Many intended mothers are surprised and excited to learn that even without experiencing pregnancy, they may be able to breastfeed their new babies.
Through induced lactation, it is possible for these new moms to enjoy the breastfeeding experience — along with its suggested health benefits. In this article, learn more about breastfeeding a surrogate-born baby, including a how-to guide to help you get started.
How Can I Breastfeed My Surrogate-Born Baby?
The first step for any mom-to-be who wishes to breastfeed is to talk to her doctor. If you are interested in breastfeeding your surrogate-born baby, it will be especially important to work with your doctor as you start and stop medications to induce lactation.
While it requires some advanced preparation, breastfeeding a surrogate-born baby is not much different from nursing any other newborn. Here, find the breastfeeding process for intended parents:
- Begin taking hormones. Months prior to your baby’s birth, your doctor can prescribe hormones (usually birth control pills). These hormones “trick” your body into thinking you are pregnant, which is the predecessor to milk production.
- Replace the hormones with supplements and medications. Before the baby arrives, your doctor will stop the birth control pill and will recommend medications and herbal supplements that help promote milk production.
- Start pumping. When you stop the hormones and begin taking milk-producing medications, you will also begin pumping, gradually increasing the duration and frequency until you eventually start producing milk. Following your doctor’s advice and induced lactation protocols, your supply should gradually increase as you prepare for your baby’s birth.
- Start nursing and supplement your milk. While it is possible to induce lactation, most women will not produce enough milk to fully sustain a baby on their own. Instead, many intended mothers use a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to ensure their babies are getting enough to eat. Simply pour supplemental milk (donated breastmilk, the surrogate’s breastmilk, milk you’ve previously pumped, and/or formula) into the SNS container and tape the tubes to your chest. When you nurse your baby using the SNS, he or she will get any milk you are producing, along with the milk from the SNS. This gets your baby used to nursing while also ensuring he or she has plenty to eat.
It is important to remember that every mother’s breastfeeding experience is different, and your success may vary based on a number of factors. Breastfeeding, especially in the case of induced lactation, is not for everyone, whether the child is surrogate-born or not. There will be a learning curve, so the most important thing is to be patient and to talk with your doctor or other lactation consultant for guidance and support.
Using the Surrogate’s Breastmilk
For intended parents who feel strongly about the benefits of breastfeeding, another option is to use the surrogate’s breastmilk.
Many surrogates are willing to continue pumping for up to six weeks following the birth of the baby. This milk can be used to feed the baby with a bottle or with the supplemental nursing system, allowing the infant to receive all of the same benefits of breastmilk regardless of whether the intended mother decides to breastfeed.
Surrogates are not required to pump, and those who choose to do so spend a considerable amount of time and energy pumping and shipping the milk to the intended family. If you or your partner decide to induce lactation, you will quickly discover exactly how trying pumping can be. Similarly, if your surrogate agrees to pump for you, she will need to do so every few hours, even during the night, and it can be an inconvenience that requires serious dedication.
For these reasons, surrogates need to be compensated for their extended commitment to the intended family. Most agencies suggest $200–$250 per week of pumping, including shipping costs and all of the supplies necessary to the process.
If you are interested in using your surrogate’s breastmilk following the birth of the baby, this needs to be discussed, negotiated and included in your legal contract prior to the embryo transfer. Speak with your surrogacy specialist for help finding prospective surrogates who are willing to pump, and work with your attorney to outline the terms for your contract.
Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding a Baby Born through Surrogacy
Intended mothers and surrogate-born babies enjoy all of the same breastfeeding benefits as any other new mom and baby. They also face many of the same challenges, as well as the additional challenges of inducing lactation and supplementing their supply.
As you consider breastfeeding your surrogate-born baby, here are some of the top advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind:
- Breastfeeding may have health benefits. Many nursing moms cite health benefits as one of their top reasons for choosing to breastfeed. Studies have shown that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of many health issues for newborn babies, from ear infections and asthma to childhood obesity. There may be benefits for mom, too, including a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- Nursing promotes bonding and attachment. The physical contact of breastfeeding promotes bonding and psychological health for new mothers and babies. This bonding experience may be especially important to intended mothers who weren’t able to carry the pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding can be more convenient than bottle-feeding. New moms have a lot on their minds without preparing bottles and packing formula every time they leave the house. This may make breastfeeding a simpler, more convenient alternative to bottle-feeding.
- Breastfeeding requires a significant commitment of time and energy. Babies often nurse 10–12 times per day, which means a lot of effort on mom’s part. Intended mothers often need to be even more dedicated and vigilant as they use the SNS and pump for weeks or months in preparation for their new baby.
- It can take time to get the hang of breastfeeding. Most new mothers and babies face a learning curve as they get used to the challenges of breastfeeding. Nursing moms may struggle with painful side effects, and it can take time to get the baby to latch. Intended moms may face additional challenges of learning to induce lactation, and later, use the SNS.
- Breastfeeding in surrogacy is not always convenient. Most intended mothers will not make enough milk to feed their baby without the help of the SNS — which can actually make nursing your baby more cumbersome and less convenient, especially in public.
These are just some of the pros and cons of breastfeeding a surrogate-born baby, but the true joys and challenges of breastfeeding will vary based on each woman’s individual experience. The most important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to breastfeed is your own individual circumstances; the choice is a personal one, and every mother should do what she feels is best for herself and her baby.
Resources for Intended Parents
Under the right circumstances, breastfeeding a surrogate-born baby can be a rewarding experience that promotes your newborn’s health and attachment. If you are interested in breastfeeding, talk with your doctor and your surrogacy professional early on. Your doctor can help you prepare for induced lactation, and your surrogacy professional can provide more information and help you find a surrogate who is willing to pump for you.
In addition, the following resources can provide more information about breastfeeding your baby born through surrogacy, as well as support and guidance for intended parents as they begin the process:
- Ask Lenore: Lenore Goldfarb provides expert information about breastfeeding and induced lactation. Her website provides detailed resources tailored specifically to moms who are interested in breastfeeding their surrogate-born babies, including a step-by-step protocol for inducing lactation.
- Breastfeeding Without Birthing: This site links breastfeeding parents to various resources, information and an online community designed for adoptive and intended mothers.
- Human Milk 4 Human Babies: Human Milk 4 Human Babies connects breastmilk donors with intended mothers and others in need of donations. Their community network pages allow new parents to find local women willing to donate excess breastmilk.
- La Leche League: LLL provides mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information and education to all mothers interested in breastfeeding.
Are you interested in learning more about surrogacy or starting the process? Complete our form to request free surrogacy information now.