Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Breastfeeding after surrogacy: it is possible!
Disclaimer: This article is written with informational purposes only, the aim is to describe the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding during fertility treatment with the help of surrogacy. Readers have a full right to make their own decision after consulting a doctor.
As we all know, in surrogacy programs, intended mothers don't go through the pregnancy period themselves and thus their bodies can't produce breastmilk naturally (without special protocol for lactation induction) when the baby is born. Every IP couple encounters this situation and in most cases, the simplest and the most obvious solution is to use formula milk. This is the common way in surrogacy. But are there any alternatives? Breastmilk is very nutritious for an infant child and has a lot of benefits in comparison to formula milk. Do surrogate mothers breastfeed? What are the PROs and CONs? Can intended mothers breastfeed after surrogacy programs if they were not pregnant? Let's figure it out in this article.
First of all, we have to remember that in surrogacy programs, we have 3 parties: the intended parents, the surrogate mother, and the newborn baby (or babies), and breastfeeding has to be beneficial and safe for all the parties.
Surrogate mother breastfeeding
In surrogacy programs, after the delivery, surrogate mothers usually get special medications to prevent or stop lactation, which comes as a natural result of pregnancy. If a surrogate mother is ready for breastfeeding, she doesn’t get the medications, so the hormones start their work and boost breast milk production. But surrogate breastfeeding is usually a rare situation and requires extra compensation and a prior agreement between the SM and both intended parents. Not every woman will agree to become a surrogate mother and not every surrogate will agree to breastfeed for many reasons, that's why such a request must be negotiated before the start of the program and even before the SM selection. If such a surrogate is found, in most cases it will not be a direct nursing by breast, but pumping and transporting the breastmilk to parents. Direct nursing by a surrogate may burden both parties psychologically as during this process an emotional and physical bond is formed between the segregant mother and the child, which is not necessary in surrogacy. It may cause serious psychological traumas as to the surrogate, so to the baby. Finding a surrogate that will even agree to pump the breastmilk is not an easy task. Usually, surrogate mothers rush back home to their families and children after the birth and hurry to finalize the legal part. Both direct nursing and pumping require much time and dedication along with special assistance from medical nurses and nutrition specialists who will track the proper feeding and pumping, control the health state of the surrogate, and finalize the lactation properly. We've never had a surrogate mother who agreed to breastfeed directly. If a surrogate agrees to breastfeed, it's a big luck and a good start for the baby's nutrition, but make sure you know all the aspects of it, including psychological. The minimum days recommended for surrogate breastfeeding is 2 weeks. As you can see, direct surrogate breastfeeding and using surrogate's breastmilk are possible but not easy to organize. It is not rare that when parents ask for surrogate breastfeeding, they are not quite informed about how it works, that it is actually a separate process, and that many things have to be taken into account and prepared beforehand.
The PROS of surrogate mother breastfeeding:
Natural milk always has more benefits in comparison with the prepared powder milk. The antibodies that the natural milk provides can’t be artificially added to the powder.
The baby's immune system will be stronger with the natural breastmilk which is confirmed by many studies. So it may be beneficial for health. But in case it is impossible for some reason, powder milk is still a very good option, just look for the good quality one.
What are the CONS of surrogate mother breastfeeding? Let’s go through them:
1. It is harder to stop the surrogate mother's lactation after the breastmilk feeding is finished because the hormonal mechanism works in such a way that it is easier to prevent lactation by medication right after the birth than after a week or later.
2. Pumping milk on schedule is not easy, but it may be even harder for a surrogate emotionally and mentally, to pump her breastmilk away from a baby. It may increase the risks of depression and may even change her intentions towards the baby. In the end, it may even affect the legal process for the baby.
3. Infection risks - in case surrogate mother catches some infection diseases after delivery- she might transfer them to the baby via her breast milk.
4. In case surrogate mother misses time for pumping milk for any reason - it will decrease the whole amount of produced milk and so the baby might not get enough milk for feeding.
5. Transportation question - the surrogate mother should live not far from your place during the time of breastfeeding and the breast milk should be delivered to the baby in a short time (20-30 minutes), otherwise it should be frozen, which might change the smell of milk. All these conditions may cause some difficulties, inconveniences, and anxiety.
6. You are always dependent on feeding time and place.
7. Breastfeeding can sometimes cause an unexpected sense of regret, resentment, and hostility between a surrogate and a biological mother.
Intended Mother Breastfeeding
The second option for breastfeeding after surrogacy is the legal mother (intended mother) breastfeeding. Not many people know it, but Yes! It is possible even if the intended mother did not carry the child herself and was not pregnant. It is absolutely possible if her health condition allows inducing lactation. There are special protocols on how to do it properly and we've had intended parents who have successfully accomplished this task. This option is often overlooked because information about it is not widely spread. With lactation induction intended mothers can experience nursing their surrogate-born babies just like any other mothers, with the benefits of physical and emotional bonding with the babies.
The PROS of Intended Mother Breastfeeding:
1.Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies. It has the right amount of nutrient elements and vitamins and is easily accepted and digested.
2.Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria as well as build up the immune system properly. The first breast milk, called colostrum, provides high amounts of such antibodies.
3. Always available – does not require preparation! The breastmilk comes ready and warm, just stick to the schedule and instructions.
4. Creates a precious psychological connection between mother and child.
5. Such breastfeeding creates a pure and trustful connection between a biological mother that used her own eggs and a baby born with the help of a gestational carrier. It helps her accept the fact that there was no possibility to go through pregnancy herself because of health issues, by being the mother who feeds the baby with her own body after birth.
7. Helps in acceptance of parenthood, responsibility, and realization of the maternal instinct.
The CONS of breastfeeding when the intended mother wishes to breastfeed:
The preparation for such breastfeeding can be complicated. It is an act of true devotion, it requires a lot of time, practical actions many months before the birth, receiving hormones, herbs, and pumping. Not every woman is ready for this, it is a personal decision.
Some health issues may not allow breastfeeding a baby after surrogacy on your own or may induce some health issues, so always consult a doctor before taking this step.
Lack of information about it. It is not quite a disadvantage of breastfeeding, but the fact that many people do not even know that it is possible prevents them from considering such an option.
Another good alternative to breastfeeding a surrogate-born baby is to use services of donated milk from a woman that is breastfeeding her own children and has too much milk for them. We have such an option and can organize the process with our nutrition specialist. Our nutrition specialist helps all our parents on a usual schedule with the prepared milk, helps to control the process, the weight-gain etc.