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Two Moms Breastfeeding One Baby Through Co-Nursing

The Short of It

Married couple Heidi and Mary Ellen Olson are sharing all parenting duties for their 3-week-old daughter, Sequoia, including breastfeeding, through a process called co-nursing.

The Lowdown

Heidi became pregnant through intrauterine insemination after a year-long struggle with endometriosis and undergoing laparoscopic surgery to remove ovarian cysts. Because she gave birth to Sequoia, she lactates on her own, but Mary Ellen has been using the Newman-Goldfarb protocol to induce lactation.

The protocol combines pumping with taking birth control pills and the drug Domperidone, which boosts a woman's milk supply by releasing the prolactin hormone. The Food and Drug Administration has questioned the use of Domperidone for allegedly causing cardiac problems and unknown risks for infants, but it's commonly prescribed in Europe and Canada. Some U.S. lactation coaches and physicians encourage its use, although many refuse to prescribe it.

"My doctor wouldn't give it to me, so I had to order it through an online Canadian pharmacy," Mary Ellen said in an interview with Yahoo Parenting. "I did lots of research and got the green light from my midwife."

Mary Ellen follows a full daily regimen in order to produce three to four ounces of breast milk per session. She takes 12 Domperidone pills and one fenugreek capsule, which is an herb that encourages lactation; she drinks an herbal formula called More Milk; and she pumps once a day.

The Olsons said they chose to co-nurse so Mary Ellen could also experience the mother-baby connection.

"I wanted to experience that closeness with my daughter, especially since I didn't give birth," Mary Ellen said. "It didn't occur to us that we could also help each other out when we're exhausted."

The Upshot

Breastfeeding, although very beneficial for babies, can be tiring for moms, so having help with the task is definitely a bonus.

"We are able to sleep in longer chunks due to this, since it's not all on one mama to have to feed her and stay awake," the Olsons said. "We switch whenever the awake mama feels like she needs help or sleep."

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