I have over the years had enquiries from several lesbian couples who were planning to attempt to conceive both at the same time to have children. One reason given was that they both wanted a close physical bond with a child. While most people who have had twins will say that the first three years are extremely hard, that is one choice for two women in a relationship to experience a close physical mother-child relationship.
Another way, which I had not thought of until I came across Breastfeeding Without Birthing by Alyssa Schnell, is for the co-mother (the mother who did not birth the child) in a same-sex female couple to co-nurse, whether or not she has a (full) milk supply.
I talked about Alyssa’s work in another blog post about intended mothers who have children through surrogacy and breastfeed them. In episode 15 of Breastfeeding Outside the Box podcasts, Alyssa talks to Rachel Gazda and Talana Keister about their experience of co-nursing their daughter as co-mothers. I love the options this creates for parenting, not least because I have in my practice come across a number of same-sex female couples where for medical reasons they choose for the younger partner to carry the children but the older was then the one who stopped gainful employment or went part time to care for the children.
I was not aware that women could breastfeed without giving birth until I came across Alyssa Schnell’s book Breastfeeding Without Birthing. The book is available in the UK on Amazon. Alyssa describes how any woman can try to induce lactation (through breastfeeding, manual stimulation, pumping and/or herbs and medication) and breastfeed a baby. Not every woman will produce the full amount of milk a baby needs, but Alyssa encourages breastfeeding for the benefit of nursing and the bond it creates irrespective of the milk supply produced. She gives tips and instructions how to supplement the breast milk supply. The book is full of practical tips and instructions. Alyssa is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) working in St Louis, Missouri, USA. She induced lactation when she adopted her daughter after earlier having given birth to her elder children.
This book is now accompanied by a series of podcasts Breastfeeding Outside the Box where Alyssa Schnell and Hope Lien talk about the experiences of different parents who breastfeed their children other than in the obvious conventional way, including those who have breastfed without birthing. Hope is a lactation counsellor, also in the US, and between them they are putting together a series of interesting episodes.
What is interesting for the work I do is that women who adopt a child or have a child through surrogacy can in fact breastfeed their child if they choose to do so. Not only is this a way to provide the baby with breast milk, which the WHO recommends as the healthier way to feed a child (as opposed to processed formula), but it can also deepen the physical bond between intended mother and child. In episode 13 of the podcasts Hope talks to an intended mother who breastfeeds her child through surrogacy.
The book and the podcasts also deal with relactation or inducing lactation to nurse an older baby, so it is not too late to think about nursing even if you did not think about this before the birth. Find the Breastfeeding Outside the Box podcasts on your podcast app, download them and listen to them when you drive or in the gym or on the tube. I highly recommend them!