Surrogacy is a special journey because it can be highly flexible and accommodate a family’s needs and wishes in many ways. One of these ways can include how an intended parent plans to feed their new baby. Intended parents can choose to formula feed, receive donated breast milk, or even induce lactation and breastfeed on their own.
Let’s pause and stand on the top of the mountain to scream, “Fed is best!” But it’s important to know that there are options. Understanding what goes into each feeding option and learning about the benefits of each choice can help you make a more informed decision. This is true for everyone involved – whether you’re the surrogate deciding if breast milk donation is right for you or the intended parent weighing the possibilities of how you want to feed your baby.
The Impact of Breast Milk Donation and Breastfeeding
Caring for a tiny little newborn is no small matter, and it can feel intimidating to make big choices about things like how a baby should be fed. Breast milk donation and breastfeeding are two options that can shape this journey.
As a surrogate, donating breast milk can feel accomplishing and empowering, and intended parents are often eternally grateful for your contribution to such a powerful source of sustenance and nutrition for their new baby.
As an intended parent, providing your baby with breast milk is a special experience, a language of love spoken through each nourishing moment. It also comes with many benefits, which we’ll unpack below.
Health Benefits of Breast Milk for Baby
Breast milk is often referred to as nature’s perfect food for babies, and that’s for a good reason! Breast milk provides a wide range of health benefits that promote optimal growth and development throughout a baby’s first year and beyond. It contains everything a baby needs for their growing bodies, including antibodies and immune cells that help protect them against infections and diseases.
Plus, breast milk can adjust to a child’s needs as the baby grows. For instance, the milk that is produced in the first few days after birth, known as colostrum, is rich in antibodies and is highly concentrated nutritionally, perfect for newborns who are just entering the world. Additionally, breast milk tends to be easier for babies’ tiny stomachs to digest because the enzymes in breast milk are gentler on a baby’s developing digestive system.
Health Benefits of Pumping for Surrogates
Breast milk can provide health benefits to surrogates, too. Pumping breast milk helps stimulate the production of the hormone oxytocin, which plays an important role in helping the uterus recover after birth and returning it to its pre-pregnancy size.
Pumping breast milk can also release endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers. The act of pumping can give surrogates a welcomed sense of fulfillment, as helping provide nourishment for the baby they carried is such an incredible accomplishment.
Emotional Benefits of Breastfeeding for Intended Parents
For intended parents, whether you’re receiving donated milk or inducing lactation, breastfeeding can be an extraordinary journey of connection and closeness. Breastfeeding can help encourage a strong emotional bond between the intended parents and the baby. There are so many meaningful experiences that can come along with breastfeeding – like the skin-to-skin contact, the eye contact, and the physical closeness during breastfeeding, to name a few.
All of these are crucial for giving intended parents (especially new parents!) a greater sense of security and even promote emotional attachment to their new addition.
Preparing for Success with Breastfeeding or Donated Breast Milk
Whether you’re the intended parents or surrogate, communication is the most important factor to consider when preparing for success with either breastfeeding or using donated breast milk.
If you’re a surrogate, let your intended parents know whether you’re interested in or comfortable with pumping. Express how you feel ahead of time so that your intended parents have time to make decisions for alternatives if needed. Think about your lifestyle and daily schedule and determine if you’re able to squeeze regular pumping sessions in. (That includes the middle of the night, by the way!)
If you’re an intended parent, be transparent with your surrogate. Ask them what their preferences are, and see if they are comfortable with providing donated breast milk. Be prepared to offer compensation for your surrogate’s time. Pumping is hard work! If your surrogate is not interested in providing donated breast milk, you may consider pursuing donated breast milk elsewhere or inducing lactation for yourself.
Options For Intended Mothers Who Want to Induce Lactation
Yes, it is indeed possible for intended mothers to breastfeed their babies! Inducing lactation is a rewarding way to feed your baby if you’re willing to commit. Talk to your doctor about how you can induce lactation. From there, you can explore possible hormone therapies. These helpful hormones, such as prolactin and oxytocin, can give your body a much-needed boost to aid in the milk-making process.
If you’re interested in inducing lactation, consider enlisting the support of lactation consultants, who can help make sure you’re doing everything you can to stimulate strong milk production. You can also consider joining breastfeeding support groups, where you can get even more advice and guidance from other people who have induced lactation.
How a Surrogate Should Prepare for Pumping
First things first – when it comes to pumping, finding the right equipment is key. Invest in a high-quality breast pump that suits your needs and fits your style. Check with your insurance to see if they will cover this expense. And don’t forget to create a cozy pumping space, complete with comfy pillows, some ambient lighting, and your favorite binge-worthy show to keep you entertained during your pumping sessions.
Plus, stock up on pumping supplies. There’s nothing worse than not being able to pump because of a leaky tube or busted parts. It’s good to have an ample supply of breast milk storage bags or containers and breast pads to help absorb any leakage. Keep spare parts for your pump, too, such as valves and membranes, in case they need to be replaced.
The next most important thing is establishing a pumping schedule. Determine a pumping schedule that works best for you, preferably one that aligns with the baby’s feeding routine. Consistency is key when it comes to pumping, so aim for regular sessions throughout the day (and night).
Practical Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding may come naturally for some (very lucky) few, but it’s not uncommon to face some challenges during your journey. Consider following these tips to help guide you as you get more comfortable with your breastfeeding routine:
Establish a strong milk supply
Having a good milk supply is key to being successful in your breastfeeding journey. Building a strong milk supply requires consistency, dedication, and, most importantly, hydration. Stay well-hydrated and nurse or pump frequently to send the signal to your body that demand is high.
Be prepared, but call for support
Breastfeeding may come with its fair share of hurdles, but you can prepare yourself for the challenges that come your way. Sore nipples? Nipple balm to the rescue! Cluster feeding? Feed to their need. Latching issues? Well, that can be tough. At some point, it may be helpful to consider calling upon other sources of support – like a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are essentially the fairy godmother of breastfeeding guidance – and they’re masters at overcoming even the biggest breastfeeding challenges.
Get even more support from a support group
Don’t be afraid to reach out for more help if you need it. Consider joining a breastfeeding support group – there are thousands of them on the internet and social media. These groups can offer helpful advice and encourage you to keep going, even when you feel defeated.
Whatever Option You Choose, We Support You
If you’re an intended parent, weigh your options and choose which works best for your family. What’s most important is that your baby is getting the nutrients they need, whether you choose formula, donated breast milk, or your own breast milk. If you are a surrogate interested in pumping to donate milk after birth, we can help guide you through the process. Pumping is hard work, but for many surrogates, it’s well worth it!
Contact us today to discuss your surrogacy journey and get the support you need. Whether you’re an intended parent or a surrogate, we’re here to help you make informed choices throughout your surrogacy journey and beyond.