If you follow Kim Kardashian West on Instagram or Snapchat, you know how much fun it is to see her unveil all her new baby products and gear. She recently posted a picture of her new nursing pillow with rave reviews, sending the internet into a frenzy. By now, the whole world knows that Kim is using a surrogate to carry her third child with Kanye West, so people are confused on why or how she could use a nursing pillow. Understandably, people are wondering, can you breastfeed if you’re using a surrogate?
Believe it or not, you can absolutely breastfeed your baby, even if you’re using a surrogate. The common misconception is that you have to be pregnant and deliver a baby in order to lactate, but there is a way to induce lactation, even if you were never pregnant. Romper reached out to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Tania Archbold, who says that along with women who have never been pregnant or who are postmenopausal, women who are transgendered, or men who are transgendered, can also induce lactation.
According to La Leche League International (LLLI), pregnancy does not affect your ability to produce milk and you can induce lactation by stimulating your breasts and nipples. The more you stimulate, the organization noted, the more you signal your body to produce milk. Archbold says that some parents choose to use medication to induce lactation, and others will just use stimulation alone, which is often enough to kick start lactation.
For breast stimulation, the website for Medela explained that using a breast pump along with massage is the best way to induce lactation, and some women may add hormones or supplements to increase their supply. When women take hormones like estrogen and progesterone, the website noted, the body imitates the hormone levels of pregnancy, but when the hormones are stopped, the body thinks a baby was born so it may help start lactation. Apparently it could take up to a week of pumping, medications, or stimulation before a mom starts seeing drops of milk, and when she does begin lactating, she may notice her nipples darkening in color and she may even stop menstruating.
Archbold suggests that if parents know in advance that they have a baby coming, they can work with an IBCLC to determine their own unique situation and figure out a realistic plan and goal as soon as possible. She says that this will increase the chances of a successful breastfeeding relationship, even if it doesn't involve 100 percent breast milk. “As always,” adds Archbold, “each person's situation is very specific to their own health history, and some people will be able to induce a larger supply than others.”
Surrogacy is not as common as adoption, so the data and information out there about breastfeeding a surrogate child may not be too great. But many adoptive mothers successfully breastfeed their babies, some with a full supply and some with supplementation. Archbold says that if the milk supply isn’t adequate, often parents will breastfeed with a feeding tube at the breast (called Supplemental Nursing Systems), so they can supplement their baby with donor breast milk or formula.
Let me just say one thing: women are truly amazing beings, and you should never doubt their capabilities. They can lactate if they need to, and if they don’t, they are committed enough to supplement at the breast. There are so many ways to breastfeed — pumping, supplemental nursing systems, exclusive nursing, or a combination of all of these. Instead of criticizing moms on their choices to feed, just support them in what they feel is right for their baby. And just a word of advice — never underestimate a determined mother.