Trans

A Dad Shares His Family's Experience With Donor Milk

Birdie just turned 18 months old. She only gets milk at night time now, before bed while we snuggle on the couch in her room and talk about her day. She loves her milk and as soon as we start to pick out pajamas and books, she starts to ask (again and again and again) for her "milk-milk."


To commemorate her turning 18 months (I am overly sentimental), instead of giving her the combo of goat's milk and almond milk that she had been getting for the last few weeks, I thawed the very last bag of breast milk from the freezer for her night time bottle. While neither myself or my partner can lactate, we were able to feed Birdie donated breast milk for her first year and a half of life.

While Josh and I knew the health benefits of feeding breast milk to infants, we did not set out to feed Birdie human milk. As two dads who are unable to produce milk ourselves, we assumed our only real option was to give her formula. (For the record, I have absolutely nothing against anyone who has to or chooses to feed their baby formula for any reason.) But shortly after Birdie was born we learned that she was none too pleased about formula. She didn't drink much of it, she spit up half of what she did drink, and it made her gassy and irritable.

We had a small, frozen stash of breast milk donated to us by a friend of a friend that we had planned on giving her sporadically in addition to formula. But after Birdie's first bottle of breast milk, she was hooked. We saw the difference in how easily her body digested the human milk; she wasn't gassy or spitting up and she was eating and sleeping well. So we committed to trying to find more donor milk for her first few months of life, at least until her digestive system caught up and we could give formula a try again.

We were successful and for Birdie's first three months we were able to feed her donated breast milk exclusively. In the months that followed, she grew bigger and her appetite did too. We didn't have enough breast milk to keep up with her demands for more milk so we reintroduced formula and she ate a combination of formula and donor milk.

As Birdie reached the year mark we had stopped actively seeking out donors, as we were able to feed her other kinds of milk and a variety of healthy foods to meet her nutritional needs. We also felt like there were smaller, newer babies in the world who needed donor milk more than our strong and healthy toddler. But one of our repeat donors offered to continue donating to us as long as she was pumping milk for her own son (and additionally she was also donating milk to babies in the NICU). With the generosity of strangers and friends, what started as a hope that we could kick start our baby's first couple of months with the powerful nutrients and antibodies through donor milk lasted a year and a half.

Before Birdie, I didn't know much about milk sharing. I knew that hospitals had milk banks for preemies, I knew that throughout history and in other cultures nursing someone else's baby was not uncommon, and I had friends who had fed their adopted sons donor milk, but my knowledge pretty much ended there.

I didn't know that through milk sharing we would add to our already abundant community of people who want to support and help care for our family. We reached out to our friends who were new moms and they reached out to their lactation and breastfeeding support circles on our behalf. We connected with a group on Facebook called "Human Milk 4 Human Babies," shared our family story, and connected with nursing moms who had more milk than they needed and were willing to share. I don't know how many individuals donated milk to us, but I know we are grateful for every ounce of milk we received. Most donations were a one time deal, someone had pumped more milk than they would ever use, or a baby developed an allergy to dairy and couldn't drink their mother's already pumped and frozen milk. Some of milk came from repeat donors, moms who pumped milk specifically for us, those donors we got to know, met for coffee, Birdie got to have playdates with their babies. Every bag of milk was a donation, no money exchanged hands. These moms - some of whom we had never met before - did this for us out of sheer kindness.

As part of my medical transition, long before I ever knew carrying Birdie would even be a possibility, I had top surgery. For me, that meant an elective double mastectomy and chest reconstruction which resulted in a flat, masculine chest. I do not have any regrets about the decision to have top surgery because of how it not only improved my quality of life immensely, but also because I cannot imagine having been pregnant as a transgender man and also have a chest swollen with milk. (Others have done it, and I commend them for it.)

Just after Birdie was born, when the post-partum hormones really began to kick in, I started dreaming about nursing Birdie. Though the milk had nowhere to go, a small amount came in after she was born and when she would cry or lay skin to skin on my chest it would ache and swell and she would root for it. It absolutely broke my heart. My body wanted to feed her and it couldn't, she wanted human milk and I couldn't give it to her. After caring for her and nourishing her with my body for nine months, I felt terrible for not being able to give her what she needed.

But the truth is there is no way to know if I hadn't had surgery that we would have been able to have a successful nursing relationship. Plenty of cisgender women in my life had children they were not able to feed because their milk supply didn't come in, or it dried up and never came back, or it was too hard, or their baby had allergies.

I know that good parents feed their babies formula, good parents nurse their babies, good parents do a combo of both, good parents use donor milk; we all do what we can do to make sure our children are nourished.

No matter how much I wished I could have, I couldn't nurse Birdie. But I still could give her what she needed by connecting with milk donors, by driving sometimes more than an hour away to pick up milk, by rearranging our freezer countless time to make room for more milk, by counting ounces and thawing the right amount for her daily bottles so none would go to waste, by getting up bleary-eyed in the middle of the night to measure and warm milk in a bottle to give to our daughter. I held my new baby in my arms, snuggled her close and whispered to her as we stared into each others eyes and her belly filled up with the precious gift of donor milk.

Show Comments ()
TOP - Trans Dads

Becoming Papa

For as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be a parent. As soon as I could talk I asked for baby dolls, and then later, I asked for a baby brother. I got both. By age 5 I had the full-fledged “baby fever" that some women approaching their thirties feel. I had a special doll, Jessica, that came everywhere with me. I dressed her in my old baby clothes, I wore her in a carrier I bought at a yard sale, I took her on adventures in the woods and sat her in the basket of my bike. I remember pretending to nurse her as I had seen my mother and aunts do with their babies. I treated her like she was a real baby, like she was my baby, she was my practice for someday when I would get to have a real baby of my own. Even though I was born and raised female, I don't recall being strongly connected to the idea of pregnancy and birth, I just knew I wanted babies and imagined that someday I would probably adopt children. I wanted to start a family young and have a house full of kids.

Keep reading... Show less

The Trans Dad

Keep reading... Show less
TOP - Trans Dads

Real Men Give Birth

In this first article for Gays With Kids on transgender fatherhood, journalist E.J. Graff investigates the experiences of two transdads who each carried and delivered their own child.
Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

Breaking with Older Generations,  Most LGBTQ Millenials Say They Want Kids

According to new research by the Family Equality Council, the number of LGBTQ parents is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years

According to the LGBTQ Family Building Survey, recently released by the Family Equality Council, the majority of young LGBTQ say they are interested in becoming parent. This marks a dramatic shift when compared with the attitudes of older generations.

Among the survey's findings:

  • 63% of LGBTQ Millennials (aged 18-35) are considering expanding their families, either becoming parents for the first time, or by having more children
  • 48% of LGBTQ Millennials are actively planning to grow their families, compared to 55% of non-LGBTQ Millennials, a gap that has narrowed significantly in comparison to older generations
  • 63% of LGBTQ people planning families expect to use assisted reproductive technology, foster care, or adoption to become parents, a significant shift away from older generations of LGBTQ parents for whom the majority of children were conceived through intercourse.

Despite the expected increase in LGBTQ parents, most providers, they note, "do not typically receive training about the unique needs of the LGBTQ community; forms and computer systems are not developed with LGBTQ families in mind; insurance policies are rarely created to meet the needs of LGBTQ family building; and discrimination against LGBTQ prospective parents by agencies and providers remains widespread."

The Family Equality Council goes on to recommend that family building providers "from reproductive endocrinologists and obstetricians to neonatal social workers, family law practitioners, and child welfare workers" begin preparing now to welcome future LGBTQ parents.

Read the full report here.

Change the World

Gay Dads More 'Equitable' in Parenting Roles Than Straight Dads, Says New Study

Unmoored by gender roles, gay dads take equal parts in being "playmates, caregivers, protectors, role models, morality guides,

A new study conducted by Éric Feugé from the Université du Québec à Montréal observed 46 families, made up of 92 gay dads and their 46 children over a period of seven years.

The study, which Feugé says is the first of its kind, analyzed the roles gay dads take in raising their kids and found the way they parent is 'very equitable'.

'We learned that gay fathers' sharing of tasks is very equitable,' the researcher told the Montreal Gazette, who added there was a "high degree of engagement" by both gay dads in all types of parental roles. "What's really interesting is that they don't conform to roles of conventional fathers. They were able to redefine and propose new models of cultural notions of paternity and masculinity."

Unmoored by gender roles, gay dads take equal parts in being "playmates, caregivers, protectors, role models, morality guides,' the author said.

Read the full review of the research here.

Change the World

Don't F*ck With This F*g

After a homophobic encounter on the subway, BJ questions what the right response is, in an era of increasing vocal rightwing activists

On February 1, 2019, Frank and I went out on a date night, something we haven't done in a while. Our son was sleeping over at his grandparents for the night and we made plans with our friends to meet them for dinner downtown. We decided to save some money and take the subway into town instead of taking a taxi.

We boarded the subway and sat down opposite a couple, a man and woman. I noticed they looked at us as we boarded the train and began whispering to each other. Frank and I were talking to each other when I heard the man uttering under his breath, "F*$%ing faggots."

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

14 Gay Dad Families Show Their Love This Valentine's Day

These pics of gay dads smooching will warm the hearts of even the biggest V-Day skeptics

You might quietly (or loudly) oppose the commercialism and celebration of Valentine's Day, but let's just take a moment and rejoice in these beautiful signs of affection, shared between 14 awesome two-dad families. Cynicism gone? Good.

Happy Valentine's Day, dads! We hope you have a lovely day with your kids, your significant other, and / or friends. Because who doesn't love love!?!

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

FOLLOW OUR FAMILIES

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse