Transgender men are now volunteering as lactation coaches for an international nonprofit that promotes breastfeeding.
The non-profit La Leche provides information about breastfeeding and support for mothers in more than 85 countries. In 2014, it changed its policy to allow transgender men to work as breastfeeding counselors. “As the cultural understanding of gender has expanded, it is now recognized that some men are able to breastfeed,” the group said in a statement.
Since then, several have joined the group’s volunteer ranks, the National Catholic Register reports. One of its first initiates was Trevor MacDonald, a gay transgender man who was initially turned away by La Leche League Canada. “Since an LLLC leader is a mother who breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLLC leader,” the group initially told him.
But La Leche’s changed policy allowed him to volunteer, and MacDonald describes the group as welcoming. “In fact, I believe I have felt more criticism around nursing an ‘older’ child in public than for nursing as a man,” wrote MacDonald, adding that “older” means a two- or three-year-old.
Now, MacDonald is among the most prominent spokespeople for transgender people who breastfeed.
But in addition to La Leche and MacDonald, other activists and groups are also increasingly showing interest in this niche field of parenting. Sweet Pea Breastfeeding, an online resource run by two birth and breastfeeding experts, focuses especially on supporting “exceptional families—families who historically have not received the help and support they need and deserve,” including transgender parents.
In its Breastfeeding Outside the Box podcast, Sweet Pea Breastfeeding highlighted how complicated such issues can become, profiling a trans man who gave birth to a child, raising the baby with his female partner, who had struggled to get pregnant.
“Amy did not expect infertility or having any difficulty making enough milk when inducing lactation for the baby Chris carried,” the podcast said, chronicling some of their struggles. “Chris did not expect to feel the need to pump for the first baby or the desire to nurse either baby.”
Sweet Pea Breastfeeding also offers classes for breastfeeding parents, regardless of gender. But including transgender men who breastfeed in such training events can be a controversial idea—sometimes even in the trans community.
In a recent Huffington Post article about “the troubling erasure of trans parents who breastfeed,” one transgender man said he accepts that “part of having my gender recognized is to be excluded from women-only spaces” like nursing classes.