Breastfeeding Experiences of Same-Sex Mothers

Nina A Juntereal
Diane L. Spatz, Helen M. Shearer Professor of Nutrition, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing; Center for Pediatric Nursing Research & Evidence-Based Practice, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.


BACKGROUND: Family structures are diversifying in the United States, and more same-sex female couples are building families. For two-mother families, complexity exists for breastfeeding as more than one mother can provide human milk. The purpose of this study was to explore the lactation experience and level of lactation support of birth mothers in a same-sex (two female) relationship.

METHODS: This study consists of a mixed methods design using an online survey to identify the demographic of same-sex mothers and qualitative interviews to provide an in-depth understanding of the mothers' experiences. Qualitative content analysis is applied to develop themes from the interviews.

RESULTS: Sixty-eight participants completed the online survey. Thirty-seven mothers (59%) reported breastfeeding for more than one year. Fourteen (21%) respondents reported accessing induced lactation information for the nongestational parent from their health care practitioner. Forty-three (63%) respondents reported receiving breastfeeding and induced lactation information from other sources. Only nine (13%) nongestational parents underwent induced lactation. Eighteen gestational mothers participated in qualitative interviews. Five themes emerged from the qualitative data: (a) committed to a year, (b) deciding "how to do it," (c) sources of information, (d) involvement of partner, and (e) need for inclusive and educated health care practitioners.

CONCLUSIONS: Same-sex mothers have strong intentions to breastfeed and are resourceful in educating themselves for induced lactation and conursing. Nongestational parents are essential support partners and equivalent in motherhood. Providers need to better equip themselves and incorporate inclusive language in breastfeeding policy statements to support lactation outcomes.