Chestfeeding Through Dysphoria

Designed by Cheyenne Varner for DTI’s CBE Program

Pregnancy can be tough on anyone. The constant physical growth alone throws some of us into a dysphoric frenzy that lasts years! Though I felt fine with my body up until the second trimester, as a nonbinary transgender person, I had a particularly tough time with the growth of my breast tissue during my pregnancy,. In 2011, I had not yet come to terms with my transgender identity, so these dysphoric feelings were particularly confusing. I knew it was natural to feel abnormal and frustrated while pregnant, but I didn’t realize how intense these feelings would be for me. I completely lacked the knowledge to express myself properly during this time.

With each passing week, I felt the walls creep a little bit closer to my body. I knocked into everything, and started having to bend in odd ways to see around my breasts. Pregnancy was supposed to make me into an ethereal, glowing goddess! But instead of feeling beautiful, I felt gross. I thought that carrying a person inside of me would be the cure for my gender queerness. I thought that giving birth would be my Ugly Duckling Moment, ushering me out of awkwardness and into femininity. Instead, I had these gigantic glands stuck to my front, aching and growing more every day. Needless to say, my disappointment got the best of me sometimes. When the gender blues were at their deepest, I’d sit and quietly stroke my growing belly. It was during these times my daughter would wiggle the most. Her tiny shifts and hiccups sparked a fire of joy within me. My baby restored hope within my body, which finally had begun to glow. This new dance we had started strengthened our bonds to each other throughout pregnancy and into childbirth.

Photo courtesy of Trevor MacDonald

When the time came to actually chest feed my baby, I was ecstatic. Finally, I could put these mammary glands to good use! Plus, I got to have the quiet and loving feelings designated to chest feeding sessions. The combination of bonding time and the beautiful gush of oxytocin to my system was like a magical potion. Each suckle or giggle experienced at the breast by my child brought me closer to my bliss. I felt as if I could tolerate my body as long as it was used to take care of someone else. After longer feeding sessions, my breast tissue seemed to shrink down to normal. I’d relish these few minutes of peace within my body. I’d massage my breast tissue, feeling actively grateful to my chest for giving my baby a full belly and allowing me the sensation of feeling light chested once more. The experience, as a whole, was a dream.

Chest feeding helped me feel bonded to the happiness of the world both physically and spiritually. I feel extremely fortunate and privileged to have been able to physically provide milk for my child,;the experience dragged me out of a very deep hole I didn’t even realize I was in. I got the opportunity to love and accept my body as a vessel for physical nourishment and comfort, accepting parts of myself I wasn’t able to before! What else could better help me love myself?

At that time in my life, I didn’t have the language to express my dysphoria. Now as a birth worker, it is my duty to use inclusive language in order to serve everyone equally and give birthing families the ability to express themselves in their individual lives. This liberation from cis-normative language will help us all bond with our children in a more natural, fulfilling way. After all, the magic that happens during an infant feeding is something that will stay with parents and guardians forever. Why not make the best of it?


DTI is excited to celebrate those who breast and chest feed as part of World Breastfeeding Week/Month. Please visit our Facebook page and Instagram as we explore this topic throughout August.

Cian Loup is a full spectrum doula offering services out of the Ohlone Territory/ “Bay Area”. They are a queer, transgender, indigenous parent striving toward weaving anti-oppressive connections between members of different marginalized communities. Find more about Cian at cianloup.com.