US health officials were criticized today for advocating that trans women can breastfeed — without highlighting the health risks to the baby.
Several information pages on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website appear to endorse ‘chestfeeding’ — a term used to describe feeding an infant milk directly from the breast by trans and non-binary parents.
One section, titled ‘Health Equity Considerations’, claims ‘an individual does not need to have given birth to breastfeed or chestfeed
Another section in a Q&A about breast surgery, titled ‘Can transgender parents who have had breast surgery breastfeed or chestfeed their infants?’, says families may need help with ‘medication to induce lactation.’
But doctors told DailyMail.com the CDC has a ‘responsibility’ to disclose the lack of research and potential risks. One of the medications used to produce milk in biological men has been linked to heart problems in babies. They claimed the agency was blurring lines between ‘politics and science’.
The CDC did not respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com.
Biological men who transition to women can produce breastmilk by taking several hormone drugs that mimic the changes a woman’s body undergoes during the late stages of pregnancy and shortly after the birth of a child.
But one of the drugs used can pass into breast milk in small amounts and can sometimes give babies an irregular heartbeat as a result.
The FDA has warned against one of them; domperidone — an anti-nausea drug that ups levels of prolactin, the hormone which encourages milk production.
The agency said: ‘Because of the possibility of serious adverse effects, FDA recommends that breastfeeding women not use domperidone to increase milk production.’
Dr Jane Orient, executive director of the conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, told DailyMail.com that ‘we have no idea what the long-term effects on the child will be’ if a breastfeeding trans woman uses ‘all kinds of off-label hormones.’
She said: ‘A lot of people are pushing for off-label use of a drug… it’s become so politicized that you can do all kinds of things for a politically approved purpose.’
Off-label means using a drug for a different purpose than the one it has been approved for. Some medications required to induce lactation in trans women are not approved for boosting milk production in America.
Dr Orient added: ‘The CDC has a responsibility to talk about the health risks, but they have been derelict in doing that.’
One page containing the guidance is located on the CDC’s ‘Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E) Toolkit’, which was last reviewed in September 2022.
It makes it clear that ‘an individual does not need to have given birth to breastfeed or chestfeed’ and that some families may prefer the term ‘bodyfeeding’.
The other page is located as part of its advice on breastfeeding and special circumstances, and was updated in April 2023.
One section titled ‘Can transgender parents who have had breast surgery breastfeed or chestfeed their infants?’, says families may need help with ‘medication to induce lactation’
Another section under ‘Health Equity Considerations’ claims, ‘an individual does not need to have given birth to breastfeed or chestfeed’
It offers tips for helping mothers who have had breast surgery, such as a breast augmentation or a mastectomy.
It notes five things transgender parents may need help with, including ‘maximizing milk production, supplementing with pasteurized donor human milk or formula, medication to induce lactation or avoiding medications that inhibit lactation.’
It also mentions ‘suppressing lactation (for those choosing not to breastfeed or chestfeed)’ and ‘finding appropriate lactation management support, peer support, and/or emotional support’.
The CDC page added that ‘healthcare providers working with these families should be familiar with medical, emotional, and social aspects of gender transitions to provide optimal family-centered care and meet the nutritional needs of the infant.’