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. It’s wonderful to hear of your family’s successful experience. The only thing that makes me sad is that so many labels are used to tell the story. I understand that clarifying is needed to explain how a man can breastfeed. But, plain and simple your are a parent, feeding his child…. and THAT is beautiful. All the best to you!

    • Identities are not “labels”. What’s sad about it, if all of that context was necessary for the telling of the story?

  2. Well done Papa!! After overcoming my own struggles to establish breastfeeding and using an SNS, I’m always so happy to hear about others who were able to make it work! And you’ve nailed it: support is essential, especially in those early days when you’re so tired and lacking confidence. I wouldn’t have made it without my amazing wife and our lactation consultants and our doula.
    I’m so happy to hear you found the support you needed. Great story!

  3. How incredibly awesome and cool. Not just because of this dad’s commitment to doing what he considers right for his son, but also because of the open and accepting attitude of his peers and support network. Can you imagine this happening 50 years ago? Not a chance. Despite the various challenges we face as a society, it warms my heart to know I live at a time where this is accepted as a way of life.

  4. You are my hero! I am so glad that you found acceptance and assistance! Keep up the good work!

  5. This is SO BEAUTIFUL and INSPIRING!!! How sweet, and fantastic that you were able to nurse your son. It is a great experience, although it can be trying. I love the picture, and to see that you were supported in your efforts. A lot of people can be unsupportive, so it’s great to see a breastfeeding baby so held by his community. Nursing can be such a struggle, and I applaud your efforts to see it through, as another nursing parent.


  6. Trevor, a friend of mine just gave me the link to your post and i discovered that it’s several years old but i hope it’s not too late to ask you a question. I am also transmasculine and have been in the process of pregnancy planning while also considering top surgery to deal with ongoing dysphoria. I am wondering if you had keyhole surgery wherein your nipples stayed intact, and that is why you were able to breastfeed? I am a D cup and would have to have my nipples grafted, which seems like it would disconnect them from the mammary tissue that allows milk to flow through them. Correct me if I’m wrong, but i had just accepted that it would not be possible to breastfeed if i were to go ahead with top surgery, though my dysphoria is at times so severe that i don’t care and want surgery anyway. Knowing that there may be an option to get donated breast milk also makes me hopeful that my baby would not have to be formula fed. But i just want to know, if you see this, if my hunch is correct and you had keyhole surgery rather than double incision with nipple grafts. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It gives me hope.

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