When two transgender men recently broke their silence and spoke publicly about how they had coped as “breastfeeding parents” it spiked an interest in just what it takes to be a lactating man.
The two, Trevor McDonald from Canada and Evan Hempel from Massachusetts in the US challenged stereotypes of parenting and of breastfeeding when they became part of a public discourse on transgender parents.
Chestfeeding – as its become known – is when a trans man—someone who was assigned female at birth but has transitioned to male gives birth and lactates to feed his baby.
Canadian father Trevor MacDonald has chestfed two babies.
He wrote about it in his book Where’s the Mother: Stories from a Transgender Dad, although MacDonald had chest surgery as part of his transition, he was still able to breastfeed his children.
He said that he faced the same problems many do during breastfeeding – of low supply and trouble feeding when his baby felt unwell, but with the help of many "incredibly generous parents" who helped by donating breastmilk to top up his supply he managed to successfully breastfeed both children.
McDonald explained in his book that 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.
“My brother Evan was born female. He came out as transgender 16 years ago but never stopped wanting to have a baby. This spring he gave birth to his first child,” Hempel writes.
She shared an amazing photograph of Evan feeding his newborn son. He told his sister that chestfeeding was a gamble.
“I didn’t know how I’d feel, but it turns out I just feel like it’s really cool that my body can do this.”
Since the stories of these two remarkable parents became public, interest in chestfeeding is growing.
Cosmopolitan spoke to Dr. Scott Mosser, a cosmetic surgeon in San Francisco, whose work primarily focuses on chest and body contouring surgery. He explained that chestfeeding accommodates those who undergo a transgender mastectomy or an FTM top surgery.