Feeding a newborn can be a complex and challenging journey for any new mother. When beginning your journey to breastfeed or pump for your baby born from surrogacy, remember to have patience and reasonable expectations upfront.
If you plan to feed your baby breastmilk, you have multiple ways you can go about doing this. This is an incredibly personal decision, so let go of any guilt about what you should or shouldn’t do and listen to your body. Our blog answers all the frequently asked questions on the topic, including “Do surrogates breastfeed?” and “What is induced lactation?” so you are prepared and confident in your decision. Feeding your baby breastmilk through either induced lactation or having the surrogacy pump milk can be difficult and complex, so it’s key to do your research beforehand.
- How Can A Baby Born From Surrogacy Be Fed Breastmilk?
- Pros And Cons Of Breastfeeding A Baby Born From Surrogacy
- Tips On Pumping And Breastfeeding For A Baby Born From Surrogacy
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How Can A Baby Born From Surrogacy Be Fed Breastmilk?
Breast milk contains many essential vitamins and nutrients, along with disease and infection-fighting agents for your baby, but exclusively breastfeeding isn’t always an option. While intended mothers have choices for feeding their baby, supplementing with formula or pumped breast milk may be required since they are less likely to produce a full supply of milk.
No matter how you choose to feed your baby and the path you choose to take, breastfeeding or pumping is not always easy. Remember to keep an open mind throughout the process and adapt your plan if needed using one or a combination of methods below.
- Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Induce Lactation
- Surrogate Breastfeeding Or Exclusively Pumping
- Breastfeeding Alternatives
Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Induce Lactation
You may be surprised to learn that you can lactate without being pregnant. The process is called induced lactation. How to lactate without being pregnant involves hormone therapy to mimic the hormone levels naturally present during pregnancy. This hormone therapy prepares your body for milk production. Hormone therapy to induce lactation requires several months and advanced preparation, so be sure to talk to your doctor and surrogacy agency early on to determine a plan.
Supplementing your milk supply with formula, previously pumped milk, or from the milk the surrogate pumped may be required to have enough milk for your baby. Lactation aids like Supplemental Nursing Systems allow your baby to breastfeed while also receiving supplemental nourishment at the same time. Breastfeeding is not easy, so many often benefit greatly from having a lactation consultant available to guide them through the process.
How To Induce Lactation
Hormone therapy to induce lactation will involve a combination of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and placental lactogen to simulate the hormonal process during pregnancy. The hormones are usually given starting 3-4 months before the birth. Around 8 weeks before birth, your doctor will take you off the hormones and begin you on a schedule of pumping and taking supplements to promote milk production.
Most will pump with a hospital-grade breast pump, increasing in frequency and duration until the baby is born. This pumping action will simulate the suckling of a baby and signal to your body to produce the hormone prolactin. The ultimate goal here is to prepare your breasts and your body for breastfeeding as soon as the baby arrives. The exact protocol and timing will vary by doctor.
Surrogate Breastfeeding Or Exclusively Pumping
Induced lactation isn’t the only way to feed your baby with breast milk. Surrogates sometimes breastfeed, although it is a lot more common for surrogates to pump exclusively and provide milk that way. When surrogates do breastfeed, often it’s mainly right after birth and for the duration of the hospital stay.
If you are leaning towards having the surrogate breastfeed or exclusively pump, be sure to discuss this upfront with your surrogacy agency and on your match call with the potential surrogate so they can ensure you are matched with a surrogate who is open to pumping. The pumping or breastfeeding surrogate’s compensation for pumping should be outlined in your Gestational Carrier Agreement and will likely include a weekly amount in addition to reimbursement of supplies. This compensation is due to the extra time and energy required for pumping.
Pumped breast milk from the surrogate can be shipped if needed and stored in either the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use it. You can bottle feed the breast milk to your baby, or if you’ve induced lactation, you can use a lactation aid to supplement with your own breast milk.
Keep in mind that breast milk can be stored in the fridge for only 3-4 days before being used or transferred to the freezer, although it’s ideal to freeze it right away if you know you won’t be using it immediately. Frozen breast milk should be used within 6 months but can be used up to 12 months before it begins to lose its nutritional value.
Pros And Cons Of Breastfeeding A Baby Born From Surrogacy
Although breastfeeding can often be touted as the best way to feed your baby because of its great health benefits, it’s important to remember that breastfeeding is not for everyone. For any mother, breastfeeding can be an extremely challenging and frustrating time with a long adjustment period for both mom and baby.
What matters most is that your baby is fed and happy, regardless of the method of delivery. The nutritional value and bonding benefits that breastfeeding provides can be replicated in other ways. Given the highly personal nature of the decision about whether or not to breastfeed your baby born from surrogacy, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons:
- Numerous health benefits
- Boosts bonding and attachment
- Cost savings
- Large time and energy commitment
- High learning curve for both mother and baby
- Painful side effects
Breastfeeding Alternatives And Combinations
For intended mothers looking to breastfeed, a combination of methods will likely be required. Even in the best circumstances, your production may not be enough to feed your baby fully. There are a number of ways to augment your supply, including using formula and/or breast milk from your surrogate. Of course, this needs to be agreed upon in advance during the matching and contract stages. Donated breast milk is another option if your surrogate is not open to providing milk after birth. You can look for local milk banks or donors in your area.
Read more about IARC and our 7-step approach to surrogacy from initial research to delivery and post-birth.
Tips On Pumping And Breastfeeding For A Baby Born From Surrogacy
In addition to discussing added compensation for your surrogate for breastfeeding, it’s encouraged to discuss a schedule prior to delivery for providing the breast milk and explore shipping as an option if your surrogate lives far away. Keep in mind, if you are from another country, you likely will only have the surrogate pump while in the United States for the weeks just after birth.
When it comes to storage, whether you or the surrogate, be sure to always date the breastmilk, using the oldest first, to ensure proper rotation. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind the previously outlined recommended guidelines regarding storage times.
How To Use Stored Breastmilk
Feeding your baby a combination of frozen and refrigerated breastmilk can offer flexibility and convenience while ensuring they receive the nourishment they need.
When it comes to frozen breastmilk, it’s important to thaw it properly before offering it to your little one. The safest method is to place the frozen breastmilk in the refrigerator overnight, allowing it to thaw gradually. Once thawed, gently swirl the milk to mix the fat that may have separated. To feed your baby, warm the milk by placing the bag in a bowl of warm water or using a bottle warmer. Remember to test the temperature on the inside of your wrist to ensure it’s not too hot.
If you’re using refrigerated breast milk, you can simply warm it up by following the same methods. Be cautious not to heat breast milk in a microwave, as it can create hot spots and reduce valuable nutrients. Whether using frozen or refrigerated breast milk, always label with the date and time it was expressed to ensure proper rotation. By following these guidelines, you can safely and confidently feed your baby both frozen and refrigerated breast milk as part of their feeding routine.
Below are some of our other top tips on pumping and breastfeeding for a baby born from surrogacy.
- Store breastmilk in the back of the fridge: To keep the temperature as regular as possible, avoid storing breastmilk in the doors or front of the fridge.
- Freeze breastmilk flat: To optimize freezer storage space when freezing breast milk, you can lay a bag of milk between two cookie sheets, ensuring it freezes flat. If you find yourself with a disorganized freezer, a popular method is placing the individual bags into a gallon-sized Ziplock bag, resulting in what is commonly known as a “brick.” This approach helps streamline storage and maintain order within the freezer.
- Plan ahead when pumping on the go: If you’ll need to do pump sessions while out and about, make sure to plan ahead for adequate storage and temperature control.
- Use a lactation aid: A Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) can be a great way to supplement your breast milk using either formula or stored breast milk.
You Are Supported in Your Surrogacy Journey With IARC
Whether you are an Intended Mother or the surrogate, there are choices when it comes to feeding the baby. Even if you decide against using breast milk from your surrogate, or you as the surrogate, decide not to pump milk, it’s okay! Keep in mind that breastfeeding or pumping doesn’t work for everyone, so be open to changes along the way. Like pregnancy, everyone’s breastfeeding and surrogacy journey looks different and is not always easy.
At IARC, our community of surrogates come to us out of a genuine place of compassion and wanting to help other families bring their child into the world. Hear testimonials from our surrogates and parents about their experience working with IARC, and visit our FAQ page for answers to all of your outstanding questions.