I made a decision this week that is a fairly big decision, and may change much about our life with a new infant.
I've read about other lesbian families in which the non-gestational mom induced lactation in herself so both parents could breastfeed the baby. I admit, I was always intrigued by this but our focus has been so heavily on getting pregnant that it had left my head a bit.
After T became pregnant, I've had a lot of time to think about my role in our new family - particularly at the beginning, when emotions are raw and things are changing fast. A friend of ours asked if I had considered inducing lactation so I could feel like I was more useful. I had, in the back of my mind, felt a desire to do it but I hadn't really given it much thought in a few months, nor had I done any actual research on what inducing lactation entails.
I must be frank. I've always found the idea of a wet nurse, or using donated breastmilk, to be odd concepts. The woman giving birth should breastfeed her own baby, she shouldn't also offer to feed her neighbor's baby, right? One mom, one person breastfeeding. It's what is "normal". So the idea of having two breastfeeding mothers for a single baby is a bit unorthodox for most people, I'd imagine.
But the idea of breastfeeding *my* baby, even though I won't have given birth to her or him, isn't unusual to me. The thought of being able to nourish my own child is satisfying to me. The idea that T won't have to be solely responsible for every single feeding makes me feel good. The knowledge that I could take our baby out by myself without having to bring bottles of T's breastmilk is a positive thing for me.
Certainly, it's an idea that others will need more time to get used to than I will.
Now, just because I can fantasize about being able to accomplish lactation does not mean it will definitely work. Two years ago I had a breast reduction surgery, and the surgeon told me the odds would only be about fifty percent that I would be able to breastfeed. He did ask if I wanted to do so at some point, which I told him that I absolutely planned to breastfeed. That's definitely my biggest concern with the whole thing. Waiting and wondering if it will work. I don't even know at what point I'll have a definitive answer about it.
There are a lot of different protocols to induce lactation, as it turns out. I've read through a few and I think I'm most interested in one called the Newman-Goldfarb protocol. This is a pair of docs who have come up with this protocol for mainly adoptive mothers, but it's been used successfully in many situations. It involves taking active birth control pills (with a specific progesterone/estrogen ratio) every day in conjunction with an additional medication, domperidone, for milk supply. The birth control is to convince my body that I am pregnant, so it will begin to prepare my breasts for bringing in milk. Up until six weeks before the baby is due, I take the birth control and the domperidone. Then six weeks before T's due date, I stop taking the birth control and continue only with the domperidone. After I stop the birth control, I can begin to add certain herbal supplementation to my diet to aid in milk production. At this time, I also begin using a breastpump to encourage milk to come in. This method has proven that the milk a woman produces when her lactation has been induced is nutritionally the same as a breastfeeding mother at ten days post birth. I think that's pretty great!
So I went ahead and called our family doctor to schedule an appointment. The conversation was quite amusing, as I suspected it would be.
A: Hi, I'm a patient of Dr. Levine and I'd like to make an appointment to discuss inducing lactation.
receptionist: Um, okay. Are you pregnant?
A: No, that's why I need to *induce* lactation.
receptionist: (15 seconds of silence) Um, well, the next available appointment is Wednesday.
A: Great, I'll take it, thanks!
I have no idea what thoughts were running through her brain, but she actually handled it better than I'd imagined she would. It gave T and I a good laugh. Regardless, I have an appointment Wednesday morning and I'm looking forward to getting this party started. For the record, I'm NOT looking forward to breast pain and enlargement, but it is worth it for a shot at breastfeeding our little baby. And it will give us an idea of if I'll be able to breastfeed the baby I bear in a few years, so that's a plus.
Our family doctor is really great, she doesn't take new patients often but she always will take in people who are referred to her from Wingspan, which is our local LGBT organization. We think she is gay, and we've been told by a friend who sees the nurse practitioner in the same office that she is also likely to be gay. Our doctor has always been incredibly welcoming, friendly, and kind. She's a considerate person, an attribute I appreciate greatly in doctors particularly. I know she'll listen to us, I just don't know if she's ever helped anyone induce lactation before. We'll see after Wednesday, I guess!
If you're interested in learning more, I've found this to be the most helpful website. Lenore Goldfarb is one of the two people responsible for coming up with the Newman-Goldfarb induction protocol.