British lesbian partners, Heidi and Maryellen Olson have explained how they both breastfeed their newborn baby in an interview with MailOnline.
Dubbed ‘co-nursing’, the little-known practice requires Maryellen, who didn’t give birth, to induce lactation and take a natural drug to boost breast milk.
According to the new parents, it has changed everything.
‘It is so worth it for the closeness I feel with Sequoia, and also for the sanity-saving it provides both of us,’ graduate student Maryellen, 25, told MailOnline from the family’s home in Santa Cruz, California.
‘We both feel pretty amazed.
‘It’s amazing to see what our bodies can do, and we felt lucky to have this additional bonding experience available for both of us.’
The couple, who married in 2012, discovered the treatment – more common among adoptive families – in a group for lesbians trying to conceive and immediately agreed to pursue it.
Maryellen followed a program named the Newman-Goldfarb protocol, which made her body simulate pregnancy.
Starting four months before the birth, she took birth control pills and a breastmilk-enhancing drug called Domperidone.
The drug does not yet have FDA approval but is prevalent in Europe, some US states, and Canada, where Heidi and Maryellen eventually bought their dosage.
Maryellen stopped the birth control pills six weeks before Heidi’s due date, to make her body believe she had given birth, and started ‘pumping’ up to six times a day. The pump is designed to make a woman’s body produce more milk.
She will continue with Domperidone and herbal tablets called ‘More Milk Special Blend’ until Sequioa is no longer breastfeeding.
‘Our friends are fascinated by the fact that my wife and I both breastfeed our daughter,’ Heidi, a 26-year-old nurse, said.
‘We get a lot of: “Wow, that’s amazing!” and “I didn’t know that was possible!”‘
It came after a long battle to conceive.
Heidi endured a year-long battle with endometriosis and ovarian cysts that threatened to affect her fertility.
In spring this year, she was finally able to undergo an intrauterine insemination (IUI) to implant a donor’s sperm in her uterus.
‘It was a heart wrenching time and very hard on us both,’ Heidi said. ‘Every cycle and negative test was harder than the last, and the doctors were less and less hopeful.
‘Our positive pregnancy test came just in the nick of time, and we were so glad.’
Now, four weeks after their home birth, photographed by Santa Cruz Birth Photography, Heidi, Maryellen and Sequoia are easing into their unconventional routine.
For Sequoia, it means she doesn’t have to wait around – even though she is sometimes stubborn (‘she really makes us work for it!’).
‘We don’t really have a set schedule or rotation,’ Maryellen said. ‘Whoever is near the baby or holding her will feed her, and the other will try to pump then or shortly after.’
‘We are able to sleep in longer chunks due to this, since it’s not all on one mama to have to feed her and stay awake. We switch whenever the awake mama feels like she needs help or sleep.’
But the crucial benefit is their connection.
Maryellen said: ‘For me, I am able to feel even closer to her.
‘I am absolutely in love with her and feel incredibly connected to her ever since she was in utero, but since she’s been out of the womb and I’m breastfeeding, I feel even more connected.
‘I know other non-carrying lesbian mothers who feel like they are not as close to their child as the mom who carried the baby, and I know that breastfeeding has helped me feel incredibly bonded to her.
‘When she is breastfeeding and falls asleep on me or lays her hand on me, I feel an overwhelming amount of love for her that I wouldn’t have were I not breastfeeding.’