 16, 2018
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The first scientific case study has been published describing how a US transgender woman was able to breastfeed her adopted infant by taking hormones that induce lactation.

But experts say more research is needed to determine if the milk is nutritious and safe for babies.

The report in the journal Transgender Health describes a 30-year-old woman who was born male and had been taking feminizing hormone therapy for six years. She had not undergone any genital or breast surgeries.

She sought medical advice because her partner was pregnant but was not interested in breastfeeding "and she hoped to take on the role of being the primary food source for her infant," said the report, led by researchers at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York.

The patient followed a regimen previously shown to induce lactation in women, including increased estradiol and progesterone, and was told to use a breast pump for five minutes per breast three times a day.

She also obtained an anti-nausea drug called domperidone from Canada that is used off-label to boost milk production.

Domperidone is not approved in the United States, due to the US Food and Drug Administration's concern that it may lead to cardiac arrest—and its unknown risks to breastfeeding infants.

"Three and a half months after she started the regimen, the baby was born," said the report.

"The patient breastfed exclusively for six weeks," then began to supplement feedings with formula due to "concerns about insufficient milk volume."

The baby's growth and feeding habits were all normal, said the report.

Experts say infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first year of life and longer if possible, due to the health benefits of mother's milk which far exceed formula.

But it's too early to say whether the transgender approach is safe and nutritious for infants, said Madeline Deutsch, clinical director of the University of California, San Francisco Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.

"I wouldn't do it," said Deutsch, herself a transgender woman and parent to a six-month old baby who is breastfed by Deutsch's wife, who was also the gestational carrier.

"The number one concern for me would be the nutritional quality," she told AFP.

Also, the hormones involved in inducing lactation can lead to mood swings and weight gain, which can be a deterrent for some people, she said.

A bit more research could easily shed light on the of the breast , and the safety of the hormones needed to produce it.

Besides, Deutsch said, efforts to coax transgender women to lactate have been going on informally within the for some time.

"I need to be honest with you, this has been happening for at least 10 to 15 years at least to my knowledge," she told AFP.

"This is just the first time somebody wrote it up."

As for whether fathers might one day decide to produce for their babies, Deutsch said that prospect seems far-fetched.

"I think it would be pretty unlikely that there would be too many men who are happy as men lining up to induce lactation," she said.

"Because the hormones involved would feminize the body significantly."

Explore further: Is there a link between breast milk nutrients, circadian rhythms, and infant health?

Related Stories

Is there a link between breast milk nutrients, circadian rhythms, and infant health?

September 19, 2017
The fat content and levels of several key nutrients and hormones in breast milk vary with the mother's circadian rhythm, which may have implications for the timing of breastfeeding and feeding of expressed milk, especially ...

New moms moving toward the bottle

December 7, 2016
New moms are increasingly using expressed breast milk (either pumped or expressed by hand) instead of directly breastfeeding their babies, according to a UBC study.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine issues guidance on informal milk sharing

January 8, 2018
In response to the increasing informal sharing of human milk, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) has published guidelines to minimize the risk of this practice while enhancing the health benefits. The position statement ...

Warning against domperidone use for lactating women

May 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—The dopamine receptor antagonist domperidone, which may increase milk production in lactating women, is associated with serious cardiac risks, and should not be used for lactation enhancement, according to a ...

Premature infants may get metabolic boost from mom's breast milk

September 14, 2017
The breast milk of mothers with premature babies has different amounts of microRNA than that of mothers with babies born at term, which may help premature babies catch up in growth and development, according to researchers.

Are the benefits of breast milk stimulant worth the risk?

December 4, 2014
Most women can make all the milk their baby needs, but some mothers turn to medications to help increase their supply. While some specialists encourage the off-label use of domperidone to stimulate breast milk production, ...

Recommended for you

Discovery promises improved diagnosis and understanding of endometriosis

March 19, 2018
Feinstein Institute for Medical Research scientists announced an experimental, rapid and non-invasive way to diagnose endometriosis, which may lead to earlier and more effective treatments for this disorder that affects approximately ...

Vaginal estrogen tablets, moisturizers and placebo gel all can improve vaginal discomfort

March 19, 2018
A clinical trial comparing two treatments for postmenopausal vaginal discomfort - low-dose vaginal estrogen and a vaginal moisturizer - to placebo treatments found that both produced symptom improvements similar to those ...

Frozen embryos more successful for conceiving during IVF

March 19, 2018
A new study carried out by a research team at The University of Western Australia and Fertility Specialists of Western Australia has found that women undergoing IVF who have had embryos fail to implant have more success using ...

Alomst 70 percent of 103 genes linked to prenatal death affect the placenta

March 14, 2018
The role of the placenta in healthy fetal development is being seriously under-appreciated according to a new paper published today (14th March). The study was part of the Wellcome Trust-funded "Deciphering the Mechanisms ...

New research shows why babies need to move in the womb

March 12, 2018
Scientists have just discovered why babies need to move in the womb to develop strong bones and joints. It turns out there are some key molecular interactions that are stimulated by movement and which guide the cells and ...

Labour–inducing drugs put to the test

February 27, 2018
Researchers comparing the use of two drugs for pregnant women who do not go into labour shortly after their waters break have found both are reasonable options.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.