Is lactation without pregnancy possible or is it just a myth? Throughout the history of mankind, there have always been babies who were breastfed by women who replaced their mothers. They were at the breast of another woman due to the death or illness of their biological mother and also in the case if she transferred completely or shared with someone guardianship over the child. Sometimes a woman replaces a mother who already breastfed her biological child, and then the amount of milk simply increased in proportion to the increased demand to meet the need for the growth of two (or more) babies.
Anthropological reports from several continents describe attempts by women to artificially induce lactation without pregnancy simply by attaching the baby to the breast. Mortality among orphaned or abandoned babies was very high. Stimulated lactation developed as a social response to the problem. The situation became much better with the appearance of formula feeding.
How Is Lactation Stimulated?
The first thing you need to know is that prolactin and oxytocin (the hormones that cause lactation) are formed in the pituitary gland. It means that these hormones do not have a direct relation to the state of the reproductive system. Consequently, even after experiencing the removal of the uterus, a woman can stimulate lactation if her health allows it.
Estrogen, in the form of contraceptives or substitution therapy, suppresses lactation. Prolactin is responsible for the production of milk. Oxytocin is responsible for the flow of milk. Both prolactin and oxytocin form in response to stimulation of the nipples. And although there are different schemes for the use of hormone therapy, many women stimulate lactation precisely by mechanical means. This involves breast massage, nipple stimulation, and sucking – which the baby or a good breast pump does. Some foster mothers use a breast pump while waiting for the baby. Others just put the baby to the breast.
Hormonal therapy for the stimulation of lactation mainly lies in the appointment of estrogen to simulate pregnancy when its level is very high. Then it is rapidly removed from the body to simulate a sharp change in the hormonal pattern after childbirth. This is followed by a course of increasing the level of prolactin. This is made with the help of special drugs. Only after that, there begins the mechanical stimulation. Use a breast pump or apply the child to the breast.
When does Milk Appear?
Milk usually comes in 1-4 weeks after the onset of mechanical stimulation. One study on drug-induced lactation describes the inflow of milk after 5-13 days. These times are comparable to those indicated in the reports on mechanical stimulation. At first, the mother can only see a few drops of milk. While lactation is still in its infancy, women can notice changes in the color of nipples and areola. The breasts may become more sensitive. A feeling of fullness may appear. Some women note the increased need for drinking fluids and changes in the menstrual cycle and libido.
Is Such Milk Suitable for the Normal Growth and Development of the Baby?
The study conducted in New Guinea concerned 24 infants nurtured by stimulated lactation. It has proved that they all received a full meal. Another research performed by Kleinman and others studied the chemical composition of milk of non-biological mothers. The average concentration of proteins in the milk of non-biological mothers was identical to the “immature” milk of women who’ve recently given birth. The difference was in the concentration of albumin, IgA, and lactalbumin in milk which is produced within a few days after delivery. The level of these substances is higher in the colostrum of biological mothers.
Stimulation by sucking is not enough to produce colostrum. It involves the influence of hormones that accompany pregnancy and childbirth. In other words, the milk of non-biological mothers, bypassing the stage of the colostrum, is more reminiscent of the composition of ordinary breast milk. Kleinman’s research didn’t study the concentration of fats, carbohydrates, and trace elements.
If you have never been pregnant but become a mother and want to breastfeed you can try to artificially induce lactation. For many women, this is an attractive opportunity not only to feed with their own milk but also to go through the unique relationship that happens between the mother and her baby during the breastfeeding process. The new research data encourage the nulliparous mothers that they can produce milk, partially and (sometimes) in full amount.
To begin with, it is important to analyze your health, especially if you could not get pregnant. Perhaps you have some hormonal problems that can affect lactation. This is often true for women with polycystic ovaries when the glandular tissue of the breast is underdeveloped. If you suffer from thyroid disorders it’s likely that you were easy get pregnant and bear but the disease can affect the ability to produce milk. It is very important to treat the diseases affecting lactation in advance.
According to psychologists, breastfeeding helps to establish a special psychological connection between the mother and the child. This is very important. But what should foster moms who take care of newborns do? Today there are numerous methods of artificial stimulation of lactation for them. Many of these methods can give an excellent effect.
How to Induce Lactation Without Pregnancy?
Physiologically, i.e. naturally, milk production (lactation) is controlled by a whole complex of interactions between three hormones – estradiol, progesterone, and prolactin, especially in the last months of pregnancy. After delivery, a sharp drop in progesterone and estradiol levels with a high prolactin level leads to the appearance of lactation. The act of sucking and emptying the breast stimulates the production of milk.
It is possible to cause lactation without pregnancy (artificially) and even in post-menopause. But this is a long process. It usually requires several months of preparation. First, special hormone therapy and the appointment of estrogen and progesterone are prescribed. It is made in order to cause a so-called false pregnancy. This therapy can last six or more months.
Approximately two months before the time when a woman plans to begin breastfeeding, hormone therapy is canceled. The main work during this period is the expression of milk and breast development. Every day a woman needs to pump milk with the help of a breast pump according to the schedule. It stimulates milk production. In the first two weeks, a woman should pump out from 5 to 10 minutes every three to four hours, including the night period. It imitates a newborn in the first months after childbirth.
Further practice with the milk pump increases to 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours until the baby begins to apply to the breast. It is often recommended that the milk should be expressed regularly after feeding in the first weeks of applying the baby to the breast for better stimulation of milk production. If the child is gaining weight correctly you can give up on these additional measures of stimulating lactation.
Lactation Without Pregnancy: How to Produce Milk Artificially?
The approach to lactation without pregnancy will depend on whether your baby is already born or you have time before the baby’s birth. The age of the child also plays a huge role in the process.
If there is no time for preparation there are other modes of lactation without pregnancy but they are of low efficacy and require additional artificial or natural feeding for the baby. Such as the milk of female donors, for example. In many countries, there is a network system of breast milk banks.
The Stimulation of The Breast
The main principle of milk production is to start breastfeeding or pumping milk at least eight to twelve times a day. The more you stimulate the breast, the more milk will appear. If the baby is not with you yet, begin to express milk with your hands or a breast pump.
At first, there will be no milk at all but it does not matter. For now, just let your body know that you need milk for your baby. If you are breastfeeding with the supplementary system the milk will eventually appear in the breast. The baby will suck the milk along with the supplement. During a feeding with the supplementary system, you can express the second breast for more intense stimulation. The first milk will be similar to the ripe milk of a woman giving birth, not colostrum. As soon as you feel that there is more milk, try to feed from time to time without the supplementary system so that the baby more effectively stimulates the breast.
Lactation Without Pregnancy: Stimulation With Hormones
To increase the amount of milk, a lot of women additionally take a combination of hormones simulating pregnancy and childbirth and then milk products. The success of this method largely depends on how much time you have before the appearance of the baby. But even if there is very little time this method gives more milk than if you rely only on feeding and pumping.
The hormonal method of increasing the amount of milk at first suppresses lactation. So, it is not suitable for women who have already breastfed the baby.
Be sure to consult with your doctor before you start taking medicine because hormones are contraindicated in some women. During the reception of hormones, you can have the usual symptoms of pregnancy – nausea, weight gain, etc. And, eventually, the breast will become more sensitive and increase in size, preparing for feeding the baby.
Recent studies have shown that most women can cause lactation without pregnancy. And what’s really important, their children develop normally. Most women who caused lactation without a pregnancy, including foster children, do not regret it and would advise that other mothers breastfeed.
Drugs associated with hormonal therapy that causes lactation may have side effects:
- Energy reduction
- Problems with sleep
Keep in mind that with artificial lactation, you will not have any colostrum. If you adopt a baby right after birth, ask the mother to express the colostrum for the baby.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.