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For the First Time, a Transgender Woman Breastfed Her Baby

The first case of a transgender woman being able to breastfeed was documented recently, after the 30-year-old underwent a hormonal regimen to stimulate lactation. The woman approached doctors at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City because her 5-months’ pregnant partner did not want to breastfeed their child after birth, and she hoped to do so.

While anecdotal reports of transgender women breastfeeding can be found online, this is the first case documented under doctors’ guidance. (There are also documented cases of transgender men becoming pregnant and breastfeeding.) Her case was published in the journal Transgender Health.

In the report, doctors noted that, while the woman was being treated for a panic disorder and insomnia, she “was otherwise known to be in good general health and reported no complaints.”

The woman had been taking hormone therapy since 2011, but had undergone no gender reassignment surgery, including breast enhancement. Under the doctors’ care, she followed a course of treatment used to induce lactation in cisgender women who have not been pregnant or given birth, taking increasing doses of the female hormones progesterone and estradiol, as well as domperidone, which prompts milk production, and stimulating her chest with a breast milk pump.

At the end of the three-and-a-half month regimen, she was able to produce 227 grams of breast milk each day, enabling her to exclusively breastfeed her baby for six weeks, beyond which point she supplemented her baby’s diet with formula. A pediatrician tracked the child’s development, and attested to its health, as 227 grams is less than the 500 grams of breast milk per day the average baby consumes by 5 days old.

As significant a development as this is, some in the medical community are unfazed.

“When I treat transgender women, we see good breast development,”Joshua Safer, of Boston Medical Center, who was not involved in the treatment, told New Scientist. There’s no reason why the cells in these breasts wouldn’t make milk the same way that those of non-transgender women do, he said, although he notes that it is unclear to what extent the drugs and hormones helped. “For all we know, breast stimulation alone might be sufficient.”

Doctors note the woman’s breast milk would need to be analyzed in comparison to the breast milk of someone who has been pregnant and given birth before such a lactation-inducing treatment can become a standard prescription, but that this is the first step toward that day.

“This is very special,” Safer said. “It will be very important for the many transgender women who want to breastfeed but do not feel they have the opportunity to do so.”

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