How two lesbian mamas share breastfeeding duties

February 22 2011 | Guest post by Liesbeth Koning
Photo by Daniel Lobo, used with Creative Commons license.
Unlike my wife Melissa, I am not a lactation counselor. The only thing I knew about breastfeeding was that I wanted to do it when I had a baby. I never dreamed that I would be able to before birthing a child.

When Melissa was pregnant with our baby, she proposed the idea of co-nursing. I was both surprised and excited. About three months before baby Grace was born, I began taking birth control for the first time in my life. It seemed quite strange to be taking it not to prevent having a baby, but in order to provide for one. At the same time, I took a medication called domperidone.

About a month before Grace was born, I went off the birth control, started taking the herbs fenugreek and blessed thistle, and started using a breast pump around the clock. At first, I would get a couple of drops from each pumping session. If it wasn't for M, I would have been disappointed by this, but she was so enthusiastic. She told me it was a great start. Over time, I made more and more milk, but still tiny amounts.

Then came the birth of our little girl. When Melissa finally got out of the birth tub, I was able to hold Grace. It was so amazing to have this tiny miracle in my arms (well, I suppose I had two bundles since Grace was still attached to her placenta). This was the first moment I could breastfeed Grace. She latched on and began sucking away.

Since I had already been pumping and had milk, I actually began to worry that I would have too much milk. I know the newborn sucking is what brings on a mama's milk, so I didn't let her suck for too long. I didn't want to interfere with Melissa's milk supply. In that little bit of time of nursing Grace, I knew that it was all worth it.

Over the next couple of weeks, I exclusively pumped so that Melissa could exclusively breastfeed. We wanted to make sure that breastfeeding was established well for she and Grace. After a couple of weeks, I started taking one nursing session every day and we just increased from there. We made sure that Melissa pumped whenever I nursed.

One great aspect of co-nursing was my ability to nurse Grace to sleep. There were times that Grace wanted to comfort nurse but she didn't need a lot of milk. Melissa had a bit of an oversupply, and it was sometimes too much for her. I was able to nurse her to sleep. This was so beneficial for my bonding process with Grace. It was wonderful to have something special that only I could offer our daughter.

As Grace grew, so did our milk supplies. This led to another amazing aspect of having two nursing moms — we were able to donate all of the extra milk that we were making. So far, we have donated milk for six babies, and Melissa has also donated to a milk bank, so who knows how many more babies. 3575 ounces and counting!


With all of these boobs around, G isn't very interested in bottles. When Melissa is at work, I can feed Grace, so Melissa doesn't need to worry about how long she is gone. I think that this has helped me to feel like a competent parent. I know that even if I couldn't breastfeed, I would still feel able to take care of our daughter, but for me, this really increased my confidence as a parent. Sometimes I think that I may have had feelings of jealousy watching Melissa feed Grace if I weren't able to. I would also be much more frustrated when Grace needed soothing, because sometimes all she wants is to nurse.

Moral of the story — I totally recommend inducing lactation if you are a non-gestational parent expecting a baby. Offbeat dads… I have heard that it is possible for men to induce lactation as well!

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  1. This is amazing. I have always wanted to induce lactation if I was the non-bio mom, or if I adopted a baby, and it is great to hear how this worked for you!

    1 agrees
  2. Awesome, awesome, awesome!!! This is such a cool topic for me. How exciting for you to be able to do this for your child!

    14 agree
  3. This is awesome! I never knew it was possible to do that and I'm really inspired that you both get to share such a wonderful thing with your daughter. kudos

    1 agrees
  4. Thank you for sharing! I have heard stories from some of my adoptive mom friends who have tried to lactate and it didn't work out for them, but I'm glad to hear it working for you! That's amazing!

    • I wonder if breathing in all those pregnancy hormones from her spouse helped? It's pretty commonly accepted that women's hormones will affect each other (hence why they will start to cycle together if they spend too much time around each other). It may be that this is similar.

      7 agree
  5. I gave up on breastfeeding with my first child. One of the reasons was because of how frustrating it was that I was not producing enough milk. Although it will be a while, I have considered the possibility of trying to breastfeed again if I have any more children. I thought about pumping before the baby was born to help the milk come in but I'm worried that the baby then wouldn't get the colostrum. Any tips?

    1 agrees
    • Nova, I wouldn't pump before giving birth. The most important things you can do are to educate yourself about lactation as much as possible, find a network of support (friends or family who have breastfed successfully, a local IBCLC, La Leche League, etc.), and nurse as much as humanly possible during the first few weeks- that's when you're body is set up to establish your milk supply. Good luck! πŸ™‚

      17 agree
    • nova, the best thing you can do for a successful nursing experience is to educate yourself and seek out a support system. la leche league is a great place to start. i encourage you to attend meetings while you are pg. this will do 2 things for you: 1) education. you will learn a lot about normal nursing behavior, what to expect, etc. and 2) you will have made contact with the leader(s) and will be more inclined to call for help should the need arise.

      best of luck to you!

      5 agree
    • I definitely recommend educating yourself and nursing as much as baby wants in the first few weeks and even pumping in between nursing if needed. Also make sure you are drinking LOTS of water and eating! Your body needs more calories to produce milk than it does while you are pregnant and growing that baby! I've heard that herbs can help too, like fenugreek.

      1 agrees
    • You need to be careful with pumping before hand, as nipple stimulation can bring on very strong contractions, and is widely used to induce labour!

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    • Pumping while still pregnant to increase supply, wont work and is a form of birth induction. When you give birth, milk doesnt set in for a couple days…completely normal and fine. Baby doesn not need to have milk in that time period, colostrum is perfect. If you nurse on demand, not supplementing with any formula at all…and continue to exclusively nurse until your milk supply is established (about 4 months before it's established) should do fine. Drink plenty of water, and all should be fine.

      2 agree
  6. This is absolutely beautiful! It made me cry! How wonderful for you both that you can do this! Yaaay for breastfeeding!

    3 agree
  7. This is seriously the most fucking awesome i thing i've heard in awhile (and i'm a student who wiles paper writing hours away solely looking at blogs for awesome stuff).

    Beautiful stories, beautiful, loving mamas, AMAZING!

    1 agrees
  8. It must be the mama hormones (still? after my baby is a year old?) but this story brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing gift you've given your daughter and the mamas and papas and babies who have benefited from your milk supply. What a happy story.

    5 agree
  9. That is so neat! I didn't know you could coax your body into lactating without actually being pregnant. I'm glad you were able to share in that experience.

    1 agrees
  10. Thank you for sharing your experience. I think this is incredible! There were days that I wished I'd had another mom there to help nurse my babies. (I had two sets of twins and was nursing 4 of them at once.) Your hard work definitely paid off. What an inspiration to any mother who is adopting a baby, co-nursing, or relactating! Kudos!

    1 agrees
    • woah, tandem tandem nursing two sets of twins? I've been pregnant and/or nursing for 7.5 years between three singleton pregnancies, tandemed my 1st and 2nd a bit (my 2nd didn't want to come back to nursing after weaning at 30mo when I was pregnant with the 3rd – they're all 3 years apart, baby is 9mo)… I'm having an inferiority complex moment just trying to wrap my mind around two sets of twins ALL breastfeeding from one mom… yeah, you would totally benefit from tribal nursing. I've already said if I wind up with twins next time (think I've got hubby talked into one more pregnancy, my mom miscarried twins so I'm at higher "risk") I would be glad of sharing nursing with other moms. I've nursed a friend's baby (with the mom's permission) when mom got stuck at the DMV while I was watching her baby – wouldn't be against having the favor returned should the need arise (I have oversupply so haven't needed help nursing my own, someone else taking over a feeding means I have to pump to keep from leaking!)

      1 agrees
  11. This is a really beautiful story, not to mention the fact that your child will get antibodies from both parents!

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  12. I am so glad to come across this story! This is simply amazing!! So glad to hear mommies promotion breastfeeding no matter what obstacles come in the way. Both you mommies are AMAZING and great role models for the rest of mommies out there. Keep it up! πŸ˜€

    2 agree
  13. AWESOME!!!!!
    Oh I wish my husband could help out with the breastfeeding! Especially at night! I 'm so tired…..

    In the book Woman On The Edge Of Time
    there's this futuristic community where babies are given to three "mothers" (can be any sex) so all of the three mothers breast

    (and that is my DaughTER hitting the shift and return key for me..>)

    3 agree
  14. Awesome, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I think it is beyond wonderful that you both get to share this bond with your daughter. And wow all those ounces donated!! My wife and I have talked about her relactating when I have our babies. She nursed all three of her sons for an extended period and was a La Leche Leader and knows a ton about breastfeeding. Not sure we will be able to as she will be 51 before it happens. Any

    4 agree
  15. That's so cool! I think I'd freak out if my husband wanted to breast feed (just a weird picture in my head) but it's wonderful to hear that you got to accomplish that!

    1 agrees
    • Donated milk is for women can't breast feed for whatever reason (duct problems, mastectomies, or it just doesn't take) or for women who have adopted an infant, but still want the advantages of feeding their child real breast milk rather than formula. There are breast milk banks, or you can sell/donate your breast milk directly. However, the latter is illegal in some states due to concerns regarding crossing immune systems or the lack of a screening process for donors.

  16. This is amazing! I've actually been really wondering about this in the past couple weeks, and I'm really excited to see it can and has been done. πŸ˜€

    It sounds like it's been a really amazing journey. Congrats on both successful lactation and on your baby! <3

    2 agree
  17. Good for you chickas! What a wonderful thing to do for everyone – your daughter, yourselves and for the people who've received the donor milk. You rock!

    2 agree
  18. Thanks for this. My wife and I have discussed doing this when we are finally blessed with a baby (fingers crossed it's soon!) so it is great to read your story.

    3 agree
  19. Hi, I am the bio-mom for our first daughter who is still breastfeeding. She is now a year old. My partner is due next week with our second. I've been trying to find out if I can help feed our second child as well or if the quality of milk changes over time. I've conacted LLLI but I haven't heard back. Any ideas?

    1 agrees
    • Hey Eileen! Just wanted to let you know I just posed this question to our Facebook group. Hopefully someone can help ya! πŸ™‚

    • I was going to suggest too. From what I've read, your milk gets less fatty over time so it would probably be best for you not to provide the majority of your second's baby's nutrition. But I think you could safely do a few feedings a day after your partner gets established with breastfeeding (most sites say this takes at least a month.)

    • Yep! The fat content will be lower; I agree with the statement above that says you shouldn't provide a majority of the new little one's nutrition, but you should be fine to supplement primary feedings, and if your partner is working and she's not comfortable with/able to pump, I see no reason you couldn't handle the feedings while she can't. Congratulations, by the way!

      1 agrees
    • Eileen, if you want to breastfeed your new babe, I'd say go for it! It's definitely important to step back a bit in the beginning so that the gestational mama can get her milk supply established, but after that I can't see why not! Just make sure you have a support system in case you run into any challenges- but I'm sure LLL will be a great connection for you. As far as maintaining milk supply, just make sure that your partner is pumping for any "missed" feeds. Sharing nursing can be great!

      Your breast milk will be different at this stage of the game than it would be if your first baby was a newborn- but it certainly will not hurt and it is still full of awesome antibodies and nutrients- just in slightly different quantities. People share milk through donation all the time, and though ideally you match the ages of the babies, it doesn't always happen and recipient babes typically thrive on donor milk regardless. Good luck and congrats on your new little one on the way.

      2 agree
    • Hey! When the baby latches on to your breast, it's saliva signals to your body what it needs as far as nutrients, fat, protein, etc. SO you can actually nurse an infant and a toddler and each will get exactly the milk they need. It is true that colostrum is higher in fats and antibodies, and you won't give the baby that…but in general you'd be able to nurse and still give the newborn exactly what they wanted.

      1 agrees
    • in tribal societies, any woman capable will give a baby a breast when the baby needs one – aunts, grandmothers, cousins, etc. Bio-mom usually does most of the feeding but having another mom feed the baby is actually most likely the ancestral/anthropological norm for our species. Don't fret, just do what comes naturally. No matter if the fat/carb/whatever balance is a little less "ideal" for the younger baby's age, it's still way more appropriate (to the family diet, current immune needs, even the time of dday since the balance can very at night vs. daytime) than any can of formula would ever be, since formula doesn't adjust to the baby at all.

      1 agrees
  20. YES! You can feed the new baby too! You rmilk does change, but not really the "quality" just the different amount of fat/nutrients/etc. Try, they have a lot of information you will find interesting. Congrats to you both!!

  21. This is exactly how my GF and I plan to manage it, except I have nursed before, so I just plan to use stimulation from the baby to relactate, after her milk supply is in. Go YOU. It takes commitment to lactate from scratch!

    1 agrees
  22. Oh my goodness, thank you everyone for the great information! So far I've asked my (otherwise wonderful) primary doc, ob/gyn, and pediatrician this question and they've responded "um… wow, that is a great question" but had very little additional input. My pediatrician worried that I might have to transistion my one year old now to soy milk (allergic to dairy) so that she doesn't drink up all my milk and leave nothing for the new baby. I'll definitely contact La Leche again and find a lactation consultant. Thanks again!

    1 agrees
    • Nah, breast milk production is demand based when you have a toddler, just the same as when you have a baby. The concept of "using up" all your milk doesn't hold much water. The more you nurse, the more you make. For some people it is always hard to increase supply, but if you are worried about having enough you could add in a couple of pumping sessions per day now to stimulate your breasts and give your supply a boost. Chances are, though, that the actual amount of milk that you have won't be a big deal since there is another nursing mom in the picture too, know what I mean? For what it's worth, I'm hoping to nurse Grace until our second baby is born (hopefully around the time she is two) and I plan to do the same thing.

      2 agree
  23. My spouse Sarah and I co-nursed for 2.5 years… neither having to induce lactation because our babies were 2 months apart. When we met, my baby was 2 days old and she was 7 months pregnant. I nursed her son after she went back to work at 6 wks postpartum and she nursed my daughter if I had a birth to go to. Once we became "lovers" (this was back in 1986), we co-nursed seamlessly. I was the stay-at-home mom who would toss the babies to her when she came in from work. She'd nurse throughout the evening and then we'd take our own Bio babies for the night. No big to do about it, it just was the way it worked for us.

    Over the years, I've often said, "EVERY mother should have two sets of boobs in the house!" Obviously, you agree. πŸ˜‰

    7 agree
  24. What a beautiful story!! We've thought of adopting, and one of my biggest (and most private) fears is that I would not be able to breastfeed. My son and I have had such an incredible breastfeeding relationship (still going at 3.5 yrs), and I know I would want to have the same possibility with another child. Thank you for the reassurance that it can happen!

    1 agrees
  25. Okay- 3575 ounces!!!! I can't even imagine!!!! I never got much more than 2 ounces on average at a sitting. Sometimes I would hook that thing up for 45 minutes! Paranoid that I wasn;t producing much, plus my first was a real little guy, slow to put on weight. I am amazed at you two, and can only imagine what a wonderful start to your babies life this is. Wow!

    1 agrees
  26. My wife and I are about to start trying to get pregnant (baby daddy just got back from a big trip and our wedding is over and out of the way now). I'm a NICU nurse who is loading up on the breastfeeding experience! My wife is going to carry our first child, and Im very interested in co-breastfeeding. So far all the resources I've found have to do with straight adoptive moms inducing, but nothing about same sex parenting (I don't want to interfere with my wife's breastfeeding getting established!). Thus I have questions!!
    A) birth control: any brand better than others for this? Do you take it straight for 3 months (skip the gaps?)
    B) how many weeks did you wait so that Mel's milk supply could be established?
    C) how much milk (as non birth mama) were you making every pump?
    D) any resources to share??

    I'm so inspired by this!! I was feeling pretty annoyed about not being able to find anything. I'm lucky to work in a place that has access to awesome LCs and has pumps and co-workers who will cover your babies if you need to pump!! Also the constant crying/cuddling babies should help with my milk production too, right????? πŸ˜‰

    Thanks again!!! Grace is a very lucky little girl to have 2 mommies and so much love!!!

    1 agrees
  27. I'm a straight but not narrow mother of three – and I LOVE this idea. I wish I had a co-mother sometimes and would love to share nursing duties. I settle for being a breastfeeding consultant and helping double-mama's learn to co-nurse!

    1 agrees
  28. That's wonderful! I comfort nursed our child when I was the SAHM. He complained until he accepted that my breasts were "empty." πŸ™
    If we're ever able to find a donor again, I'll definitely try this.

    1 agrees
  29. This is such a beautiful story!:) We are an adoptive family, and know several families who have been successful at breastfeeding, though they didn't birth their children. What an amazing opportunity for bonding!

    1 agrees
  30. So glad you shared this! My wife and I are currently expected and she isn't willing to breastfeed but we have to others that I birthed and did breastfeed. I loved it, also the bonding experience is what I look forward to the most. Thanks!! Wishing you guys the best!

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