Lactating lesbians: How two queer mamas share breastfeeding duties

Guest post by Liesbeth Koning
This cute baby onesie is the perfect gift for co-breastfeeding lactating lesbian mamas! It’s available here.

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.

…And now we have two lactating lesbian mamas!

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!

A whole set of cute shirts for the two lactating lesbian mamas, and their wee one! Available here.

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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Comments on Lactating lesbians: How two queer mamas share breastfeeding duties

  1. 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. 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. 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?

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

    • I was going to suggest kellymom.com 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • One thing to keep in mind is that the newborn would be missing colostrum if feeding only from you.

  4. 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 kellymom.com, they have a lot of information you will find interesting. Congrats to you both!!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

    • 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.

  7. 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. 😉

  8. 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!

  9. Besides absolutely loving this story, I LOVE HER NECKLACE! Butterflies…so pretty! 🙂

  10. 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!

  11. 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????? 😉

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

  12. 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!

  13. That’s wonderful! I comfort nursed our child when I was the SAHM. He complained until he accepted that my breasts were “empty.” 🙁
    If we’re ever able to find a donor again, I’ll definitely try this.

  14. 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!

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