All About Babies

Story of a Transgender Woman Who Breastfed Her Baby Gives Many Moms New Hope

A nurse practitioner and endocrinologist at Mt. Sinai in New York City helped a transgender woman meet her goal of breastfeeding her infant.

Woman breastfeeding

Far too many mothers face an uphill battle when it comes time to breastfeed their little ones. For moms who welcome their child via adoption or surrogate and/or who are transgender, this battle can be even more challenging. But there's hope for these moms in the form of a new case study, published in the journal Transgender Health, which details the first documented instance of a transgender woman being able to successfully breastfeed her infant

The woman, whose identity hasn't been revealed, approached Dr. Tamar Reisman and Zil Goldstein, a nurse practitioner, of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York with the goal of being able to breastfeed her adopted L.O. She had been using feminizing hormone therapy since 2011 but not had gender-reassignment surgery nor breast augmentation.

To induce lactation, Dr. Reisman and Goldstein worked together to come up with a regimen that included stimulating the breasts with a breast pump, taking the hormones progesterone and estradiol (which normally occur in pregnant women), and the anti-nausea drug domperidone, which had to be acquired from Canada. Though it is used in many countries, it has been banned in the U.S. given the FDA's concerns with its safety. The agency also stated in 2004 that it is unapproved for this off-label use to increase milk production.

Due to the limitations of acquiring domperidone and the concerns around the drug, the medical team said they'll need to do further research to come up with a safe, accessible plan. Nonetheless, they told the New York Times that their work in this case illustrates how "modest but functional lactation can be induced in transgender women who did not give birth or undergo surgery."

Ultimately, the woman exclusively breastfed her baby for six weeks (before beginning supplementation with formula). The child's pediatrician said the child’s growth, feeding and bowel habits were developing normally. 

Talk about a game-changer—and certainly a heartening step in the right direction for moms everywhere.