How I became a damp nurse

by Valerie White.

When Judy decided she wanted to try to have a baby with Ken, and all three of us agreed we would co-parent, I wanted to feel really close to the child-to-be. Of course, at that stage, I did not know that it would turn out that the progeny would be genetically related to me. I had read that it is possible for adoptive mothers to nurse, and so when I learned the twins were on the way I determined to try to re-induce lactation.

Judy wanted to breast-feed the twins, but she had some concerns. Pre-pregnancy, her nipples were extraordinarily and unpleasantly sensitive, and she was afraid she wouldn't be able to tolerate suckling. My intention in attempting relactation was to give the twins some breast milk if Judy didn't succeed in nursing them and to supplement her feeding them if she did succeed.

In the early 1970s, I breast-fed both of my babies - one for seven months and the other for a year and a half. For years after I weaned the younger one, I had a small amount of milk in my breasts.

My investigation on the Web led me to a lot of information about induced lactation. Dr. Jack Newman and Lenore Goldfarb's induced lactation protocols were most helpful. Both of these fine people communicated with me by email and sent me protocols.

There are four protocols for inducing lactation: standard, "accelerated", to use if you don't have time to complete the standard one because the baby you intend to feed is due, "relactation", and menopausal. All call for taking progesterone-containing birth control pills, to trick the breasts into thinking you are pregnant, and domperidone, an anti-nausea drug widely used in Europe and Canada but not available in the United States which has a side effect of induction of prolactin, the milk-production hormone. After a set number of days, depending on the protocol, you stop taking the birth control pills and begin pumping with an electric breast pump. Because I had breastfed before, I thought the relactation protocol was the one to use, and so I took a BCP called Necon for 30 days and the domperidone for two weeks. I added extra progesterone, in the form of Prometrium, towards the end. The recommended BCP is a higher-progesterone one not available in the US.

I ordered the domperidone (Motillium) from two different websites, PharmaGroup and Drugstore-online. Drugstore-online was able to take a credit-card number, not securely. PharmaGroup used PayPal the first time I ordered from them, but not the second. I had to send a US Postal Money Order to Gibraltar, of all places, and the drugs themselves were mailed, evidently by different private individuals, from Germany. The Drugstore-online order came from Thailand. They arrived in about two weeks. It used to be possible to order the BCP and Motillium from Canadian pharmacies, but there is a new rule requiring the prescribing physician to be licensed in Canada.

I got the BCP prescription from my usual OB/GYN. She was intrigued by the idea of the protocol, which I gave her a copy of, and also wrote me a prescription, which I couldn't fill, for domperidone. It is, by the way, not illegal to order these drugs abroad. They are not "controlled substances". I HAD a prescription but you wouldn't be breaking the law even if you didn't.

When I started to pump, using a Medela Pump in Style electric breast pump for 15 minutes every three hours, I began getting drops of a golden liquid, presumably akin to colostrum, within a day or so. Eventually, the liquid turned cloudy, and then white. By ten days, I was still only getting drops, and my nipples were very sore. I later learned that I had been using the high-suction and high-speed settings on the pump unnecessarily. You can start with low suction and high frequency and then shift to higher suction and lower frequency later in the session. I emailed Lenore Goldfarb, concerned that I wasn't getting store-able quantities, and she responded with commendable promptness. It seems I should have been on the menopause protocol, which is longer and does a better job of preparing breasts which have been without female hormones for a while.

By the time the babies were born, I was getting a little more. Within a week after they came home, I had essentially stopped pumping, because I was suckling them for comfort so often. I am not able to "spell" Judy so that she doesn't have to do a night feeding, for instance, but I can comfort them and they do get some milk. Nursing them makes me feel bonded to them. I can easily express milk, even make a small spray, by squeezing my nipples, so seemingly I am more than just a flesh-and-blood pacifier.

In any case, Judy has succeeded awesomely. Except when Jocelyn spent the night under the bilirubin lights in the hospital, and got a little formula, both babies have reached their current weights of over 9 pounds (Jocelyn) and over 10 pounds (Perry) on NOTHING but Judy's breast milk and a little of mine. Mother Nature took care of the hypersensitivity.

It was Judy who coined the phrase "damp nurse" . . . and I am proud and happy to be one.

As time passed, it turned out my right breast was not producing very much. The babies strongly preferred my left one. I gave up on the right one but continued to nurse the babies on the left. It was very useful in getting them down for naps when Judy was at work, or for calming them while Judy got ready to nurse. I made two two-overnight trips during this period and took an Avent Isis hand breast pump with me. Wanting not to interfere with my ability to nurse, I pumped morning and night while I was away, getting about an ounce each time from my left breast and just drops from the right.

I continued to take domperidone until the babies were about 10 months old--and then I ran out and decided not to order any more. By this time the babies were happily drinking water from sippy cups and we were planning to start cow's milk at one year. I went off the domperidone slowly, but evidently the lack of it made a big difference in supply. I noticed neither baby was enthusiastic about nursing on me once I stopped it, and when I tried to express milk I didn't get much. One day, at about 10 and a half months, when I tried to interest Perry in nursing, he latched on but immediately bit me. I took him off and that was the last time I nursed either of them. I did not have any engorgement so I think I was all done making milk.

My conclusion about this adventure is that it was definitely worth while. Generally, I did not find the protocol unpleasant, although pumping every three hours in the beginning was a nuisance and did give me cracked nipples at first (which perhaps could have been avoided if I had used a lower suction setting). I never noticed any adverse effects on my health . And it was wonderful to have the experience of nursing again. It was especially wonderful to have this bond with Perry and Jocelyn.

It should be noted that despite the fact that Ken and Judy and I all spent many, many hours caring for the babies, and I also nursed them, the babies developed their strongest attachment to Judy, and still object to her leaving much more than to either of the others. Guess you could say, they know on which side their bread is buttered!

Picture of Valerie feeding Jocelyn and Perry

Story of Judy feeding Jocelyn and Perry

Jocelyn and Perry home page