I am a transgender dad in a gay relationship who breastfeeds his baby boy

Guest post by Trevor

Trevor breastfeeding his son.
Near the end of my pregnancy, I went to my first breastfeeding support meeting, facilitated by La Leche League. I was excited at the opportunity to learn, and terribly nervous in a room full of strangers — I was a guy at a women-only peer-to-peer help group.

When it came to be my turn to speak, I gave my carefully prepared spiel: “My name is Trevor and I am able to be pregnant because I am transgender. This means that I was born female but transitioned to male by taking hormones and having chest surgery. When my partner and I decided to start a family, we got advice from my doctors and I stopped taking my testosterone. My baby is due in April. Because my surgery removed most of my breast tissue, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to breastfeed, but I really want to try.”

With my face bright red and my palms sweating, I looked up to see many of the women in the room nodding their heads and smiling at me. By this point I was quite far along in my pregnancy, so they knew I was the real thing. Over the course of the meeting, people discussed their various nursing challenges and asked each other questions. I mostly remained silent. After it was over, several women came to me to say how impressed they were by my determination to breastfeed and that they hoped it would go well for me. I was ecstatic at their response — I’d been initially unsure of whether I’d even be allowed to attend an LLL meeting as a guy, and I certainly didn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms. This was the beginning of what became an incredible support system that I credit with helping me to nurse my baby for his first year of life.

At the start of our pregnancy, my partner Ian and I assumed we were going to formula-feed. We signed up for samples of the stuff — how could we resist free food? We like a good deal just as well as the next guy. Besides, how could I breastfeed without breasts? And then I started reading endlessly about birth and babies. Quickly I learned that I might be able to produce a small amount of milk despite my surgery, and that even drops of breast milk would benefit our baby. I became not just committed, but passionate about breastfeeding.

Following an unmedicated birth, my midwife assisted me in latching on my newborn, Jacob. To everyone’s delight and amazement, we could all hear him enjoying his first swallows of colostrum, the rich milk full of protective antibodies that is produced in the first days after birth. We called my best friend and La Leche League leader, Simone, to come over right away. When Simone entered our bedroom and saw me trying to latch Jacob on, this time without the help of my midwife, she thought it was impossible — that there just isn’t enough tissue there for a baby to latch onto. But she didn’t let on, and instead suggested different ways for me to try holding my meagre chest tissue so that Jacob could grab on. I persisted, and so did my baby.

Simone came to our home four times in the next 48 hours and answered my phone calls late at night as well as early in the morning. Jacob got stronger as I became more proficient in positioning him and we learned together. However, when he was four days old, it became clear that he wasn’t gaining weight adequately and that we needed to start supplementing him. Friends, and friends of friends, donated their breast milk for our child and now I faced yet another challenge: using a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS).

An SNS consists of a bottle of supplement with a tube going into it. You put one end of the tube next to your nipple and then latch the baby onto your nipple and the tube at the same time. This way, the baby gets both the milk that the parent can produce and also the supplement at once. Using an SNS avoids the “nipple confusion” that can come from bottle feeding. Keeping the baby at the breast also helps to stimulate the parent’s own body to create more milk — breastfeeding depends on the feedback of a supply and demand system, after all. At first it took three of us to position Jacob, hold the SNS and its tubing, and make an effective “breast tissue sandwich” for the baby to hold onto. For the next two weeks, Ian had to help me with every single feeding. We struggled through the exhaustion of sitting up through nursing sessions day and night.

We found more donated breast milk online through the Facebook group Human Milk 4 Human Babies. We interviewed donors, asking about blood test results, medications, and drug and alcohol use. We accepted donations from all kinds of people, including Mennonites, Mormons, and a military family. All of these generous people dedicated their time and energy to giving our child a healthy start in life. In the end we were able to find enough breast milk for Jacob to stay off of formula entirely.

As Jacob enters toddlerhood, breastfeeding is about far more than the food. I can nurse him to sleep when he is wild yet far beyond exhausted, and latch him on to calm him when he’s had an unfortunate adventure with the corner of a coffee table. Nursing has taken on dimensions that I never imagined would be possible for us. Best of all, when I attend La Leche League meetings nowadays, I am able to give advice to brand new breastfeeding parents. If a new mom worries that she doesn’t have enough breast milk because her baby seems to want to eat so very often, I can share my story: we were supplementing our son heavily, but he continued to want to feed in many frequent sessions. Sometimes, he cried at night despite having as much milk as he could eat.

Those early days can be tough, and I was fortunate to have extraordinary support. I will forever think of our many compassionate helpers — the La Leche League leaders, our friends, and the complete strangers we met online — as Jacob’s milk buddies. It certainly took a village for us to breastfeed, and I am so grateful that it happened.

Looking for more posts about transgender issues?

visiting my daughter at school after I transitioned from Daddy to Mommy

known I was transgender since age 2

How to tell your family about your transgender groom

19 tips for raising a trans kid

Comments on I am a transgender dad in a gay relationship who breastfeeds his baby boy

  1. What a fantastic story! I’m having my second baby, and I tried supplementing with my first, but due to complete lack of support from my doctor and ex, I gave up and went formula. With this one I’m determined to nurse, but nervous about my supply and my very small breasts. I’m very comforted by your experience!

    • I’d encourage you to be as proactive as you’re comfortable being re: your breastfeeding concerns. Find a lactation counselor or specialist through a hospital, clinic, or health department and talk through your concerns. Breast size rarely effects a person’s ability to produce enough milk for their baby. Frequent shorter feedings stimulate the breast to produce more milk so don’t fret about having a smaller set! Best for Babes is a great website with lots of helpful info and resources regarding breastfeeding. I recently came across an interesting quote: breastfeeding is natural, not instinctive. Together as a community we have to support one another to shift culture so bf can again become instinctive! Good luck!

    • I’ve seen mamas with tiny little nugget breasts pump 4 bottles of milk (70ml each) every 3 hours. I’ve seen mamas with great big breasts produce 30ml every 3 hours. If your baby is not feeding well, it’s important to have a *really* good understanding of hand expression (A FANTASTIC video produced in the NICU at Stanford University, http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/HandExpression.html), since pumping, while sometimes more convenient, does not work for all women, and finding a pump/cleaning/storing pump pieces can be a bit of a pain. Pumping exclusively is not as effective as a baby, and in the NICU (where I work), we see mamas struggle with milk supply around the 2 month mark.

      I should add that the video was made specifically for mamas whose babes were in NICU, but I think good hand expression technique is something that all lactating parents (and their partners) should learn!

  2. I’ve read about your story, and find it amazing and so motivational to ladies who have struggles overcoming difficulties. I’ve also heard about LLL Canada’s stance on not letting you become a leader, which is sad. It’s nice though that you didn’t focus on this – but on the positive support you received from your local group.

    I also had difficulty breastfeeding my daughter, and ended up using a tube to supplement. But I never gave up – as ANY breast is better than no breast. And my 3 year old is still happily nursing 🙂

    Kudos to you and your partner (as support is key to successful breastfeeding) for sticking to it and giving your baby the best start!

  3. What an inspirational post. I also had latching issues with my son & I am a G cup! Breastfeeding was an unexpected battle only won with the help of an incredibly supportive spouse & a network of fabulous women & lactation specialists. You gave your boy such a wonderful, wonderful gift. Such a special bond. Enjoy your son.

  4. Fantastic piece. As a queer parent-to-be and, hell, just as a human being I am touched and inspired. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  5. I really enjoyed this post. As my partner and I are planning to start our family, I appreciate hearing stories from the Transgendered community. I often feel like we are alone.

  6. Wow.

    What an interesting story!!!! I found it very intriguing and I’m sooooo happy that, despite any hardships you, your partner, and baby encountered, you were able achieve what you wanted. Congratulations!

  7. Wow.
    What an interesting story!!!! I found it very intriguing and I’m sooooo happy that, despite any hardships you, your partner, and baby encountered, you were able achieve what you wanted. Congratulations!

  8. Thank you for sharing your inspiring and beautiful story! I am so happy for you that you were able to breastfeed and that you found the support you needed.

  9. Another point for Offbeat Mama being the best parenting website, period. Great post. As someone who had to use the SNS – even for just a week – I empathized with you, Trevor! You and your family are amazing.

  10. Congrats on a successful breastfeeding relationship! I am at the beginning of mine and it can be a tough road no matter what your particular challenge is. I’ve had my nights of tears just trying to get him latched on in a way that didn’t make me want to scream. I am persevering and things are getting better. I am so glad your LLL chapter was so welcoming, I’m working up to getting to a meeting!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring story. I’ve expressed my milk for a friend when she was having difficulties with breastfeeding. We were both comfortable with it, but had to put up with midwives advising against it. I’m so glad you had the support to use donor milk (as well as to breastfeed) and are raising awareness about donor milk as an option. The more people know this is an option the more it will become accepted by the medical community. Thank you!

    • I think it’s so crazy that donor milk is considered so taboo. Historically, fancypants aristocratic ladies in Europe pretty much always hired wet-nurses–women who would breastfeed for them. I understand that there are particular health risks these days, but those can be overcome.

  12. Wow that is an amazingly inspiring post. I am so impressed by your perseverance. And I’m so please that you found a solution that works for you, your partner and your child. I’m sharing this on my blog FB page. Hopefully it will inspire others too.

  13. What a wonderful story! I was so excited to read that you were able to connect with someone and received donated breast milk, and thought to myself, “I wish I could donate” – I had previously had trouble finding any sources that could connect me with someone in need. Much to my great surprise, I noticed that you live in the same city as I do – Winnipeg!! I can’t tell you how excited this got me – I have ‘liked’ the Human Milk 4 Human Babies Facebook page and am hoping to get connected with someone.
    Thank you for your inspiring story and for inadvertently ‘paying it forward’! <3

  14. Congratulations to you for blazing a path in the name of Jacob’s health. I can relate to the sense of gratification that comes from rounding that corner after a rocky start, and being able to offer help to other nursing mothers. You will be such an asset to others looking for confidence and reassurance. Peace.

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