Breastfeeding without giving birth, a mother’s journey

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I breastfeed my son who has just turned one. I’ve never given birth.

I’m 28, a mum of one, a full-time worker and a wife to my wife. My wife and I have been together since I was 19, and she was 20. We always knew we would have children, and I have never wanted to carry a baby. So when we started planning to have a child there was not much discussion about who would carry. My wife had always imagined being pregnant and I just haven’t.

Before our son was born I came across co-feeding where both mums breastfeed. It goes something like this:

About 6 months before the child is born the non-birth mother begins a course of two medications. The first one is the birth control pill, taken without the sugar tablets. This is used as a way to emulate being pregnant due to the higher hormone levels. The second is called Domperidone.

Domperidone is used to stop nausea but can cause lactation by raising the prolactin levels of the body. Men have been known to lactate while taking it long term.

Inducing Lactation

Four weeks before our son was due I stopped taking the birth control pill. This simulates giving birth as there is a sudden drop in hormone levels, similar to after delivering a baby. I also began using a breast pump to express every three hours. The Newman-Golfarb protocol states that you should express three hourly around the clock. I didn’t do this. For starters, I like sleep. Second, I was working full time in a job where it’s not practical to take 30 minutes twice a shift to sit and express. So I decided to do what I could and see if it worked. What I did instead was express as soon as I got up, and then three hourly until I left for work. Then I’d express before bed and as soon as I woke up again.

After a couple of days I was getting a few drops out of each breast and by the time my son was born I was producing 200-300mLs a day. We had litres of breastmilk in the freezer.

Beginning to breastfeed

When it came time to start feeding we had to be careful. When you induce lactation you don’t make colostrum, you make mature milk, like a baby drinks from about 2 weeks old. We didn’t know what effect (if any) mature milk would have on a new baby’s little tummy. We also wanted to ensure we didn’t stop my wife developing her own full supply of milk. If I fed too much then her body would not feel the ‘demand’ in order to make the ‘supply’.

We decided that I would wait two weeks before I started feeding. Then we got him home and discovered our son loves his boobies. The first night home from hospital my wife was feeding him from 4pm-4am. At 4am she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said “I can’t do this any longer”. I took the baby and sent her to bed, promising I wouldn’t feed him. Thirty minutes later she was sleeping soundly and my son wanted ANOTHER feed. Caught between my promise not to feed him and my desire to let my wife rest, I caved. I fed my son for the first time… it was wonderful. He latched and fed and had a big feed of milk. And then… he slept!

We developed a nightshift pattern meaning I would handle any feeds from 8pm – 2am, and she would do feeds from 2am – 8am. This meant we both got a block of 6 hours sleep which was amazing.

The best part for me:

It helped my bonding with my son after a traumatic birth (birth trauma for partners is a real thing, trust me) and I got to enjoy the sleepy baby milk drunk cuddles too.

The best part for my wife:

She got a break. She could have that long shower, go to the toilet by herself or sleep.

The best part for my son:

He is SUPER attached to both of us as any baby is to their primary carer, but he has two. This makes the separation anxiety phases much easier as there is no refusal to go to the other parent. He chooses who he wants to feed from each time and I like that he knows what he needs in those moments. He is also hardly ever sick. My son has had 3 colds… I think? Much less than the average 6 – 12 a year. We’re not particularly germ phobic nor is our house sterile (having a toddler means everything is sticky) so I personally put that down to him receiving two lots of booby milk, antibody goodness.

The only thing that stopped the wonderful equilibrium we had was my return to work. Thanks to some time owed, annual leave, ‘Paternity’ leave and good rostering I didn’t have to work much for the first 5 months of my sons life. After that I went back to 40 hours a week and didn’t express at work. That saw an obvious drop in my supply and because I no longer express I’m pretty much the ‘comfort boob’ while my wife is the ‘milky boob’. I’m a little sad that my breastfeeding for sustenance journey has ended but I try to remind myself that feeding as much as I am is amazing in itself.

Is co-feeding for you?

If you’re considering co-feeding, or not sure, I recommend starting the process and seeing how you go. Its much easier to stop once you have started rather than catch up that time. I’ve also never met anyone who regretted trying, but a lot who regret not trying.

If you’re considering inducing lactation here are my top tips: 

– invest in a quality electric pump, and a double pump if you can afford it. You’re going to spend A LOT of time with it so buy the best you can afford

– get your GP on board; if they’re not – get a new one. My GP was a wonderful support and resource though my journey. She also wrote my prescriptions.

– the hardest one – relax! I went in with the mindset of ‘if it works good, if it doesn’t I know I tried’ and not having to stress the whole time has made my breastfeeding journey so positive and fulfilling

Happy boobing!

 

For personal reasons, Sandra, the author of this guest blog, wishes to maintain her family’s privacy. If you would like more information about inducing lactation or re-lactating after stopping breastfeeding (yes, it’s possible), see our Boobie Bikkies Blog post here.

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