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Ep. 113 – Intersex and Induced Lactation- Interview with Chrissy Fleishman

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This is Maureen Farrell and Heather ONeal and this is The Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships and mental health. Plus we laugh a little or a lot along the way. So join us for another episode.

Maureen: Hi welcome. We’re back on the Milk Minute Podcast. We’re back, but we’re not alone. No, we have an interview today and I’m so excited about this, actually. It’s amazing.

Heather: Yeah. I am so excited to learn more about what it means to be intersex as well as what it means to induce lactation for anyone. I mean, literally that’s just incredible on any level for any person.

Maureen: Yeah. And we thought it was a really important topic to tackle now because we have a lot of people considering lactation that were not considering it before. So today we are interviewing an amazing person with a firsthand account about inducing lactation But first let’s go in and thank some patrons and have our little question moment.

Heather: Okay. I’ll start with the first patron, thank you. I just wanted to thank Karen H from West Virginia, who happens to be my mom because she was our first patron and she is still giving us a monthly contribution every single month for actually, is it our two year anniversary?

Maureen: It’s like real close. Gosh, I’m terrible at anniversaries. I don’t even celebrate my own like marriage anniversary.

Heather: Next week is our two year podcast, birthday. Happy birthday to us. So thank you, mom. Also. Thank you, Rose from Albuquerque, New Mexico and Katie from Spirit Lake, Iowa.

Maureen: Oh, I’m so happy to welcome you all into our little Patreon family.

Heather: It’s great. We enjoy it in there. If you feel like you want to ask us direct questions, that’s the best way to do it through Patreon.

Maureen: Yeah. It’s also where I post like my least filtered comments and thoughts. Yeah. In case you feel like you would like more candidness. More Maureen, when I’m just like, you know what? This is, this is an inside thought that I shouldn’t voice, but here I’m just going to say it on Patreon.

Heather: I’m going to say it. Yeah, basically. That’s the best way to get behind the, behind the scenes with us. But let’s start with a question today.

Maureen: Yes. So if you didn’t know, we have a Tik TOK account and we get a lot of questions on there and I was like, wait a second. We haven’t pulled any questions from here. So let’s, let’s do one.

Heather: And also if you haven’t checked out the TikTok, I got to give all the props to Maureen for every one TikTok I do, she does about 30. And she’s absolutely crushing it on that platform. And I enjoy watching her videos. And I know you will too, so please go check out our TikTok and you know, I’ll just keep trying to hang in there and be relevant one in 30 times.

Maureen: I really don’t mind your level of contribution, I’m just happy that you contribute at all.

Heather: Hey, I’m doing my best.

Maureen: I honestly think too, like, whatever, something about that platform works for my brain. So I’m just going with it for now.

Heather: As Heidi always says, just try your best mom.

Maureen: Just try your best mom, all of you out there. Okay. Anyway, our question of the day is from a tick-tock handle, Shantay little feather, and they ask what time is the prolactin hormone the highest? And we wanted to quick shout out our awesome Episode 55 because we really talk about this in detail then, but the short answer is

Heather: it’s about four o’clock in the morning.

Maureen: Yeah.

Heather: Which is why you wake up with giant boobies.

Maureen: Absolutely. Just quick reminder, prolactin is a hormone that’s involved in sleep, so it’s really affected by your sleep. And if you have a sleep cycle that is opposite of what we would expect to be a normal circadian rhythm, then 4:00 AM is not going to be your highest prolactin production.

But for those who sleep mostly in the nighttime hours, it’s, it’s somewhere between two and seven in the morning.

Heather: Yeah. And here’s a little spoiler alert in case you don’t have time to immediately go to episode 55 and learn all about that. Prolactin is an ancient hormone from pre mammalian milk making.

Maureen: You know? Oh, it’s crazy. Just like everything else. Mammals were like, we’re going to do something different with what we have.

Heather: Yeah. Mammals were late to the game. So, but prolactin was there before milk. Yeah. And that’s why it’s so closely tied to sleep because we were sleeping before we were lactating. Oh.

Maureen: Confusing then that we call a prolactin.

Heather: Yes.

Maureen: But anyway let’s get into our episode though. I’m super excited to introduce our guest today. So I met this person on Tik TOK because I saw one of her videos and I was like, I got to know more. Followed her immediately. Binged, like, you know, 50 videos of hers. So I’m going to introduce you here today to Chrissy Fleischman.

She is from Maryland in the United States. She lives there with her husband of 15 years and is a full-time mom to her two sons, and she works at home part-time as an administrative professional when they sleep. Which kudos. I know how that feels. That is hard. Yeah. Super hard. She’s also a former LA Leche League leader of five years and an intersex advocate.

And on Tik TOK, you can find her at oceans of hope.

Heather: That’s so awesome. I can’t wait to get to know Chrissy and ask her all the many, many questions that I have, and I’m sure you have too.

Maureen: Yes. We’re so excited to learn. And I hope that the information we get today from Chrissy can really help you guys broaden your just your general thoughts about lactation and how that works.

All right. It’s Maureen here. And I want to tell you that I have finally set up a link so you can instantly book virtual lactation consults with me. Thank the Lord. I know Heather, it took me a long time to take the leap from in-person visits to virtual, but I did it.

You’re going to love it. I love doing virtual consults. They are the best. It serves more people. I’m so glad you took the plunge. Thank you. And if you guys out there want to book some time with me, you can go to and then click on my lactation services tab. Is that H I G H L a N D? Yes. Okay.

I will see you on zoom, everybody.

Okay. Welcome Chrissy. So excited to have you on the Milk Minute Podcast, I’ve been really looking forward to this.

Chrissy Fleishman: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really, this is a topic that is close to my heart and I love talking about, so thank you.

Maureen: Yeah. We’re so excited. So you just had your second baby. Congratulations. How old is he now?

Chrissy Fleishman: Thank you. He turned four months yesterday.

Heather: So good. Yes. I love that four month age because they’re not really mobile yet and they’re extra chunky and super cute. And they’re like smiling everywhere, but they’re not like quite dangerous yet.

Chrissy Fleishman: Correct. He just rolled over. So I was like, oh, okay. Now we need to get the baby gates, like it’s happening.

Heather: Yeah. Fun facts. Like every time you go to your four month pediatric visit, they’re like, just so you know, the most falls and emergencies we have are with four month old’s because people don’t think they’re going to move. And then all of a sudden they move out of nowhere.

Maureen: Yeah, I can. I understand that. Yes. Well, so yeah. Oh, go ahead. How are you doing postpartum first before we get into all this?

Chrissy Fleishman: Sure. So it’s my second child and I think many people have a different experience the second time around. You know a little bit more. You’re maybe not as freaked out by the smallest things.

So it’s definitely different that way. I’m older as well. So bending over to diaper changes and things like that. I’m like, oh man, okay. I’m older. My body’s feeling that. And then the most, the biggest difference or the thing that has made this experience easier is he is a sleeper. My first was not a sleeper and this kid will sleep.

So I it’s been really key to my postpartum. Like it’s been, it’s been a breeze. I’m sorry.

Maureen: That sounds so lucky. I’m so happy for that. Really? It’s it that’s lovely.

Chrissy Fleishman: Trust me. We earned it with the first one. Yeah.

Heather: I get this a lot from clients who have a second baby that sleeps a lot and they’re concerned about it because the first one was so bad that they’re like, am I going to be able to keep up my supply?

I mean, this baby’s sleeping and I just go, dude, take the gifts that are given to you. Let the child sleep as long as they’re medically well. Let the baby sleep. They’re like, oh, thank you, God.

Chrissy Fleishman: Exactly.

Heather: Okay. So Chrissy, we have a lot of things to cover today. We’re super excited about it. So why don’t we start at the beginning?

You’ve induced lactation twice for your two babies born via surrogacy. Would you mind talking to us a little bit about why you chose to use a surrogate?

Chrissy Fleishman: Sure of course. So I have a medical condition called M R K H it’s on the intersex spectrum. A newer name for intersex now is a difference in sex development.

A lot of people like to use that one. It sounds less taboo, but it’s intersex, same thing. And with my condition, I do not have it. I was born without a uterus, without a cervix, and without an upper vaginal canal and so I’m literally not possible to be pregnant or have my own child. Now, currently there are uterus transplants taking place in someplace, but that was after I would be eligible for it.

So we had a couple different options for parenting and we chose surrogacy. That’s amazing. We chose specifically too, sorry, because I have ovaries. And so some intersex people don’t have ovaries or functioning ovaries. So even though I’m missing a uterus, I do have ovaries. And so a genetic child was possible.

Maureen: Right. So you used a, I guess we’d call it a gestational surrogacy?

Chrissy Fleishman: Exactly. Gestational carrier. Gestational surrogate. Yes.

Maureen: Okay. Do you, would you mind if we take a step back to the beginning, you mentioned that you were intersex on this spectrum of development. Can you tell us just like, I think a lot of our listeners, those are totally foreign terms to them.

Definitely. Sure. Yeah. Can we just like very simply explain all of that for them?

Chrissy Fleishman: The best analogy that I like that’s the easiest, I think, is a checklist analogy. And so when an embryo is created, there’s a generally the, the DNA, the chromosomes are already there. And so it’s like, oh, there’s a Y chromosome.

The male checklist or, oh, there’s not a Y chromosome, that’s the female checklist. And sometimes that can get mixed up because there are conditions where there’s X, X, Y, or other things where the chromosomes are, are not binary. But even if the chromosomes are binary, this checklist may miss some checks or there may be checks in both columns.

And so a lot of people think of intersex as checks in both columns, meaning male and female columns, but it can also mean no checks or missing checks, I mean. Or it can mean double checks. And so some places there are double checks. So someone who has two uteruses, uteri, whatever, would be considered on the intersex spectrum.

So it’s a checklist of sorts. So you could have checks in both columns, you could be missing checks or you could have extra checks. Hopefully that makes sense.

Heather: That’s oh, that’s actually perfect. Okay. And I know, so I used to run a family planning clinic and I had a patient who’s also very open about her two uteri and her two cervixes.

And when I went to do her pap smear, she said, oh, by the way, you’re going to need two paths because I have two cervixes. Yeah. And she’s like, and the one cervix hides behind the other one so you’re going to have to get up in there. And I was like, bless you for telling me, like, I, I am totally all about this, so yeah, that’s really cool.

I love that check checklist analogy. I think that’s perfect.

Maureen: Yeah, thank you for explaining it that way. I think this is definitely something we don’t have as much data as we’d like to on. And I, I mean, it’s something we’re learning about still, right?

Chrissy Fleishman: Definitely. For sure. I’m definitely learning about it.

And a lot of times people are diagnosed with the condition but aren’t told that that’s an intersex condition. And so many people, even with my condition, don’t identify as intersex because their doctor did not tell them that. Or they maybe don’t feel comfortable with that. And they’re missing out on a lot of community and an interaction that way.

So a lot of people are intersex and don’t even know.

Maureen: Right. And I think there’s a lot of just general confusion over, you know, what intersex is versus gender identity. And intersex we’re talking about a medical condition versus a personal identity.

Chrissy Fleishman: Definitely. I always say intersex can be independent of your sexual orientation.

It could be separate from your gender identity. It can be separate from your social presentation. So you can be trans and be intersex. But you can be gay or straight or whatever and be intersex. It’s completely independent.

Heather: So, how has this impacted your daily life, you know, and leading up to starting a family? You know, what did you have to overcome, like personally, to even get to the point where you’re like, all right, we want to start a family, this is the plan.

Chrissy Fleishman: Definitely. So at 14 is when I was diagnosed. And unfortunately I had a pretty tragic surgery that went wrong at 14. And so it put me off of doctors for a long time. Once I found my now husband, I found him when I was 17. So we’ve been together almost 20 years. I told him on our second date and he had a bunch of questions.

I answered the questions and we sort of have never looked back since then. I have had one other surgery while we were married for this, because even though I don’t have a uterus, I had endometrial lining attached to my fallopian tube. And so I was having bleeding monthly, even though I don’t have a uterus.

It’s like, God can be funny that way. Yeah.

Heather: My goodness. Rude.

Chrissy Fleishman: Yeah, so they removed that so I stopped having monthly pain. Couldn’t go anywhere. And so he’s been around for that surgery. He’s been around for the whole surrogacy journey, you know, deciding to do surrogacy and then being blown away by the cost expectation for that.

We had no idea and it took us many years. I mean, we started in 2010 and our son, our first son was not born until 2015. And so I think surrogacy just takes a lot of planning, a lot of saving and a lot of luck.

Maureen: Yeah. It sounds like it. When you were starting that planning process where, where did you hear about induced lactation? How did you understand that was possible?

Chrissy Fleishman: Sure. So two things. Before my 2009 surgery, whenever I was a little bit older they had put me on Depo Provera, which is a birth control shot. And it’s supposed to lessen your cycle or you know, shut down your cycle. And a small side effect of that sometimes is lactation and I got that side effect.

And so all of a sudden I was in the shower one day and I see white drop dripping out of my nipple. And I was like, what is happening?

I always say, if it’s weird, it happens to me. Like, that’s true. And so I went to the doctor and they’re like, it’s a side effect, but let’s run tests. And it was fine. So even since then, whenever I ovulated I would drip milk. And so I always was like, my body wants to do this. But I didn’t hear about inducing lactation until we were starting on the surrogacy journey.

And I literally Googled how to bond with a baby you didn’t birth, literally Googled that. And some of the things were babywearing, attachment parenting, bed sharing, and another one was inducing lactation. And so I went to a very outdated website called It’s a very outdated website, but the information was there.

And so then I went down a rabbit hole. I have ADHD and so the hyper-focus took over and I was all in it.

Maureen: Isn’t it nice when that happens? Like at a convenient time on something you actually want to learn about?

Heather: Okay. So you found this outdated website. You began to make a plan. When did you actually start trying to induce lactation in the process of surrogacy?

Chrissy Fleishman: Okay. Sure. So we made embryos and froze them for almost a year before we did the transfer. Once the transfer was successful and we had our first ultrasound, so that’s like five weeks pregnant.

You start the protocol, if you’re using the most common protocol, which is the Norman Goldfarb protocol, it’s the most intense sort of protocol. But it’s the one that’s most likely to yield results. And so that’s the one I was following. So at five weeks I started the birth control pill, skipping the placebo.

And that went on until I was 30 weeks or we were 30 weeks pregnant. And so that’s sort of an inactive phase where you’re trying to mimic being pregnant essentially. And then at 30 weeks is when the pumping started.

Heather: How much pumping are they talking about here?

Chrissy Fleishman: Everyone is different in what they choose to do.

I am all in or nothing type of person. And so at 30 weeks I was eager and started pumping and it’s to mimic a newborn baby. And so it’s eight to 10 times in a 24 hour period, at least one overnight, but hopefully two overnight. And for 10 weeks without a baby to cuddle, it was not fun.

Heather: Oh, yeah.

Maureen: That sounds like it would be disheartening at a lot of times.

Chrissy Fleishman: Yeah. How I looked at it though, is it was my own pregnancy is how I almost looked at it. Like I didn’t get those bodily changes. And it was my, I could put my focus into this and I was in charge of this. You don’t have any control with surrogacy. I feel like, and it was something, even though I didn’t have control of it because who knows what would happen.

I felt more in control of it because I could do everything in my power to make it work.

Heather: Well, you know, it’s interesting. We interviewed Abigail Tucker, the author of Mom Genes about brain changes in postpartum parents, specifically moms who grow the baby, but also there were studies about the partners and the oxytocin rush that they get by performing activities of bonding with baby.

And the more they do, the more it snowballs and the more their brains change. So actually you were innately doing that, but I think it probably is exactly what you said it is. And the research would back that. I would love to see some more research for our intersex friends.

Chrissy Fleishman: That’s interesting. It was definitely, it helped if I listened to the ultrasound heartbeat or if I looked at an ultrasound picture it definitely helped. And it definitely, really did connect me more to the pregnancy.

Heather: Yeah, well, I mean the million dollar question is what pump did you use?

Chrissy Fleishman: Back then I used the spectra. I had the S two I don’t think I paid for the upgrade to get the battery one. But I was working full-time in an office who had a lactation room, so it was really easy.

They were super supportive because there was no coverage, legally, pre-birth for pumping times. That’s not usually something the lawmakers thought of. And so thankfully they were super understanding and I didn’t have another child to take care of while I was doing that pumping. So it was definitely easier the first time around.

Heather: Yeah. I can see that. And there’s have you heard of The Pump Act, which just passed the House and they’re trying to get it to pass the Senate now? Oh, no, I haven’t heard that. Okay, well, we’ll link it in the show notes for anybody that’s interested, but there are some new legislative pushes to protect pumping parents.

And I’m not sure specifically that pre-birth is protected in there, but it should be. So if we can even get that one in the door, then we can modify it. Getting it in the door is the hardest part and it did pass the House. So fingers crossed. I’m very hopeful there. That’s awesome. Let’s see what happens.

Maureen: Yeah. All right. So we’re pumping around the clock, really exhausting. Did you like use different medications at this time? I know you used birth control first. Did you switch to something else?

Chrissy Fleishman: Yes. So at the 30 week mark, you stop the birth control and then you start a medication called Domperidone or Motilium.

And it’s controversial. It shouldn’t be, but it is. And it’s back then. You could still get it in the states through our compounding pharmacy, but it was about a dollar a pill and I needed eight pills a day. So I got it from overseas, which is how everyone gets it now and was able to take it that way.

I did have quite a bit of side effects from it, not awful side effects. Weight gain, headaches, things like that, but it wasn’t dangerous side effects by any means.

Maureen: Right. They were manageable for you in some way.

Heather: Yeah. Fun fact. Because I’m a certified nurse midwife, when I’ve tried to order it from Canada, because I’m a midwife, they have me pegged and they’re like, we know you’re not going to use this for its intended purpose.

You know, we’re Canadians, we’re smart. We know that you’re going to use this for lactation and I’m just over here like, it wouldn’t be me. It’s definitely for a GI thing.

Maureen: We just need to become BFFs with a gastroenterologist or something.

Heather: Yeah. Domperidone is an off-label use, but you know, every single lactation medication that we use basically is an off-label use.

Maureen: I mean, we just got a question in our Facebook group about it today, where somebody was using not Reglan but like an analogous medication. They were like my supply upped, what happened?

Heather: Yeah, in fact, that’s what happened.

Maureen: It’s a side effect of a lot of medications and I really hope to see more like study about it so we can help people because some of them are really effective.

Heather: Yeah. One of these days.

Maureen: God, I feel like a broken record. I know. More studies about this, this and this.

Heather: Well, you know, I, if you were willing to share a personal moment with us, what was it like when you saw milk come out of you for the first time? What was going through your head?

Chrissy Fleishman: So the first time it intentionally came out, I guess you could say.

Heather: Intentionally, like it’s possible. Like my body is finally doing something I’m asking it to do.

Chrissy Fleishman: That first day I got drops the first time I pumped and then did not get anything the rest of that day. I guess that’s all that was in there that day. But the next day I made an ounce total in the 24 hours. In the 24 hours, so milliliters by milliliters that added up to an ounce.

And by the end of the 10 weeks, I was up to 11 ounces a day. And I was really excited by that. I knew I would have to supplement. Most people who have never been pregnant before have to supplement some. But I was really proud of my body. I really was. Yeah, that was amazing. I almost describe it as sort of a healing thing.

Like I used to feel like maybe my body was broken, it can’t do what it’s meant to do, you know, grow a baby. And by doing this, I used to say like, I can’t grow him inside of my body, but maybe I can help him grow outside of my body. And so it was really healing for me to be able to do that for sure.

Maureen: That’s super sweet.

Heather: And I don’t think a lot of people understand that breast milk is made from your blood. And we basically melt our bodies and turn it into milk. So you are giving your son part of you every day.

Chrissy Fleishman: Yeah.

Heather: Oh, I love that.

Maureen: Well, we hit on the hopeful part, but were there points in that process, especially the first time that you were like, screw this, I’m throwing in the towel we’re done?

Chrissy Fleishman: I don’t think it was ever, I’m throwing in the towel. I’m done. Definitely had to reevaluate what my goals were and what, like success looked like. Cause you always have an idea of like; I’m going to exclusively breastfeed and the latch and everything will be perfect. But after a few weeks when I was not getting as much as maybe I thought I would get, because I was dripping milk before, like my body should know how to do this.

And I wasn’t getting as much as maybe I was hoping to get, I had to definitely reevaluate. There was also a comment my husband made. I love him and we talked about it afterwards and he’s totally on board and supportive. He just didn’t understand how hurtful it was at the time, but he said, you don’t have to ruin your body.

Why are you going to ruin your breasts for this? And I was like, yeah.

Maureen: I see that. I can see how that was supportively and hit real different.

Chrissy Fleishman: It hit very differently. And it was, it was hard to talk through that. And he, afterwards he’s like, oh man, I can totally see that. I was just trying to say, like, you always go gung ho and everything.

You always like go full in. I don’t want you to do something you might regret or whatever. Why do this work when you don’t have to basically. Right.

Maureen: So, yeah. It’s tough. That was a tough moment. I’m sure.

Heather: Yeah. We could probably dedicate an entire podcast episode to things not to say to your partner when they’re working their butts off just trying to make the best food.

Maureen: We should open submissions for that and just see how many we get.

Heather: Yeah. Email us at if you have something to contribute to the list of things, partners should definitely not say. Also, so we love them. Yes.

Chrissy Fleishman: Yes.

Maureen: This is meant in a helpful spirit.

Heather: So the second time then, when you know, you’ve, you’ve made it through the first baby. Second baby was it easier to do this again? Did you make milk faster the second time or more milk?

Chrissy Fleishman: Yeah. So with the first we nursed for three years as well. And so we nursed for a long time, even though I had to supplement because it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That’s what I like to say. And so there was only a three year gap then. He’s six now.

And so there’s only a three-year lactation gap when I started pumping again. And since we nursed for three years, I feel like that’s a pretty long time. Your body knows what it’s doing. I got milk much faster. I was up to, I think, seven ounces that first week within a week. Whoa. A day. And I got up to that’s really cool.

Yeah. So it was much faster. And I saw, like I got engorged, whenever the first time around. I never got engorged before. I never leaked milk the first time around, even if I was hadn’t pumped in a while. And this time around I was getting the engorgement. Wow. And so by the end of 10 weeks, he was born at 40 weeks, two days.

So 10 weeks and two days, I was up to 21 ounces a day.

Heather: Oh, damn. That’s pretty much a full supply. Well, just, yeah. I mean, just for some context for listeners that might not know this. If you’re exclusively pumping, we’re kind of shooting for about 25 to 30 ounces a day for,

Maureen: especially like after six weeks

Heather: after six weeks for a baby.

So 25 ounces is like the average. So if you’re at 21, I mean, my God, before your baby’s born,

Maureen: that’s really significant.

Chrissy Fleishman: I was so excited by that. And I, this time around, I had a completely different experience on the medication, the Domperidone. There’s updated information in the book, “Breastfeeding Without Birthing,” about starting the Domperidone early even along with the birth control.

Where six years ago, you were told to stop the birth control and start the Domperidone. Now it’s you start the Domperidone earlier. And you even wake up the breasts as well. She puts it in before you start pumping. And so maybe for a few weeks before you start pumping you hand express, you don’t save that. It’s going to be drops, but it sort of wakes them up before you throw a pump on them.

And so I did both of those things as well. And maybe that helped. But yeah, it was, I was super excited by that amount. Yes.

Maureen: Yeah. We will make sure to link that book, “Breastfeeding Without Birthing” in our show notes for anybody who wants a very good read about this. Yeah. So awesome. You had a really different second experience.

So now there’s a transition point, right? Between exclusive pumping no baby to suddenly you have a newborn. Yes. What do you do? How does that transition work? Did you directly feed both pumped milk? What’s going on there?

Chrissy Fleishman: Yeah. So for both of them, we were present for birth. The first was in a hospital and they put him directly on me. I sat in like the dad recliner chair basically, and they put him directly on me and he latched within an hour or so.

And the second time it was a home birth and I caught him. And then he, it was beautiful. And then he wouldn’t latch for quite a while. He wouldn’t latch, maybe. I mean, not long time, but maybe an hour and a half, he took a little bit longer to latch.

He was just so chill. Was he a waterbirth? Almost we were so close. She stepped out to go to try to walk around and he fell out. Yeah. Yeah. So close to a water birth. That sounds lovely. But there is, yeah, there is a definite transition because I was making in both instances, way more milk than an a newborn can take.

And so I, well with our first son I nursed and then I would pump, or I would pump on one side while he was nursing for a few weeks because he couldn’t take as much as I was making. And I didn’t want to lose that supply and wanted to keep that up since I worked so hard for it. The second time around, I actually had a very fast, hard let down this time.

And so I was choking him and drowning. So I had to pump before I nursed for a while to sort of help him with that.

Heather: Yeah, that’s just incredible. So how much did you actually have in your freezer at the time of the birth?

Chrissy Fleishman: Yeah. This time around, I had 900 ounces. I was trying so hard to get to a thousand.

Heather: So you didn’t have to supplement with formula then did you?

Chrissy Fleishman: Oh, no. And I’m now able to exclusively nurse him after a few weeks for my own mental health, I wanted to supplement. I couldn’t, I get touched out pretty easily. Yeah. And so I needed a break in the evenings when he was, I would let him cluster feed for like an hour.

And then I was like, I can’t do this anymore and give him to my husband. Yeah. Yeah.

Maureen: That’s a good boundary. It’s, it’s good to know that.

Chrissy Fleishman: Yes, exactly. And so I don’t think I probably needed to supplement, but it was for my own sanity at that time. And I supplemented, but then he refused a bottle after a few weeks. He was like, wait, I have a choice?

I’m choosing like

Heather: Warm, squishy nipple, mom’s heartbeat? Yes. Yes.

Chrissy Fleishman: And so since then, you know, I’ve just been exclusively nursing him, which is an amazing feeling that I never thought I would get that. I didn’t know how important that was to me. And I know it shouldn’t be important, but it felt really important to me.

Maureen: It’s okay that that’s important. I think that’s okay.

Heather: Yeah. Yeah. I think so too. I’m mostly concerned that the government is going to hear this episode and be like, wait, someone that didn’t physically have a baby made 900 ounces, dollar sign, dollar sign, formula shortage, suddenly Domperidone is accessible to anyone at Walgreens.

Please everybody, you know, who knows what’s going to happen, you guys. Who knows?

Chrissy Fleishman: Well, I’ve been trying to talk myself into donating some of that milk, but it’s so it is hard. Yes, it is so tied to me in this experience. But I think I am going to donate some here shortly. I just feel really guilty for having it’s probably about 700 ounces left.

Maureen: It’s okay kind of either way. And I like, I fully sympathize with the fear where you’re like, well, what if I give it away and then I need it? Like, what if that happens immediately? And you know what I tell people when they’re considering this? I’m like start with a quantity for you still feel safe. Like if you give 50 ounces the first time, then that’s what you give, you know, and see how it goes.

Yeah. Because milk has a long shelf life. Right. You know, and even, even if you’re donating to a milk bank, that’s still pretty long, so it’s okay to take it slow to take a little baby steps.

Heather: It’s okay just not to donate it to do, you know, just hang on to it. That’s part of you. Literally literally, and it’s nobody’s business, you know, we just did a formula shortage and relactation episode not too long ago.

And we wanted to make sure that that was something that really came through because with the formula shortage, there’s been so much pressure on people that have milk in their freezers to donate it. And it’s like, wait, wait, wait, that’s yours. You don’t have to, if you don’t want. It’s it’s really okay. It is not your responsibility to save the entire world.

Maureen: Solve a global crisis. That right. It’s like as much as I would love it, if boobs could solve global crisis’s they, they can’t.

Heather: Yeah, but I’m, I’m really, really proud of you. And I’m so glad that you’re willing to come talk about your story because I know so many people out there are for the first time ever listening to this episode, thinking, oh my gosh, could I do that?

Chrissy Fleishman: That’s awesome. Yeah, I love, it’s definitely like a party story of mine.

And it’s sort of like the Meet the Fockers like, can you milk me, Greg? And I’m like, yes, yes, yes, you can.

Heather: You can milk anything with teats, Focker. Oh my gosh. So let’s talk about expectations though, because you know, when you start a journey like this, I’m sure you have some seeds of doubt that are sown by providers, family members.

I mean, did you have a support of the community around you or were you worried, like, were your expectations a little bit low in the beginning? And then how did those change, you know, as you said, you were reevaluating your goals, like how did those change over time?

Chrissy Fleishman: I usually don’t take no or take crap from a lot of doctors.

I’ve learned to be my own medical advocate since the age of 14, I really needed to step up and do that. Unfortunately our, our RE, reproductive endocrinologist or IVF doctor is who I went to and she was very vocally concerned I would starve my baby.

And I had to explain to her, I do not plan on starving a baby I just paid a lot for. I love him. And this was a long process. You think I want to starve him like no, who would do that? And so once I told her I was more than willing to supplement, she was willing to work with me getting the birth control and medications that I needed. After the fact I did email her and let her know, and she said, wow, I’ve never heard of anyone being successful.

I was like, well, now you have, wow.

Heather: Yeah, you have. And you’ve dropped your mic and you walked away. Yeah. Heck yeah.

Maureen: It’s important because a lot of healthcare providers, like, you know, their education on this is a five minutes of a class where somebody is like a fun case study you should look at and that’s it, you know? And, and unfortunately it does end up kind of being our responsibility to educate them on our unique bodies and situations and experiences.

Chrissy Fleishman: Definitely. I feel like I felt this way and I know a lot of people feel this way. You, you almost do this in private. So you can sometimes get help from an IB CLC, but a lot don’t know about it or you don’t have one locally that has the experience. And so sometimes you’re just doing it on your own or you go to a Facebook group and get maybe some good or maybe some bad advice.

And I’m really thankful that I was able to meet in person Alyssa Schnell, the author of the Breastfeeding Without Birthing book and got to work with her through video calls through with the journeys, both of them and was able to bounce ideas off of her.

And I think a lot of people aren’t getting the support that they need and are reaching out in places like aren’t the best places. Yeah. So hopefully more IBCLCs get information about it as well. Or midwives, OBs, everyone.

Heather: You know, I’m, I’m wondering, have you had people that have had fertility issues reach out to you, like prior to doing another round of IVF or you know, Clomid treatments and they never recommend breastfeeding when you’re doing medications, like Clomid.

You know, they’re like, are you sure you want to screw up the potential expensive process that you’re about to go through by breastfeeding? And, you know, I, I come from a place where there’s always a middle ground, but have you heard from any of that group of people about how to possibly get ahead of it prior to fertility treatments?

Chrissy Fleishman: So in my circles of the same condition intersex condition that I have, there is no trying. Generally it’s just straight to IVF and gestational carrier. Most clinics won’t approve you to move forward if your prolactin levels high. And they know that by testing, even if you say you’re not nursing, they’ll figure that out.

And so no, personally I have not experienced that asking for advice, but I know. I know there’s plenty of people out there. I think with everything, like you said, it’s the middle ground. You have to weigh your mental health and your experience and what you want out of it with the risks that might come along with that.

Heather: Yeah, right. And then time, you know, time is kind of not the friend of all people who are in childbearing business. You know, it’s like the perpetual thing hanging over our heads, right. Where it’s like time and money. You know, if you’ve got all the time and all the money in the world, then you’ve got no worries.

Like we could just find this middle ground for the next 10 to 15 years and just continually work on it. But did you feel a lot of pressure with time to figure this out?

Chrissy Fleishman: To figure out how to do this?

Heather: Yeah. To figure out how to do it. And you know, for other intersex people that maybe do have uteruses that would like to carry the baby. You know, if they’re 35, 40, 45, where they’re ready to start the process, has that been something that’s come up in your?

Chrissy Fleishman: So knowing when to start inducing, lactation is a big deal. A lot of people don’t find out about it until they’re 30 weeks in gestation and it’s they just need to change their expectations.

They may not get a full supply as fast as someone who has a 30 week head start. The other question of like when to make a baby, how old and things like that. The uterus doesn’t age very well quickly. And so many people with my condition, their mothers carry for them. And so 50, 60 year old women can, if it’s not their egg, can carry for their own children.

And so finding when it’s right for you, just like someone who’s caring and birthing their own child. There’s probably never a right time. There’s never a good time.

And it’s whenever you, and it’s so expensive too. So once you’re financially stable and have enough money available to you to do this, that’s the right time.

Heather: Yeah. That’s good advice. I would totally carry a baby for my daughter. I think.

Chrissy Fleishman: It’s good. Sometimes it’s not good.

Maureen: I can’t imagine. I can imagine a lot of complicated stuff with that.

Heather: Yeah, that’s really cool. And I, the whole process I’m sure just brings up a lot of tough discussions. You know, with everybody, just, you have to have experienced communicators around you to make sure everything gets ironed out.

And that nobody says anything to you that’s really hurtful or harmful. And if they do how to recover from that and make sure everybody’s still on the same page, definitely.

Chrissy Fleishman: I feel like surrogacy is almost like dating someone. When you try to find a match, it’s almost like you put a dating profile out there and see if anyone wants to date you, and then you take them on dates and see if you get along.

And then it’s almost like a babysitter that you hire. That’s really extreme that they have your kid, not for overnight, but nine months. And it is really important, open communication. I am extremely direct, probably too direct, and I was very upfront with that. Like I’m a direct person. I’m an over communicator.

Please tell me every single thing. Did he kick today? I want to know. Did you have gas today? I want to know. But as you get closer to birth even for people I’m sure who are birthing their own child, the feelings intensify, the stress intensifies. And both times there were definitely conversations in the days leading up to the labor or to birth, where you do have to sort of walk on eggshells a little bit, because it’s a really tense situation.

You don’t want to make the person mad, who’s birthing your kid and they then say, you can’t be in the room. They have that right. And so it’s sort of a very fine ballet dance that you do between all of the parties involved.

Heather: Oh man. Yeah. My friend Christie has been a surrogate three times and she has two biological children of her own.

And every time has been completely different and she births really quickly. And the last one, the parents missed it by like 35 seconds. And she’s laying on the floor like that baby just came out so fast. She’s laying on the floor and she says, she looks back towards the door and she goes, oh, I’m sorry. I tried. You know, it was like A for effort.

They were like, we get it. Thanks for having the baby. Like, just so appreciate you birthing a whole human for us.

Chrissy Fleishman: That does happen though, because a lot of people, their surrogates don’t live in their same state. Both times we were lucky enough, it was something very important to us that they live within driving distance.

That was on our match criteria. And so both times we were able to make the birth. That’s so cool.

Maureen: Yeah. Well, I want to kind of round out our discussion a little bit and just, I like to give people realistic expectations. Right. I feel like we actually have better chances of success when we know what the hard parts are.

So if you had to choose one thing, what do you think the hardest part of the process of inducing lactation is?

Chrissy Fleishman: The hardest part. I mean, definitely finding the time to pump and making it a priority. It’s a supply and demand thing. And if you don’t demand it from your body, you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna get it.

And while it sucks to have to wake up in the middle of the night, it’s sort of just preparing you for a newborn and finding the time to pump. That’s definitely the hardest, hardest part. Yeah.

Heather: Well, you know, before there’s a baby there doesn’t that just fall into the category of all the other things we don’t do for ourselves that we should schedule in throughout the day?

You know, I’m trying to get better about that. And like the closest I’ve come is a massage every two weeks, which is non-negotiable. And I’m almost aggressive about it with people when they try to schedule during my massage time. I’m like, you know, this is the one thing I do every two weeks. It’s only an hour. Non-negotiable and they’re like, it’s fine, Heather, God.

And I’m like, you don’t understand. I’m really bad about making time for myself. So I believe you. I think that would be my biggest issue too. Yeah, definitely.

Chrissy Fleishman: And I think a lot of times too, once the baby’s here you may still have the same issues that any birthing parent would have. It’s not like you did all of this work and now it’s going to be easy.

You’re now dealing with the usual stuff that birthing parents that birthing parents would have to deal with. So yeah.

Heather: Well, Chrissy, this has been lovely and illuminating and inspiring. And thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We would love for our listeners who would like to learn more, to be able to find you.

So can you tell us where they can find you and learn more?

Chrissy Fleishman: Great. Yeah, so I am usually on TikTok. My username or handle is Oceans of Hope. It comes from a Dracula quote. Our first son is Bram. It’s his name. Bram Stoker. And he says I’ve crossed oceans of time to find you. And so we always say we’ve crossed oceans of hope to find him.

So yeah, I post a lot on TikTok about all of this. There is also a fantastic Facebook group that I was part of. I was a La Leche League leader for five years, which is a peer counselor, and we created this group on Facebook. Inducing Lactation and Relactation, and there’s tons of great information and support people in there.

So you can find me there as well.

Maureen: I’m glad you like it cause I recommend that group to a lot of people and I, I like I joined just to watch. So I was like, I need to make sure this is okay, right?

Chrissy Fleishman: Yes. There are several groups. This one is one of the few that’s moderated by somewhat professionals. We’re volunteers, but La Leche League leaders who sort of know. Awesome.

Heather: That’s great. And we will link those in the show notes as well, just so people can do a one-click find you very easy. Great. All right. Well, any parting thoughts for our, for our people here?

Chrissy Fleishman: Ooh Hmm. Parting thoughts. Anything is possible. Like anything. You don’t know what you don’t know. Like anything is possible.

A lot of people didn’t know that you could make milk and not be birth, not birth. A lot of people didn’t know you could be born without a uterus, like expand your mind that you don’t know everything that’s out there.

Maureen: Love that. Yeah.

Heather: And although we love to make things binary and put people into categories and groups, and it’s either we’re breastfeeding or formula feeding or we birth the baby or we can’t birth a baby.

It just doesn’t work like that guys. Not at all. No. Well, thank you Chrissy so much. We really appreciate your time today and thank you for inspiring all of our Milk Minute listeners.

Chrissy Fleishman: Thank you so much for having me on this has been, this has been great. Thank you

Maureen: Heather, have I told you about my new favorite place to get nursing bras? It’s called the Dairy Fairy. The Dairy Fairy offers bras and tanks that try to solve the challenges that come with nursing and pumping. They’re ingenious intimates are beautiful, supportive, and can be worn all day long.

Heather: Oh, you’re allowed to look good and feel good about yourself while wearing a nursing bra?

Maureen: Absolutely. And they offer sizes up to a 52 G.

Heather: Oh, amazing. I’m so glad a company has finally realized that a D cup is not a large. Absolutely.

Maureen: And it’s so affirming to feel included in sizing and not feel like I’m asking for too much that clothing fits my body. Well, what else do we get? Well, if you guys follow the link in our show notes, you can use the code MILKMINUTE checkout for free shipping on all domestic orders.

Heather: Thank you so much, Dairy Fairy.

Maureen: Absolutely. Once again, that’s the link in our show notes and use the code MILKMINUTE for free shipping on all domestic orders.

Heather: So I learned a lot. Yeah.

Maureen: I man, I knew Chrissy would be great to have on the podcast and I’m so happy she was.

Heather: Well, here’s what’s funny. I did not actually realize that people with two uteruses were considered intersex.

Maureen: I think most people with two uteri also don’t realize that. Because basically like years ago when we were, when we use the word intersex, it was like, okay, you’re sort of in between male and female.

And now they’re realizing like, oh, actually like probably all of these interesting expressions of sex that are not quite the norm maybe should be kind of grouped together.

Heather: Right. And also, maybe it goes beyond ambiguous, external genitalia. Yes. Inside matters too.

Maureen: And I think that’s like, there is a statistic. It used to be like, oh, 2% of people are intersex because they essentially just diagnosed it based on like external genitalia. And now it’s, the estimate is closer to 5%. For reference we have less redheads in the world, you know.

So it’s actually. We’re realizing much more common than we thought.

Heather: And like Chrissy said, that kind of sucks because those people that are intersex, but maybe don’t know it or don’t identify it because providers aren’t trained to be like, oh, by the way, you’re intersex.

And it’s fine. And here’s a community for you. Here’s how to connect with other people. And here’s how, instead of being like, and here’s the limits that you have because of this condition, it’s like, okay, and here’s the possibilities, right? And then we’ve got someone we can point to like Chrissy who has got this incredible story where it’s like, yeah, you’re intersex.

So s Chrissy. Look, she’s got 900 ounces in the freezer and like she’s feeding her babies and she has two of them and she has a husband, you know, she’s married. And they’re happy and right. She has a happy, amazing life. Right. And she’s working and she’s yeah. It’s like, it’s great.

Maureen: I love her handle oceans of hope.

Heather: Oh my God. So sweet.

Maureen: Yeah. So I have this as inspiring to you and just really makes you like believe in your body a little.

Heather: Yeah. And you know, for people that maybe feel like their body has let them down their whole life in one way or another, maybe it just didn’t even look the way you wanted it to look.

Or maybe you had horrific periods and it was debilitating for you or, you know, whatever. And then you go to have a baby and you’re like, oh, and my body’s going to let me down here too, a big surprise. What if it doesn’t? Right. What if your body shows up for you? You know what, if it’s not all or nothing, like she said? So don’t be afraid to dig in and find out what you don’t know about yourself and let us know if you need anything along the way. And follow Chrissy, please.

Maureen: Definitely. Well let’s see ourselves out with an award.

Heather: Yes, let’s. I’ve got a good one today. Today’s award goes to Brittany from Northern Indiana. She says, we just got to one year of breastfeeding with 10 exclamation points. We worked so hard. Tongue tie, lazy latch, a just enougher, COVID, parenthesis, both of us, postpartum OCD, anxiety, and so much more. But we did it! Can’t even believe it. I’m so proud.

Maureen: We are also super proud of you, and I think today we are going to give you The Year of Plenty Award because you know what, just enough is plenty.

Heather: Yeah. It is plenty. Just enough is enough. A Year of Plenty Award for you, Brittany. Thank you so much for listening to another episode of the Milk Minute Podcast.

Maureen: The way we changed this big system that is not set up to support breastfeeding is by educating ourselves and others and sharing the resources we have.

Heather: If you would like more of us and all of the stuff we do and talk about, but you want it in a more raw, direct way without a filter, you can find us on Patreon for as little as a dollar a month.

Your donation goes directly to creating a more sustainable podcast for us. Things like paying our editor and soundproofing and the sweet little headphones that Maureen has on her head.

Maureen: Yeah. We actually have an amazing team behind the Milk Minute. Our editor Cherie, and then I don’t even know what we’re going to what is Tiffany? She does everything else.

Heather: I think she’s actually a producer.

Maureen: Yeah, Tiffany’s a producer. So guys like we have these two incredible people who we pay to help us with the podcast cause we can’t do everything as much as I think both of us think we can. We can’t. So thank God for Cherie and Tiffany.

And it’s super helpful if you can contribute a little bit to paying them, sustaining them in all that their wonderful stuff and just helping us make a better production.

Heather: Yeah. So if you’ve found value in what we’ve produced for you today, you can give us some love back with the donation on Patreon, and we will give you behind the scenes access and maybe even some merch and live Q and A’s.

Maureen: All right. Well, we will see you next week. Thank you so much. Bye bye.


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