Here’s the rundown on everything I’ve learned so far about stimulating to breastfeed. There may not be a “Breastfeeding for Biological Mommies Expecting Babies via Surrogate – for Dummies” book out there..but I decided to make my own (cliff notes version). I also included my favorite resources for herbs and supplies – happy reading!
Stimulating to breastfeed my biological baby….it’s just as exciting as it sounds. No, really! Every time I see that tiny, unmeasurable amount of liquid gold that my body produced, I light up with pride. It may not be enough to store and freeze yet, but it will be!
I’m not pregnant, haven’t been pregnant since 2011 (and never will again, see earlier posts here if you’re unfamiliar), but my body still knows how to make some baby food. As mad as I’ve been over the past year at my body, this might just make up for it. At this point, you may be wondering to yourself: 1) ….what? And 2)…how??
1) Biological mommies using surrogate mothers may still be able to stimulate to breastfeed. It is not a guarantee, but there are several factors that make your chances increase:
– Previous pregnancies/breastfeeding experiences
– Willingness to begin a hormone/supplement/pumping stimulation regimen.
2) First, you need to be assessed by a doctor (preferably an OB/GYN and/or IBCLC (International Board Certified Center for Lactation Consultants). They will decide what the best path for your milk induction will be.
Next – do your own research!
Spend some time researching breast feeding stimulation. Understand what the process entails, how long it requires you to be committed before the baby is due, and what you can expect to shell out financially. For the most part, your budget should include visits to doctors and/or specialists (if insurance doesn’t cover or you have no insurance), prescription and herbal supplement costs, and pump expenses. I highly recommend looking into renting a pump from a hospital rather than investing in your own right away; if the process doesn’t end up working out for you, you can always return the pump and only be out a few months rent on the piece (usually $50-$80 per month, versus upwards of $300 for a similar model). If you do end up being successful with stimulation, you can evaluate whether you would like to continue renting or purchase your own model (a hospital grade/double pump model is highly recommended – here’s mine: Medela Pump In Style).
Include in your online research the ups/downs and possible side effects and/or precautions of the induction (stimulation) process. Blogs out there may offer personal experiences (hello! visit mine – No Foot Is Too Small) and uncensored honesty when it comes to the process. It isn’t easy and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it is also a very rewarding process and will help if you have fellow BF’ers (breastfeeders, or best friend-ers, as they may come to be known!) to follow and seek encouragement from. I have several BF’s with whom I consult on a daily basis for encouragement and support when I need it – or when I just need a laugh. Women who are adamant about breastfeeding their children are true warriors for this process!
Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, do NOT take any supplements without consulting a doctor first. There are lots of websites which make purchasing herbs and supplements easy but heed my warning: there are some side effects from some of these herbs/medicines that are not safe for all. For example, there are some drugs that are prescribed secondarily (prescribed for the side effects it may cause rather than it’s primary purpose, i.e – anti nausea meds for lactation). These are highly controversial, especially for women with existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular conditions, depression, or high blood pressure. Jeopardizing your own health is not a risk you should be willing to take to pump up your breast milk supply!
Quick Q & A –
Q: I’ve had a hysterectomy..will I be able to breastfeed?
A: **Not having a uterus and/or ovaries will not affect your ability to induce lactation. This is where the birth control/hormonal route comes in handy – the hormones you will take will make up for the lack of these “baby making parts”. Take it from me – I have no uterus, yet I am already producing breast milk.
Q: What if my supply never comes in or isn’t enough? Is there some way to supplement using real breast milk rather than formula?
A: **If your supply doesn’t come in, or isn’t enough to feed your baby exclusively, there are other natural options. Check with your state for a milk-supply center (NC’s breast milk bank is located in Raleigh – click here: Wake Med). You can obtain more information through an online forum as well, such as onlythebreast.com. Enhance your bonding by still “breast feeding” even if the milk isn’t your own, by using a supplemental breastfeeding system (check out Medela’s). It’s pretty neat: you use medical tape to attach the thin tubing to your chest and nipple, and when the baby feeds, the tiny tubing runs directly beside your nipple and feeds only as he/she sucks to provide the same breastfeeding experience.
With that info given, here’s my chosen path of induction: I began pumping 3 times a day two weeks ago, while drinking 2-3 cups of “Mothers Milk Tea”. This week I will start my hormone regimen: 4 weeks of a high-estrogen birth control bill and a progesterone pill. At the same time, I’ll continue pumping (but bump it up to 4 times a day) and drinking the tea, as well as taking a breastfeeding supplement like Nursing Blend twice a day (this website has everything you’ll need, herb-wise). In four weeks, I’ll go off of the hormones and continue the herbs, pumping, and add in an extra Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle supplements daily (known as galactogogues) – as well as eating oatmeal at least three times a week. This will be right at 6 weeks before the baby is due – and I’ll begin pumping about 8 times a day (look into a travel pump!). This will send my milk ducts into overdrive and they will hopefully be ready to perform once my son takes his first feeding.
While you may or may not begin to see results (I have had colostrum since my first pumping trial), nothing is quite the same as baby-to-breast. Experts and mothers agree, your body will know what to do once your baby tries to feed (whether there is anything there yet or not). Even traditional moms sometimes do not produce anything for several days after their baby is born; their bodies sometimes need that “trigger” of the baby sucking in order to “know” its time for production. Give yourself, and your baby, a chance if this is something you truly want to do. I didn’t get the chance to carry my son, so this is my only means of an immediate biological motherly bond. If it ends up not working out (due to lack of milk supply), I will at least have had the experience of trying and reap the rewards of the skin-to-skin bonding with my son.
I hope this information is helpful to any other mommies out there looking for a way to bond with their babies after a surrogate birth. We deserve this precious and natural experience – it just may take a little more work, but it’s worth every minute! What do I always say? Don’t give up!
Hugs (but not too tight, if you know what I mean!)