Colostrum production has never been observed in males

The Daily Mail is surprisingly restrained on the subject of male breast milk.

[A]n NHS Trust says drug-induced milk from transgender women who were born male is as good for babies as a mother’s breast milk. A leaked letter from the medical director of University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, published this week, describes both as ‘human milk’ and says that they are the ‘ideal food for infants’. The letter was sent on behalf of the Trust’s chief executive in response to a campaign group’s complaint about gender policies.

So what’s the truth? Can a biological male really breastfeed a baby by producing milk from their nipples? The complex answer is yes and no. By using a regimen known as the Newman-Goldfarb protocol, originally developed in 2000 for adoptive mothers, the body can be tricked into lactating even if it’s male.

It works by mimicking the hormonal changes that take place naturally in the body of a woman who has just given birth, and involves several weeks of regularly using a pump to stimulate the breast, taking a combination of contraceptive hormones and the anti-nausea drug domperidone, which increases levels of the milk-producing hormone prolactin.

But if that sounds simple, it really isn’t. For a start, domperidone is banned in the US over concerns it causes heart problems. The NHS sometimes offers it to breastfeeding women who are struggling with low milk supply, as long as neither mother nor baby has any heart issues, and with clear instructions to report any changes in the baby’s behaviour. It should be used, says guidance, only ‘for a short time’.

That’s a lot of stipulations. Sometimes; struggling; as long as; clear instructions; only for a short time. That would at the very least indicate that doing it for the sake of a man’s vanity project or worse is beneath contempt.

What’s more, it’s not at all clear what else is in a trans woman’s ‘milk’. Since trans women are likely to be taking other prescription drugs as part of their transition, such as anti-androgens to lower their production of testosterone, and oestrogen and progesterone to help them create a less ‘masculine’ appearance, critics say the milk is potentially unsafe for a newborn, or at the very least should be rigorously tested.

Feminists mutter darkly about yet more double standards from the medical establishment — women, after all, are told to avoid aspirin while breastfeeding and to abstain even from the odd glass of wine because no one knows how much gets through to the milk.

But when a man wants to experiment it’s all hey live your best life bro.

Some scientists seem positive. A paper in The Journal of Human Lactation earlier this year stated that: ‘For transgender women . . . on oestrogen-based, gender-affirming hormone therapy, the ability to nourish their infants through production of their own milk may be a profoundly gender-affirming experience.’

What many experts say in private, however, seems utterly uncontroversial to most of us — that female breast milk is a miraculous biological substance with properties the male equivalent can’t replicate.

Breast milk, after all, is a ‘live’ substance, which adapts to a baby’s needs with remarkable precision. Many of us will know about colostrum, the ‘liquid gold’ that is produced in the earliest days of breastfeeding. It’s packed with antibodies, antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients in much higher quantities than in breast milk. Colostrum production has never been observed in males.

Blah blah blah. You’d think it was all about the babies.

It’s not always easy for new mothers to breastfeed, of course. Yet help from the NHS and independent organisations is already stretched thin, and many professionals tell me they are baffled and infuriated by resources being spent on promoting the idea of males trying to lactate when so many women are struggling to find adequate support. The pro-breastfeeding group La Leche League, for example, devotes lengthy space on its website to the issue.

‘About 85 per cent of mothers start breastfeeding in the UK, but that drops by about 50 per cent in the first six weeks, with as many as nine out of ten saying they didn’t want to stop but couldn’t find the help,’ one woman, who did not want to be named but who is involved in breastfeeding education, told me.

Kvetch kvetch kvetch. How are the men doing?

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