Parents

B.C. MLA Jennifer Rice Says Co-Breastfeeding 'Makes Me Feel More Like A Mom'

And she wants more non-gestational partners to know it's an option.
B.C. MLA Jennifer Rice with her wife, Andrea Wilmot, and their son Lua.
B.C. MLA Jennifer Rice with her wife, Andrea Wilmot, and their son Lua.

Jennifer Rice, the B.C. NDP MLA for North Coast, made headlines this week for sharing a deeply personal story: she co-breastfeeds her infant son, Lua, along with her wife Andrea Wilmot.

Co-breastfeeding between lesbian couples is not uncommon, and allows both parents to share the responsibility and experience. For Rice, who did not carry the pregnancy or give birth to Lua, co-breastfeeding was made possible through an induced lactation protocol that included birth control pills, herbs, domperidone, and, in the weeks leading up to his birth, pumping every three hours.

Now, Rice wants more people to know that induced lactation is possible, so other non-gestational partners can have the same bonding experience she now cherishes.

“I realize not every couple would choose this but they need to know it’s even possible in the first place to make that decision,” Rice told HuffPost Canada in an email interview.

WATCH: How same-sex couples can share breastfeeding. Story continues below.

“There is more to breastfeeding than the amount of breastmilk a person can make. There’s an invaluable opportunity for getting to know one another, intimacy and bonding,” Rice added.

Rice’s story not only helps to raise awareness of induced lactation, but it also helps normalize breastfeeding in general — especially as a woman in a position of public power.

We asked her to describe her experience in her own words. Here’s what she had to say.

Why was it important for you to be able to breastfeed your son?

When I envisioned being a parent, breastfeeding my baby felt like a normal and natural thing to do but with Andrea being the one to carry our child, I initially didn’t feel compelled to breastfeed because in my mind that role would naturally fall to her as the gestational mom.

Later on, I felt like I was missing out. I am a mom too and should be able to breastfeed him. I felt a bit selfish but I didn’t want to miss out on the maternal bond that comes with breastfeeding.

How does it feel now that you also have this bonding opportunity?

I love it. It makes me feel more like a mom. It brings me closer to my baby. Initially I feared that I would not be able to bond with Lua if I did not breastfeed him. After meeting him, I see that I didn’t need to breastfeed him to feel in love with him, but I do see it as an added bonus and I’m glad I made the effort to induce lactation.

Jennifer Rice says she didn't need to breastfeed Lua to bond with him, but it is an added bonus.
Jennifer Rice says she didn't need to breastfeed Lua to bond with him, but it is an added bonus.

Why did you want this story shared?

We wanted others to know that this is possible. Many people with whom we share our co-nursing story with are surprised that induced lactation is even possible. (Many moms have expressed that they wished their partners could have shared in this responsibility while they were breastfeeding.)

We also wanted family physicians and primary health care providers to be informed of this option so that they could be ready to help non-gestational parents induce lactation if they wanted. It would be even better if it was proactively offered. I realize not every couple would choose this but they need to know it’s even possible in the first place to make that decision.

I stumbled upon the protocol on the internet but it was a friend who was a surrogate mother that carried for someone who induced lactation that really made me see the possibilities and encouraged me to talk to my doctor. She gave me the push to seek out help because I lacked confidence to do so initially.

What advice do you have for other non-gestational partners seeking to breastfeed?

My advice is to invest in a quality double breast pump and to start the induction process as early as possible. If starting early on is not possible, just do it anyway. I started without a lot of lead time but was able to still make milk. Any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for you and your baby in my opinion. If two people are breastfeeding, the baby gets double the antibodies and other added health benefits, too.

There is more to breastfeeding than the amount of breastmilk a person can make. There’s an invaluable opportunity for getting to know one another, intimacy, and bonding. There’s nothing sweeter than when my baby is suckling and his little hands flail around and scratch at my breast. These are moments I cherish.

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