B.C. MLA Jennifer Rice and her wife share breastfeeding duties thanks to induced lactation
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice used lactation technique to breastfeed son, Lua
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice and her wife, Andrea Wilmot, are both breastfeeding and bonding with their infant child thanks to induced lactation — a process in which a woman primes herself for breastfeeding, even if she has not been pregnant or carried a baby to term.
"I'm really fortunate and happy that I've had this opportunity, because he is just so awesome," said Rice of her son, Lua Alan Rice.
For same-sex couples like Wilmot and Rice, induced lactation provides an opportunity for both parents to bond with their children in a way that might otherwise be difficult.
"Being able to breastfeed that baby is quite a powerful way of building a connection with the baby," said Teresa Pitman, a lactation consultant with the La Leche League and author of several books on breastfeeding. "And feeling like, hey, my body does something good here and I can give the baby some milk, which is so valuable for them.'"
Pitman has helped women induce lactation for more than 30 years. She said the practice is used by female same-sex couples who are adopting, as well as transgender men who have medically transitioned.
When Rice and Wilmot decided to have a baby together, they agreed Wilmot would be the one to carry and deliver their son. While it is a decision they were both happy with, it left Rice wondering what role she would fill as a maternal caregiver for Lua.
"I was really emotional at one point, where I was like, 'I don't really know where I fit or who I am,'" said Rice. "I'm not the mom, but I'm definitely not the dad."
Took birth control pills
After consulting with her doctor, Rice began the process that would allow her to breastfeed. About three months before Lua's due date, she began to take birth control pills, which raise progesterone and simulate pregnancy by disrupting ovulation.
Shortly before Lua was born, Rice stopped taking birth control, tricking her body into thinking it was no longer pregnant. She began taking herbs to encourage lactation and also took domperidone, an anti-nausea drug that, as a side effect, enhances lactation.
This process primed Rice's body to produce milk, and in the weeks leading up to Lua's birth, Rice began to pump breast milk every three hours.
The only time she took a break was in the middle of the night.
"I took longer breaks because it was just really hard to wake myself up at three o'clock in the morning to put some cold plastic cups on my breasts and pump," she said with a laugh.
All the hard work paid off.
On Dec. 7, Wilmot delivered Lua at a healthy seven pounds and two ounces. After letting him spend some time on Andrea's chest, doctors passed Lua to Rice for the two to bond. He immediately started to nurse.
"He was minutes old and he had latched onto her," Wilmot said. "That's a really special moment that they had, and I got to observe it and it was really. really beautiful."
Wilmot said it was relaxing for her to see Lua bond with his other mother. For Rice, the moment was an affirmation of herself as a mother, something she admitted to struggling with while Wilmot was pregnant.
"When I'm breastfeeding my child in public, there will be no question that I am his mother," Rice said. "There's something about the identity of it ... and no one will ever question that I am the mom."