Lesbian Couple Co-Breastfeeds Their Daughter — And Their Story May Be More Common Than You Think
For most people who stand by as their pregnant partners grow a baby inside of them, it's an insanely cool thing to watch — from seeing that first sonogram to feeling those first belly kicks. But no matter how connected a couple may be, there's no getting around it: the whole experience for the non-pregnant partner is second-hand. Unless of course you're Eliza Spears and Kelly Arciaga, who found a way to skirt at least some of that after the birth of their fourth child, Teegan. In 2012, the lesbian couple decided to co-breastfeed their daughter and now say it's one of the best decisions they've ever made. But as unconventional a move as that might sound at first, it may be more common than you think.
Kelly and Eliza, whose story was shared on the Philly Voice over the weekend, were officially married back in 2011 — on 11-11-11, at 11:11 a.m., to be exact. Their marriage instantly created a brand new family for Eliza's three children from previous relationships, but it wasn't long before the couple started itching to add to their brood. So two years later, Kelly became pregnant through artificial insemination with their now-3-year-old daughter, Teegan. The pregnancy was a blessing the couple couldn't wait for, but it was during Kelly's pregnancy that Eliza started to feel... well, a little disconnected. And that probably came as no big surprise — after all, Eliza had carried all three of her other children herself, and this time around was unavoidably different. It "brought up a lot of foreign emotions" in her, Eliza reflected; emotions she just couldn't shake.
So the soon-to-be mom of four got to Googling, and did a lot of research. It wasn't long before that led her to a wealth of articles on lactation-inducing, which, yes, is actually a real thing. According to Breastfeeding USA, lactation-inducing makes it possible to breastfeed if you've never been pregnant or have even reached menopause, through a combo of breast stimulation, supplements, and/or hormones. So yeaH, if you needed further proof that the female body is effing amazing, there you go. (Though as wild as that sounds, science has proven that men can also induce lactation.)
For two months leading up to Teegan's birth, Eliza prepared as her research indicated: She took natural herbs like Fenugreek, guzzled Mother's Milk tea, and once the milk started flowing, she pumped often to keep it going. But while she found tons of info about how to induce lactation, there wasn't much on the actual experience of co-breastfeeding. Namely, what it would be like for two women — let alone one couple — to breastfeed the same child; not to mention how that logistically would all work. Plus, "we didn't know anyone who had ever co-nursed," Eliza told the Voice. "We were on our own."
In reality, though, Kelly and Eliza weren't alone. Even though stories of other co-breastfeeding couples may be hard to come by, they are out there. Here are two other couples who've also shared their experiences.
Heidi & Mary
Last year, the story of two Santa Cruz, California moms Heidi and Mary* also made the rounds, though it came nearly two years after the Arciaga-Spears' had done their research. In their case, having two people to take over feedings definitely came in handy — though that wasn't the initial reason they co-breastfed; that was just a bonus. "I wanted to experience that closeness with my daughter, l especially since I didn't give birth," Mary told Yahoo Parenting at the time. "It didn’t occur to us that we could also help each other out when we’re exhausted."
It also meant they didn't necessarily have to establish a set nursing schedule right away. "It's more, 'I'm doing dishes and she’s about to wake up — can you nurse her?'" Mary added. "Women have told us that they wouldn't dream of sharing the breastfeeding experience, but we don't have any jealousy issues. Everyone wins here."
It's true — the sheer convenience of it all is pretty hard to ignore. Being able to co-breastfeed and split the feeding schedule in those crazy first months with a newborn makes life a whole lot easier. And splitting the schedule when one partner needs to return to work? Genius. Kelly and Eliza learned this first-hand too when Kelly returned to work full-time, and Eliza decided to stay home with Teegan. The two moms alternated feedings, with Kelly coming home to breastfeed Teegan on her lunch break, and Eliza keeping up the rest of the day shift. And that, as you can imagine, was pretty much the best schedule a new mom could ask for. "Going back to work is difficult for any mother, whether you are co-nursing or not," Kelly told the Voice. "If anything, I felt better knowing Eliza could stay home."
"I will always be grateful," Kelly told the Voice of those early days of breastfeeding. "There was never a blip of jealousy," she added.
Dorea & Angela Vierling-Claassen
Co-breastfeeding — just like breastfeeding in general — isn't always blissful, though. Cambridge, Massachusetts moms Dorea and Angela Vierling-Claassen, also co-breastfed their son successfully, but as they told Today in 2012, they're happy those days are long behind them. "It was very successful, and very hard," said, Angela, who added that popping 25 pills a day just to produce enough milk got stressful pretty fast. Still, the couple has no regrets. "I'm completely thrilled that we did it, and I felt very good about the way that all three of us navigated it," Angela told Today. "And I was completely thrilled to be done with it."
And it wasn't just stressful on one mom, either. "In a two-mom family," added Dorea, "we were [always] trying to make sure that we protected my full supply. Anytime Angela nursed, I needed to pump. And every time I nursed, she needed to pump." Needless to say, it didn't take long for the whole experience to get pretty draining.
For Kelly and Eliza, though, the result of their shared experience created a bond unlike anything they ever expected. "I would watch her nurse and it was beautiful," Kelly told the Voice. "Whose womb [Teegan] came out of was irrelevant."
"In the end, we had a greater respect for one another," said Eliza, who added that it was "one of the most powerful experiences of my life." She's about to follow it up with another pretty powerful and once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, though: according to the Voice, Eliza's currently pregnant with her second child — this time as a surrogate for a gay couple from Utah. Yep; this couple just continues to inspire.
*Last name omitted at Heidi and Mary's request
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