Breastfeeding dad: 'There is more to breastfeeding than just the milk.'

Father of two, Trevor MacDonald, gave birth and chestfed his own children, and has written a book about the experience.

“Breastfeeding is a relationship, and for me it is a whole way of parenting. I was able to produce some milk (maybe about a quarter of what my baby needed), and I used donated breast milk for the rest.”

The 31-year-old author said he didn’t plan on having children, until he became a man.

“Having kids became possible for me after I transitioned. As a result of my transition, I was much more comfortable with myself and happy as a person, and I then had the desire and space in my heart to want to guide a child,” said MacDonald.

His new book, Where’s the Mother: Stories from a Transgender Dad, tells the his story about fatherhood from a transmasculine perspective.

Although MacDonald had chest surgery as part of his transition, he was still able to breastfeed his children.

Trevor MacDonald with his family. Image supplied.

"I assumed early in my first pregnancy that we would bottle-feed our baby with formula. However, a close friend and La Leche League Leader loaned me a copy of Diana West’s book, 'Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Reduction Surgery'.

"Reduction surgery is not identical to male chest contouring surgery, but there are some similarities. Reading the book helped me realise that it might still be possible for me to make some milk, but that even if I didn’t, there is more to breastfeeding than just the milk, " he said.


The father found many "incredibly generous parents" who helped by donating breastmilk to top up his supply.

"We are still friends with many of them today – it was really a special experience to find that kind of support in our community," said MacDonald.

The international breastfeeding peer support group, La Leche League, were "extremely helpful" says MacDonald.

"Without them, I’m sure I would not have been able to have a nursing relationship with my kids."

Like many, the Canadian found breastfeeding a challenge.

"I used an at-chest supplementer to feed my baby at my chest. It was challenging to learn to use this device at first, although many parents who have low milk supply for any reason use one of these."

He also faced other "typical challenges" like having trouble feeding when his baby felt unwell.

MacDonald has led an online community that supports transgender individuals with birthing and feeding.

The cover of Trevor MacDonald's book. Image supplied.

He says some trans men experience chest changes during pregnancy even if they have previously had chest surgery. They can experience engorgement and mastitis regardless of the feeding method they choose.


"Some trans men experience no problems at all with chestfeeding and find it to be straightforward and satisfying," he said.

The Canadian's two children, now five-years-old and 19-months-old, were home birthed and are being raised with MacDonald and his "fantastic" husband.

"I am open about being transgender with my children. I think my older child understands quite well," he says.

"We feel that we have great support in our local community. We go to our local playgroup and library and have always been welcomed warmly in those spaces," he said.

However, MacDonald has suffered from online trolls.

"I am amazed at what people will write anonymously."

Along with writing books, running an online support community, public speaking and raising his own family, MacDonald has also recently led a study on transmasculine experiences with chestfeeding.

The researchers found that infant feeding choices were not discussed with transmasculine patients prior to surgery.  Surgeons had a "binary view of gender", and pregnancy and chestfeeding did not fit with their surgeons’ ideas of what a “true” transgender man would want to do.
"The 'born in the wrong body' or 'trapped in the wrong body' narrative is a simplistic depiction of transgender people that is commonly found in media stories.  Proponents of this narrative give the impression that transgender people want to change all aspects of themselves to conform absolutely to the opposite traditional gender role and physical sex from what they were assigned at birth, an assumption that would logically exclude transmasculine bodies from the realm of pregnancy and lactation," the study states.
 For MacDonald, chestfeeding is not a particularly gendered as an experience.
 "It's about feeding the baby," he says.

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