Breastfeeding provides many health and emotional benefits for the mother and the baby. Induced lactation allows mothers to breastfeed their children, even if they didn’t give birth to them.
What is induced lactation? Induced lactation is the production of breast milk without getting pregnant or giving birth. This process usually involves hormone therapy, herbal supplements, and manual breast stimulation to stimulate milk supply. It’s best to induce lactation under the supervision of a medical professional.
Explore more about induced lactation, including what treatment will work best for you and signs that it’s working.
Can a Woman Produce Milk Without Being Pregnant?
Yes, a woman can produce milk without being pregnant. You can induce lactation by taking hormone therapy months before you need to start breastfeeding and then pump your breasts with an electric breast pump.
Lactation is encouraged through a combination of lactogen, estrogen, and progesterone.
Since your body produces milk when your baby needs it, you’ll need to mimic breastfeeding through pumping and hand expression to show your body you need it to make milk.
Speak to your health care provider about the best options for you, your family, and the baby you hope to feed through breast milk.
Why Would a Woman Want To Lactate Without Being Pregnant?
A woman may want to lactate without being pregnant if she’s adopting or having a baby through surrogacy. A family member may also wish to lactate to help ease some of the responsibility off the mother so she can get rest throughout the day.
Consider some of the reasons why women lactate without being pregnant:
- She’s becoming a mother through surrogacy.
- She weaned too early and would like to begin lactating again.
- She’s transgender or in a same-sex relationship and isn’t the partner giving birth.
- Her baby isn’t doing well on formula.
- She’s adopting a baby.
- Her baby is sick, and she wants to give her baby breast milk for the immune protective benefits.
- She wants to give breast milk to a friend or family member needing milk.
- She’s a family member (such as an aunt or grandmother) and wants to breastfeed to help feed the baby.
What Triggers Lactation?
Lactation is triggered by the interaction of prolactin, estrogen, and progesterone during pregnancy, usually beginning at about 16 weeks. Induced lactation mimics this interaction through hormone therapy.
When a woman is pregnant, her body begins making prolactin, which encourages milk production. The high levels of estrogen and progesterone suppress prolactin until the placenta is delivered at birth.
Then, after the baby is born, suckling stimulates the production of prolactin and oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the mother’s muscles to push milk out of the alveoli and into the milk ducts. The body continues to make milk based on a supply-and-demand system.
How To Induce Lactation
You can induce lactation through the use of hormone therapy and herbal supplements, followed by regular pumping of your breasts.
Work with a lactation consultant along with your healthcare provider for a safe, efficient preparation for breastfeeding.
Induced Lactation Pills
Using induced lactation pills is most effective when you have months before you need to breastfeed your baby.
Lactation usually begins through a series of hormones that interact during pregnancy. Lactation pills seek to mimic what a pregnant woman experiences by triggering the same production of hormones in non-pregnant women.
You’d start hormone therapy for several months. Then, you’d stop the treatment several weeks before your baby is due and begin pumping.
What Medication Induces Lactation?
Although the FDA hasn’t approved any lactation-induction drugs in the United States, some doctors prescribe domperidone (Motilium) to increase supply. This drug regulates nausea, vomiting, and other GI issues, but it’s also useful for significantly improving prolactin levels.
Consult your healthcare provider before using domperidone to stimulate milk production.
Induced Lactation Without Hormones
If you’d prefer not to use hormone therapy to induce lactation, ask your healthcare provider which natural supplements they recommend to encourage milk production and increase supply.
These herbal products can help your body produce milk:
- Goat’s rue
Induced Lactation Manual Stimulation
After hormone therapy, your body will produce milk through manual stimulation. Medical professionals recommend using a hospital-grade electric breast milk pump to encourage your body to make milk.
This product is the most powerful and effective type of breast pump and will stimulate your breasts enough to increase your supply.
Start by pumping every four hours for about 10 minutes on each side. Then, pump as often as you plan to breastfeed, usually about every 2-3 hours around the clock.
How To Stimulate Your Breasts To Produce Milk
If you plan on pumping to begin producing milk, you’ll want to start about two months before your little one arrives.
Stick to a routine so your body produces milk more regularly. Begin your pumping session by gently massaging your breasts for a few minutes.
Then, use a hospital-grade electric breast pump for an additional 10 minutes. As you feel more comfortable with pumping, you can increase your pumping time to 20 minutes every 2-3 hours.
How Long Does It Take To Induce Lactation When Not Pregnant?
It takes about 6-8 weeks to induce lactation when not pregnant if you’re working with a professional lactation consultant or your healthcare provider.
You can use hormone therapy to help develop glandular breast tissue before your body makes milk.
The most important step is breast stimulation through massage and pumping. You’ll start to notice a change in your breasts after a month of pumping regularly.
Signs Induced Lactation Is Working
Look for the following signs that induced lactation is working:
- Your breasts grow and feel full.
- Your bra is tighter than usual (women typically gain at least a cup size).
- Your body produces milk.
- When your baby arrives, they’re satisfied with the milk you produce.
You’ll have more success with induced lactation if you work with a certified lactation consultant and your healthcare provider. By collaborating with a professional, you’ll be able to bring up any issues that arise and fix them accordingly.
Induced Lactation Timeline
If you go through the process of induced lactation, you can expect to follow this timeline or something similar:
- Start induction hormone pills: While this step is optional, you may want to take a combination of birth control pills, herbal supplements, and medication to grow the granular breast tissue necessary for milk production. This process usually takes about 4-5 months.
- Stop hormones and begin pumping: Ending hormone therapy about six months before the due date mimics what the body experiences during birth. The drop in estrogen and progesterone will encourage the production of prolactin. During this time, it’s important to pump with an electric breast pump as often as you’d breastfeed. You may also want to take herbal supplements to help boost your supply.
- Continue breastfeeding for as long as you want: The process of induced lactation lasts after your baby is born. In the beginning of your baby’s life, it’s best to establish an on-demand feeding schedule, focusing on when your baby appears hungry and feeding them accordingly. Your body will continue to make milk until you wean your baby when they no longer need it.
Induced Lactation Side Effects
Even though induced lactation provides health benefits for you and your baby, it comes with several side effects.
If you choose hormone therapy and medication to induce lactation, you may experience side effects from these products, such as headaches, dry mouth, and abdominal cramps.
Discuss your medical history with your healthcare provider so they can provide the best treatment for you while you begin induced lactation.
What To Avoid When Inducing Lactation
When inducing lactation, you’ll want to avoid the following:
- Products that stimulate weight loss.
- Exercise that could lead to dehydration and decrease milk supply.
- Carbonated beverages.
- Food or drinks with caffeine.
- Food or drinks with alcohol.
- Consuming too much Vitamin C and Vitamin B-complex.
- Any food, candy, or gum with a peppermint or spearmint flavor.
- Sage, which is typically found in wild rice mix, sausage, and other foods.
What Foods Help Produce Breast Milk?
These foods are galactagogues, and they help produce breast milk:
- Whole grains
- Sesame seeds
- Dark, leafy greens
- Blessed thistle
- Alcohol-free beers
- Nuts and seeds
- Brewer’s yeast
Can a Woman Produce Milk Forever?
Yes, a woman can produce milk forever. Females gain this ability at puberty when their bodies create glands that can make milk.
Pregnancy stimulates the production of milk in women at around 16-20 weeks, and the body continues to make milk after nipple stimulation or milk extraction no longer occurs.
After the body stops producing milk, the glands that can make milk stay dormant, but they never lose their ability to work again whenever needed. In some cultures, grandmothers breastfeed their grandchildren to help the mother feed her baby.
Can a Man Produce Breast Milk?
Yes, it’s possible for a man to produce breast milk, but it’s unlikely that they’re able to breastfeed. Men have the pituitary glands, nipples, and mammary glands necessary to breastfeed, but they can’t produce the prolactin that creates milk without hormone therapy.
If a man produces milk, it’s usually from a hormone abnormality. Men would have to attempt to undergo hormone therapy to produce milk.
Induced Lactation for Partner
Some women want to induce lactation to create a special emotional bond with their partner.
If you’ve never been pregnant before and want to induce lactation, you may need to go through hormone therapy to encourage milk production. Instead of pumping, you can have your partner stimulate your breasts.
Women who breastfeed their partners experience ease and comfort in the relationship. Breastfeeding their partners can also help establish a healthy breastmilk supply for their babies.
Thanks to hormone therapy and natural supplements, women can breastfeed their babies even when they were not pregnant.
If you want to begin the process of induced lactation to feed your adopted or surrogate baby, reach out to your healthcare provider for the best advice for your unique lifestyle and medical history.
Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.