La Leche League is an international, nonprofit, nonsectarian organisation.1 LLLGB supports everyone who wants to breastfeed or chestfeed in reaching their goals. We do not discriminate based on sex, gender or gender identity.
Trans men, trans women and non-binary individuals may choose to breastfeed or chestfeed their babies. You do not need to have given birth to breastfeed or chestfeed, as we can also see in the experiences of those nursing adopted babies.
Canadian LLL Leader and transgender dad Trevor MacDonald writes that, “It is equally important to note that some trans people experience severe gender dysphoria when breast or chestfeeding, and that they may decide not to nurse their babies for mental health reasons. Trans parents choosing to breast or chestfeed and those choosing to suppress lactation and bottlefeed may require the support of breastfeeding counsellors or lactation professionals.” 2
One of the concepts La Leche League is founded on is that: human milk is the natural food for babies, uniquely meeting their changing needs. Human milk is amazing. It has everything a growing baby needs in exactly the right amounts and babies can easily digest it all. Research shows that a baby who is not fed on human milk is more likely to suffer from illnesses and diseases, both as a child and later in life. By meeting your baby’s needs for warmth, food and security at your chest you give them a secure attachment so they can develop into a conﬁdent child.
Skin-to-skin contact is beneficial for babies and parents; it simply means holding your naked baby on your bare chest. You can drape a blanket over you both for warmth. Within minutes, you will see the benefits of skin-to-skin as you and your baby relax. Your baby’s body temperature, breathing, and heart rate will stabilise. Babies often latch on and nurse more efficiently during and after skin-to-skin contact.
It is a lovely way to nurture your baby even if you are not nursing.
Your milk supply
Some transgender and non-binary parents have a full milk supply. If you have had chest (top) surgery you may be able to produce some milk. Many factors will affect the amount of milk you can make.
Two reasons that a trans man might have a reduced milk supply are:
1. Milk-making tissue has been surgically removed, and/or ducts have been damaged in surgery.
2. Testosterone interferes with the hormone necessary for lactation (prolactin) and can cause a significant decrease in milk supply. However, taking testosterone would not prevent someone from using an at-chest supplementer and having a nursing relationship.
Trans women can use a protocol similar to adoptive and other non-gestational mothers and stimulate their milk supply: it is called the Newman-Goldfarb protocol. You can read more here https://www.laleche.org.uk/relactation-induced-lactation/ and here http://www.asklenore.info/breastfeeding/induced_lactation/protocols4print.shtml.
You can also give human milk or formula supplements using an at-breast supplementer. Your healthcare provider can help you look at your options, and your local LLL Leader can offer support with your breast or chestfeeding goals and journey.
Many parents worry about whether their baby is ‘getting enough’. LLL meetings are a good place to get support from others. These LLL posts are great for checking signs your baby is feeding effectively:
Using a nursing supplementer
If your baby needs a supplement of expressed milk or formula you might want to consider using a nursing supplementer. Doing this can give your baby that extra milk while they are nursing.
Supplementers can help parents have an at-breast or at-chest relationship with their baby whether or not they are able to produce milk.
This post has lots of useful information about nursing supplementers: https://www.laleche.org.uk/nursing-supplementers/.
Some transgender and non-binary parents use milk banks to acquire human milk for their babies. La Leche League fully supports the use of human milk for babies; we cannot facilitate or set up milk sharing networks, though your local LLL Leader can help you with contact information for non-profit human milk banks, other regulated collection centres, and formal/medically supervised or informal milk sharing networks.3 Human milk banks provide pasteurised, screened donor milk.
There are documented benefits and risks to informal milk sharing. Benefits of human milk include, but are not limited to:
- optimal nutrition
- easy digestibility
- immunological protection
Risks of sharing milk can include, but are not limited to:
- transmission of certain infectious agents, like bacteria or viruses, some of which may be found in milk expressed by asymptomatic people
- medicines and other drugs
- environmental contaminants as a result of unhygienic storage and handling of unprocessed donated milk
All parents need support and La Leche League is a great place to find it. There are over 70 LLL groups across Great Britain, most offer meetings open to all – contact your local group to find out how they can support you. Many groups also have closed Facebook groups where you can ask questions and connect with other nursing parents.
LLL meetings are held in a wide range of venues – LLLGB is not affiliated to, and does not endorse or support, any business, organisation or religion whose premises we use. https://www.laleche.org.uk/find-lll-support-group/?fref=gc
LLLGB also offers these services:
National Helpline: 0345 120 2918 https://www.laleche.org.uk/telephone-helpline/
Online Helpform support: https://www.laleche.org.uk/submit-help-request/
Contact us for non judgmental information and support.
Find more LLLGB support listed here:
International Facebook group for ‘birthing and breast or chestfeeding trans people and allies’: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TransReproductiveSupport/?fref=gc&hc_location=ufi
LGBT Parents – UK based group: http://lesbiangayparents.ning.com/
Where’s the Mother? Stories from a Transgender Dad. Trevor MacDonald: Trans Canada Press, 2016
Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery. Diana West: LLLI, 2001:
My Journey: Non-binary Nursing – from LLLUS
Trans breastfeeding FAQ:
US based website Kellymom’s post:
Transmasculine individuals’ experiences with lactation, chestfeeding, and gender identity: a qualitative study:
Transgender/transsexual/genderfluid Tip Sheet – General Information, LLL Canada
Breastfeeding without giving birth, LLLI article by Aylssa Schnell
We are aware that transgender and non-binary individuals use a variety of different terms to describe their anatomy and the acts of feeding and nurturing their babies. We have used the terms “chestfeeding” and “nursing”, with the second of these capturing the nurturing relationship associated with this way of feeding a baby.
Elsewhere on the site we use ‘breastfeeding’, ‘breastmilk’ and ‘mother’: they reflect the founding and unchanged mission of LLLI to provide mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding. They also reflect the stated identity and valued role of the majority of people whom we support and provide information to – those who identify as breastfeeding mothers.
Whatever language you use we hope that much of the information we share is still helpful and relevant.
Written by LLLGB’s Publications and Social Media Teams
1 La Leche League International Bylaws, Section 1: General Purpose