What is induced lactation, which allows breastfeeding without having given birth?

Do you necessarily need to have carried your baby to be able to breastfeed it? The answer is no. There is a protocol for setting up “induced lactation”. Explanations.

At the microphone of the podcast dedicated to motherhood, Bliss Story, in episode 130, Pauline recounted the birth of her second child, carried by her companion. The episode is entitled “One carries, the other breastfeeds”, because if Pauline did not carry their little girl, she nevertheless breastfed her. Because yes, it is quite possible to stimulate the production of breast milk without having gone through a pregnancy. This is called induced lactation.

As Clémentine Galey, the author of the podcast, reminds us on her website, women who breastfeed other women’s babies are not new! But the protocol for setting up this induced lactation was only formulated in 1999, thanks to Dr. Newman, who had carried out a study with 250 women.

How does lactation work?

It can be interesting to understand how milk production works to understand how lactation can be induced. The Leche League website (which offers lactation consultants) explains it: when a woman is pregnant, the body produces more and more progesterone, estrogen, and prolactin, to prepare for the arrival of milk. Once the pregnancy is over, these hormones are rebalanced: the first two drop drastically, the last climbs.

Dr. Newman’s protocol aims to reproduce these variations. Then occurs a mechanical process: when the breast is drawn to obtain milk, a signal is sent to the brain to produce new milk (it is a hormone, oxytocin which allows this). It is specified that it is not necessary to still have a reproductive system to achieve this.

How can we go about it?

Doctor Newman’s method, detailed in a guide posted online by Lenore Goldfarb, who practiced it, involves a long preparation before the arrival of the child. There are various protocols, depending on whether you are postmenopausal, whether you want to do it quickly, or the classic method which lasts about 6 months, detailed here. Whatever, before following this method, it is essential to see a doctor and warn him about taking these drugs.

A contraceptive pill must be prescribed, to provide both estrogen and progesterone, to be taken continuously for 22 to 24 weeks, before stopping suddenly (between 6 and 8 weeks before the baby is born), to reproduce the fall of these two hormones, described above.

Throughout the protocol (until birth, or even after) is prescribed domperidone*, which is an anti-emetic (against nausea), but which has the side effect of stimulating the production of prolactin. The dosage is precise and should be gradual, consult a doctor, midwife or lactation consultant to find out.

Once the pill has been stopped (but not before, because the breasts will not be ready), expression begins, ie stimulation of the breast to express milk. This can be done manually, or with a breast pump. During the two weeks following discontinuation of the contraceptive, the protocol recommends expressing milk for 5 to 7 minutes (in the lower or middle position of the breast pump), massage your breasts, then start again for 5 to 7 minutes. And this every three hours. On the sidelines, it is essential to stay well hydrated, by drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.

This normally prepares the body to produce milk, which should normally appear before the baby is born if the deadlines are met. At birth, it is advisable to put it as soon as possible to the breast, to continue to stimulate lactation.

Why induce lactation?

Several scenarios can cause her milk to rise. For people who adopt a baby, for example, or if a surrogate mother is used. As in the case of Pauline, if one is a couple of the same gender and the other wishes to breastfeed.

*Domperidone is contraindicated especially in cases of hepatic insufficiency, cardiac pathologies… Always ask your doctor for advice. Find out more on the site of theMedicines Agency.

Sources: Bliss, Parental Support, La Leche League

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