Non-post-pregnant breastfeeding?

This is going to sound very strange but it stems from a conversation I was having today with my sister-in-law.

Is it possible for a non-post-partum woman to produce breastmilk?

What I mean is, say a woman has children but the youngest is several years old. Is it possible, through hormone therapy to cause her to lactate again–even though it has been several years since her last gestation?

I know that throughout history, wet nurses were often used. However, all the info I can find indicates that they were women who began supplying milk for another infant without a break (or with a short break) between the infant and her own child’s nursing. (And believe me, after typing “wet nurse” into a couple of search engines, I got more info on unrelated topics than I needed!)

I know that in recent years medical science has made some amazing advances with hormone therapies for different reasons and basically, I was just wondering if anyone had developed a way for this to occur. Not that I imagine there is much call for it (in fact, the Le Leche League officially discourages both wet nurses and shared nursing) but now I’m curious!

I saw a program on this on one of the health channels. A woman was adopting an infant and what she did was wear a special nipple that allowed her to feed formula to her baby while it suckled at her breast. Eventually with that kind of stimulation she produced her own milk.

A friend of mine also started lactating when her friend was pregnant. She attributed it to the large amounts of time they spent together and joked that she was ‘sympathy lactating.’

I tried googling but I just haven’t hit on the right term yet I guess grrr

Yes, it’s possible. You can use an SNS or a lactaid to stimulate lactation and there’s a drug which also helps. I’m blanking on the name of it. Some women don’t even need the drug – which IIRC is a nasal spray.

Some adoptive parents will initiate bf’ing even if they have not previously breastfed. It’s very rare for a woman who has not gone through pregnancy and previous breastfeeding to be able to produce much milk but it’s possible to get some happening.

There should be info on the LLL site – I’m not sure if the Lactnet archives are open to non-subscribers but there’s definitely info there.

I’m not game to google either – I’ve been googling kids and bowel surgery and I’m ooged out enough for one day :frowning:

I know–I tried the search engines for this one and I haven’t found what I need.

I hadn’t thought about the adoptive parent thing. I imagine some of them would want to breastfeed.

Basically, the question arose out of this discussion: if a woman has a baby and she is unable to breastfeed for whatever reason, could her best friend who has a toddler (who has not breastfed for a year or two–or longer) possibly be stimulated to produce milk and pump for her friend’s baby?

Additionally, if both women were willing, how would they go about doing this? Do they just walk into their physician’s office and request lactation-stimulating drugs?

I imagine it would only be in a situation such as this (close friends/family) that the need for such measures would arise. Apparently, there are not a lot of commercial milk banks in operation in the country.

I would imagine the woman would start pumping for a few minutes every couple of hours to stimulate production and would spend some extra time with the baby in question. Once she started producing milk the time would be increased as she works up her supply. I don’t know anything about what drugs they would ask for and am certainly not a doctor but if the woman is going to be induced to lactate suction and the baby as stimulus are probably the two most efficient means.

It’s generally easier and more likely to be successful for a woman who has been pregnant or given birth to re-lactate than a woman who has not been pregnant. Relactating or induced lactation isn’t easy but it can certainly be done.

Oxytocin can be used to stimulate the supply and there are also drugs (Reglan is one, but not AFAIK available in the US) and herbal supplements that can be taken to increase milk supply.

Pumping alone isn’t always going to be enough to fully sustain a milk supply adequate to fully nourish a baby, but it can certainly supplement them. has some useful info.

Tygre put the two magic words together–I’ve always heard it called “induced lactation.”

I know that Reglan is available in the U.S. but I’m not sure if it is routinely prescribed to stimulate lactation. I remember when my daughter was taking Reglan, the doctor mentioned something about it’s ability to hwlp mothers with production problems.

Yep, that’s the magic phrase!

Thanks, tygre! (and cranky for pointing it out!)

This doesn’t exactly address the OP, but it’s slightly relevant to the question:

Several years ago I lived in a house with a mama cat (4 kittens) and a female dog that had been fixed and never had puppies.

The dog thought that she was caretaker and carried the kittens (in her mouth, gently) to snuggle by the fireplace constantly.

When mama cat finally weaned her kittens, they nursed on the DOG until they were a year old. Grown cats, nursing on a whippet. Oh, the humanity. Teeth and everything. From this empirical evidence, I’d say that the stimulation is the key. Nursing babies will induce milk in a receptive or sympathetic mother.