25.09.2022

NHS accused of putting babies at harm over advice to trans women wanting to breastfeed

Newborn babies could be harmed by woke NHS-backed guidance that states transwomen can breastfeed, experts warned today.

Guidance from a charity — linked to on the controversial ‘chestfeeding‘ advice page — states biological men who swap sex can stimulate milk supply using the Newman-Goldfarb protocol.

But the procedure, which involves taking a powerful drug called domperidone, has been mired in controversy.

It is effectively banned in the US because of its side effects.

NHS bosses only recommend it to women struggling to produce milk in some cases because domperidone carries a risk of giving a baby an irregular heartbeat.

Experts told MailOnline how scientists have ‘no idea about the implications’, and that the NHS should focus on improving access to breastfeeding rates for women.

Originally developed to assist adoptive mothers — or those who have conceived via surrogacy, the Newman-Goldfarb protocol has helped thousands of women to stimulate milk production.

Several drugs, such as metoclopramide, digitalis, and chlorpromazine and other sedative medications have been known to increase prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production.

But domperidone, originally an anti-sickness drug, is the preferred option due to not having as many potentially dangerous side affects.

La Leche, the charity the NHS links to on its advice page, describes it as ‘much safer for mother and baby’.

Experts have expressed concern about the NHS linking to advice telling transwomen they can feed newborns through a drug regime and it should instead focus other groups wanting to breastfeed  (stock image)

Experts have expressed concern about the NHS linking to advice telling transwomen they can feed newborns through a drug regime and it should instead focus other groups wanting to breastfeed  (stock image)

Domperidone, sold under the brand name Motilium is an anti-nausea medication but has been shown to boost prolactin levels, the hormone responsible for milk production

Domperidone, sold under the brand name Motilium is an anti-nausea medication but has been shown to boost prolactin levels, the hormone responsible for milk production

Fury over ‘ideological’ new NHS trans pregnancy advice that refers to ‘chest-feeding’

New NHS advice for trans parents has been described as ‘ideological’ for failing to mention the word breasts and ‘normalising’ a potentially dangerous chest-binding technique.

The guidance also encourages people to keep taking hormone transitioning drugs when they ‘chestfeed’, despite admitting ‘it is unclear what effect this could have on your baby’.

The advice was written a year ago but was only issued online this week after nearly a year of internal wrangling over whether to publish.

It has provoked concern among nurses and members of the public, who said the advice fails to warn people about health risks to both parents and babies.

A page titled ‘chestfeeding if you’re trans or non-binary’ makes no mention of breasts and refers to breast reduction operations as ‘top surgery’.

The advice also has a section on binding, a technique used by women transitioning to men to flatten their breasts, usually with extremely tight fitting bras.

Experts have previously warned the technique can cause bruised ribs, fractures, breathing difficulties and infections.

Even NHS England advice in 2008 said bindings should only be used for short periods of time because they ‘may cause back problems’ and can distort breast tissue, which could affect any future surgery to remove the breasts.

Current advice states doctors can prescribe domperidone, or Motilium, to ‘increase milk supply’ but ‘only if other things have not worked’.

This is because it ‘passes into breast milk in small amounts’.

There is also some evidence it can give a baby an irregular heartbeat, according to separate NHS advice.

For this reason, US health chiefs have never approved the drug. The FDA, America’s medical regulator, says other serious risks include cardiac arrest and sudden death.

Only patients with severe gastrointestinal can get it through a special access scheme.

But the drug continues to be used by US transwomen who import it from overseas, to lactate and feed newborns.

An NHS England spokesperson said the link to La Leche’s advice on its chestfeeding guidance page was to an ‘independent, non-profit support site’ and added does not reflect NHS policy.

‘Nowhere does it say it is available on the NHS,’ they said.

Officials, however, do not know exactly how many women, or transwomen, take the drug for this reason.

The spokesperson also declined to say if transwomen are eligible for the treatment on the NHS.

Drugs watchdog, the National Institute for Care Excellence, told MailOnline it did not have any guidance on the issue.

It said, however, clinicians can prescribe domperidone ‘off label’. This means it can be given to patients outside of normal use, but doctors can be held responsible for negative side effects.

The NHS chestfeeding page links to the charity La Leche League under its ‘further support’ section.

On this page, the charity says transwomen can breastfeed newborns by undergoing the Newman-Goldfarb protocol.

Health experts told MailOnline the NHS linking to the La Leche League advice was inappropriate.

Professor Jenny Gamble, an expert in midwifery at Coventry University, said: ‘They are unlikely to produce enough of any fluid to sustain a newborn and we really have no idea about the implications.’

She added that the NHS had its priorities wrong and that it should be doing more to promote breastfeeding in those naturally capable of doing so.

The NHS advice page for trans pages has been mired in controversy since its launch and links to further advice for transparents and breastfeeding on La Leche League

The La Leche League advises that transwomen can breastfeed via a medical regime which involves taking domperidone, a medication which the NHS says has some risk of giving newborns an irregular heartbeat by being passed through breastmilk

‘NHS should spend their resources addressing the known barriers to breastfeeding in the UK and advising transmen to of the risks and downsides of mastectomy to them and possibly their baby if they choose to get pregnant,’ she said.

The NHS advises that biological women who have their breasts removed may not produce enough milk to feed their baby, and that the newborn can also struggle to connect to their nipple depending how much tissue has been cut away.

La Leche League was contacted for comment.

Men, and transwomen, have been known to produce milk in the past as a result of taking hormones or from rare medical conditions.

However, whether this milk can sustain a newborn or has any long term affects, is unknown some experts say.

It is still relatively rare for transwomen to breastfeed, with only a dozen or so cases reported. Although, the number has steadily risen in the past few years.

There are no accurate estimates on the number of transparents in the UK, with the Government estimating there are between 200,000-500,000 trans people in Britain in total.

The NHS advice page for trans parents has been shrouded in controversy since its launch last week.

Critics have described it as ‘ideological’ for failing to mention the word ‘breasts’, instead opting for the term chestfeeding.

Health experts have also expressed concern over the NHS telling people to keep taking hormone transitioning drugs like testosterone while ‘chestfeeding’, despite admitting ‘it is unclear what effect this could have on your baby’.

Two cases of transwomen feeding babies with milk from their bodies they got from taking domperidone have come to light in last month.

One anonymous transwoman in the US provoked outrage last month for feeding her wife’s newborn baby after taking the drug for months ahead of the birth.

Writing online about her experience, she claimed she was able to produce ‘about a tablespoon or so per pump/feed, which is plenty to feed a newborn’.

Jennifer Buckley, another transwoman, also attracted criticism last month for using domperidone to produce milk to feed her son in Australia.

Ms Buckley, who is her son’s biological father, went on a regime of hormones and the galactagogue (a substance that boosts milk supply) recommended by her endocrinologist.

While seemingly a growing practice, experts and campaigners have raised concerns about transwomen producing milk.

Dr Foteini Kakulas, a breastfeeding expert from the University of Western Australia’s Medical School, believes only women produce breast milk.

‘While it is possible for male breast tissue to produce something, what exactly that is, how it may or may not resemble breast milk, and whether this is healthy for the individual person or for the baby, are all unknown and never been studied,’ she said.

‘In my view in nature only females lactate in mammals, so trying to do something against nature won’t result in any good.

‘At the end of the day women make babies and breastfeed.’

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