A nursing mother holds her son in front of the Delta airlines counter during a protest at Fort Lauderdale airport, Florida November 21, 2006.
A nursing mother holds her son in front of the Delta airlines counter during a protest at Fort Lauderdale airport, Florida November 21, 2006. Reuters/Carlos Barria

A transgender woman might be the first to successfully breastfeed her adopted newborn child following months of hormone therapy. A case study by a medical team from Mount Sinai in New York City, US, reports on the details of an experimental therapy.

The 30-year-old transgender woman sought help from doctors so she could breastfeed her child. She explained that her partner was pregnant but had no plans to breastfeed. She hoped she could take on the role as the primary food source for their child.

She started a feminising hormone regimen in 2011 and had been taking spironolactone 50 mg po bid, estradiol 2 mg po bid and micronized progesterone 100 mg po bid at the time of her first visit to mimic the hormone stage of pregnancy. She had not undergone gender reassignment surgeries, according to the case report published in the Transgender Health journal.

The mother underwent a three-and-a-half month of treatment using hormones and a breast pump to stimulate breast production. Her first follow-up visit was after a month. She was told to increase her medication intake, including domperidone, which she obtained from Canada. She was able to express droplets of milk. By about three months in, she was able to produce about 8 ounces of milk per day.

Her baby was born three and a half months after the start of her treatment at 6 lbs and 13 oz. She was able to exclusively breastfeed her child for six weeks. And during that time, the baby’s paediatrician reported that the child’s growth, feeding and bowel habits were developmentally appropriate.

The woman, concerned that her breastmilk volume was not enough, supplemented her child’s food with four to eight oz of Similac brand formula. At the time that the study was published, the baby was approaching six months old. The mother continues to breastfeed as a supplement to formula feeding. She also continues to adhere to the medication regiment prescribed to her.

The technique was developed by Tamar Reisman and Zil Goldstein at Mount Sinai. They believe that the case was the first formally reported in medical literature of induced lactation in a transgender woman. The regimen is similar to the one used for mothers who cannot produce breastmilk on their own, with the addition of spironolactone while breastfeeding for androgen blockade.

“This is a very big deal,” Joshua Safer of Boston Medical Center told New Scientist. Safer is not involved in the treatment. “Many transgender women are looking to have as many of the experiences of non-transgender women as they can, so I can see this will be extremely popular.”

The woman’s breastmilk has not been assessed yet. Madeline Deutcsh from the University of California said that it is still unknown if the induced breastmilk from the transgender mother carries the positive long-term impact on the baby.