Surrogacy is a wonderful way for people to fulfill their dreams of parenthood when they can’t carry a child themselves, and which also requires a lot of research, preparation, and planning.
Surrogacy has an incredibly high success rate, so it’s natural that after deciding to commit to the journey, many intended parents become busy planning for everything from the implantation of the embryo to after-birth care. This is where the intersection of surrogacy and post-birth protocols raises several questions, specifically with regard to breastfeeding.
Read on as we explore various aspects of surrogacy and breastfeeding, from whether surrogates actually breastfeed to the different ways their breast milk can be used, as well as whether intended parents can take on breastfeeding themselves, without actually having given birth.
Do surrogates breastfeed?
It depends on a case by case basis, but surrogates do not typically breastfeed the child they carry for the intended parents. There are of course exceptions to the rule, especially in altruistic surrogacy, where a family member or a friend is the surrogate. In that instance,, since there already is an established relationship beforehand, the surrogate may be considered for breastfeeding the baby directly. However, the primary reason that surrogate’s don’t often take on this task, is that the baby’s intended parents are usually the ones who have a strong desire to establish a bonding experience through breastfeeding.
There is also the consideration of logistics – many surrogates do not live close to the intended parents, and so breastfeeding simply isn’t a realistic option. Ultimately the surrogate’s role is to provide a safe and healthy environment for the developing fetus, and carry the baby to term. The decision on whether or not a surrogate breastfeeds is a personal one, and may vary based on the surrogacy agreement and individual circumstances. It’s essential to have a clear and open discussion regarding breastfeeding within the surrogacy contract to avoid any misunderstandings. If direct breastfeeding isn’t feasible, there are a variety of other options to consider that are available to both the baby and the intended parents.
Asking your surrogate to pump breast milk
If breast milk is the feeding option that the intended parents strongly prefer for their baby – and since physical breastfeeding from the surrogate is usually not a feasible choice – then pumping milk is a wonderful alternative that can be arranged. There are many surrogates who willingly choose to continue pumping for up to six weeks after the baby’s birth. This expressed breast milk can be used to nourish the baby using a bottle or a supplemental nursing system, ensuring that the infant receives all the benefits of breast milk, regardless of whether the intended mother opts to breastfeed.
It’s important to note that surrogates are not obligated to pump, and those who opt to do so invest a significant amount of time and effort in pumping and sending the milk to the intended family. Many intended parents who decide to induce lactation, quickly realize the demanding nature of pumping. Similarly, if the surrogate agrees to pump, she will need to do so at regular intervals, even during nighttime hours, which can be inconvenient and requires unwavering dedication.
Should you decide to utilize your surrogate’s breast milk after the baby’s birth, it’s essential to have a thorough discussion, negotiation, and inclusion of this aspect in your legal contract before proceeding with the surrogacy journey.
How much do surrogates get paid for breast milk?
It depends whether we’re talking about the milk going to an individual family or a milk bank, but the compensation for surrogates who choose to donate or sell their breast milk can vary widely. The amount depends on various factors, including the quality and quantity of milk produced, the demand for breast milk in the market, and the terms of any agreements made. As far as pumping for intended parents, due to the time and dedication involved, surrogates should be compensated accordingly for their commitment to the intended family. Most agencies recommend compensation in the range of $150 to $250 per week of pumping, covering shipping expenses, and all the necessary supplies for the process.
This of course would need to be discussed in detail prior to proceeding with the surrogacy journey, and included in the surrogacy agreement. Both parties should communicate openly and agree on the terms, including compensation for this service. As mentioned above, pumping breast milk is a time-consuming undertaking and requires a significant commitment from the surrogate, therefore compensation should always be fair and take into account the effort involved.
What can surrogates do with their breast milk?
Since many surrogates will have breast milk coming in as a result of the surrogacy pregnancy, they have several options for what they can do with it afterwards. The choice depends on personal preferences and any possible agreements made with the intended parents beforehand. Here are some of the most common choices for what surrogates can do with their breast milk:
Surrogates can choose to donate their breast milk to a milk bank, where it can be used to support the health of premature infants and babies who may be struggling with various health issues. This selfless act is a wonderful way to help little ones in need.
Some surrogates may choose to sell their breast milk directly to individuals, either for altruistic reasons or to offset some of the costs associated with surrogacy. This practice, although legal, is unregulated, so all parties involved are responsible for communications and agreements, from first contact to the actual transaction.
Providing to Intended Parents
If both the surrogate and the intended parents come to a mutual agreement, then the surrogate may provide her breast milk to the baby she carried through surrogacy. This is a decision that should be made and documented in the surrogacy contract.
What is surrogate milk donation?
Surrogate milk donation, often referred to as “surrogate milk banking,” is a process where surrogates can express and donate their breast milk to babies in need. This selfless act helps provide nourishment to infants, particularly premature babies in neonatal intensive care units, who require breast milk for optimal health and development. Surrogate milk donation has the potential to save lives and offer critically needed support to vulnerable infants.
The donated breast milk from surrogates is typically screened and pasteurized to ensure its safety and quality. Many hospitals and milk banks actively seek donor breast milk to provide the best possible start in life for premature and medically fragile infants. In some cases, if the surrogate doesn’t have a preconceived agreement with the intended parents to provide breast milk, some milk banks will actually compensate the surrogate mother for every qualified ounce donated.
Can you breastfeed if you haven’t given birth?
For those intended families that really want to receive the full experience and try breast feeding themselves in order to bond with their newborn bundle of joy, the ability to do so is certainly possible. Thanks to advancements in hormone therapy as well as the tried and true method of pumping, yes, it is absolutely achievable to breastfeed without having given birth. This process is known as induced lactation, and is a method that allows non-birthing parents to breastfeed their baby. This is an important option for intended parents who are undergoing surrogacy, as well as for adoptive parents and same-sec couples who all wish to experience the bonding and nutritional benefits of breastfeeding.
What is induced lactation and how does it work?
Induced lactation is a committed process that involves stimulating the breast to produce milk without pregnancy and childbirth having to actually take place. This method can be achieved through a combination of techniques, including hormone therapy, breast pumping, and herbal supplements. Here is a breakdown of how these all work together to make breastfeeding dreams come true:
- Hormone Therapy – Non-birthing intended parents may take medications such as prolactin and estrogen, to mimic the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Prolactin is a hormone which encourages the growth and development of milk-producing tissue in the breasts, even if a woman has not been pregnant. And estrogen therapy may be used to mimic some of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Estrogen can help increase breast size and enhance the structure of the mammary glands. Together, these hormones create an environment in the body that is more conducive to the possibility of breast feeding. While induced lactation obviously isn’t meant to replicate all aspects of a natural pregnancy, it can stimulate the necessary changes in breast tissue and hormone levels to support milk production and breastfeeding. By taking these medications, the body believes that a pregnancy is taking place, thus helping prepare it for breastfeeding.
- Breast Pumping – Using a breast pump or even hand expression to help signal to the body that it needs to produce milk, has been a method used for decades in order to induce lactation – even in women who gave birth but are just struggling with milk production. Breast pumping mimics the suckling action of a baby, stimulates the release of prolactin for milk production, and will actually help increase supply through regular emptying of the breasts. It’s crucial for establishing and maintaining a consistent milk supply, especially when breastfeeding without a prior pregnancy, such as in surrogacy. Sticking to a strict pumping schedule and consulting with a healthcare professional or lactation specialist is also imperative in this process.
- Herbal Supplements – Although not guaranteed and individual experiences may vary, intended parents may choose to complement their efforts with herbal supplements. Some popular herbal supplement options that can help increase breastmilk supply are fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, and goat’s rue, but there are many others out there, as well as combination blends available, so intended parents should do thorough research on what will best work for them.
Induced lactation can be a challenging process which requires time and dedication, but if successful, it’s a beautiful and fulfilling experience for intended parents that are looking to form a lasting bond with their baby through the act of breastfeeding.
What if I’m not able to lactate?
While induced lactation is possible and successful for many, it may not always work for everyone. The ability to lactate varies from person to person, and many variables can skew the outcome, such as age, reaction to hormones, frequency of pumping, and even an undiagnosed genetic mutation. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing what the results will be for intended parents, until they actually attempt the process. However, if induced lactation does not yield the desired results, there are a number of alternative feeding options available, such as using formula, procuring donor milk, or a combination of these methods. The most important thing is ensuring the baby’s nutritional needs are met and that they are nurtured and cherished by their loving parents.
How do I stop lactating when ready?
When the intended family decides it’s time to stop lactating, whether due to personal choice or medical reasons, it’s imperative to do so gradually and with care. Abruptly discontinuing breastfeeding can lead to discomfort and potential complications.
If you’ve been actively inducing lactation, you can begin by reducing the frequency of pumping sessions or breastfeeding. Slowly eliminate one session at a time over several days or weeks to allow your body to adjust to this new normal. The goal is to shorten the duration of each session and express only enough milk to relieve discomfort. Applying cold packs or cabbage leaves may provide relief as well.
Remember to stay well-hydrated and maintain a balanced diet to support your body as it naturally reduces milk production. Be patient with yourself and allow time for both your body and emotions to adapt to this transition, and always remember that even a short time breastfeeding is a wonderful gift to bestow upon your baby. If you have concerns or encounter challenges, seeking guidance from a healthcare provider or lactation consultant can be immensely beneficial and may help give intended families much needed physical and emotional support.
Pros and cons of induced lactation
Induced lactation offers the possibility of bonding through breastfeeding, which can be emotionally rewarding for intended parents. However, the process requires a significant level of commitment, and comes with its own set of challenges. There are various pros and cons of induced lactation that should be discussed before committing to the process:
Pros of Induced Lactation:
- Bonding – it fosters a strong emotional bond between the breastfeeding parent and the baby, which is a gift to intended mothers who utilize surrogacy
- Nutritional Benefits – it provides the baby with the nutritional benefits of breast milk, especially in the first few months.
- Health Benefits – it offers invaluable health benefits to the newborn, such as improved immunity and digestion.
- Personal Satisfaction – many intended parents find personal satisfaction and fulfillment in successful breastfeeding
Cons of Induced Lactation:
- Time-Consuming – the process itself requires a high level of commitment, requiring time and dedication
- Uncertain results – there may be inconsistencies in the quantity of milk produced, and there is no guarantee that the induced lactation will be successful
- Emotional Challenges – it can be emotionally draining to commit so much time to such a challenging task, as well as frustrating if the expected results are not achieved
- Physical Discomfort – it may cause physical discomfort, such as engorgement and soreness
- Medications – many induced lactation methods involve taking hormonal medications which can cause potential side effects
A successful surrogacy that includes the introduction of induced lactation presents both advantages and disadvantages, and each family must weigh these factors carefully; nevertheless, it stands as a beautiful option and a way to strengthen the bond between intended parents and their new baby.
How Surrogacy by Faith can help with your surrogacy journey
If you’re an intended family who is embarking on a path to surrogacy and you want to review breastfeeding options, or if you need guidance on the intersection of surrogacy and breastfeeding, Surrogacy by Faith can offer invaluable support. Our team consists of many seasoned surrogacy caseworkers who have undergone the process themselves, and can provide resources that can help your goal of welcoming a new baby into your family.
The decision to commit to surrogacy is a complex and deeply personal journey, so understanding your options and making informed decisions is crucial. Surrogacy by Faith is driven by Christian values and is united in the goal of bringing the God-given gift of parenthood to hopeful families. With the right support from our expert team, you can navigate this unique path toward expanding your family and ensure that the best interests of all parties involved are at the forefront of the decision-making process.
If you’re an intended parent who is ready to start your surrogacy journey, please fill out the Intended Parent(s) Initial Inquiry to start the conversation. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have about surrogacy and anything pertaining to the overall experience. The safety and comfort of our intended parents and surrogates is always at the core of our mission, and we’re excited to help you embark on your blessed journey to parenthood!