Reading a headline that says it’s possible to breastfeed a child from a surrogate mother may raise a few eyebrows and a surprise to the usual ideas on how does surrogacy work. It has been widely publicised that Kim Kardashian has welcomed a third child to her family via surrogacy. Strangely, she posted a picture with a host of breastfeeding gear. It wasn’t clear whether it was a gift for her surrogate, or if she had a plan to nurse the little one herself, but it did raise a few questions for us.
So how could this work for surrogacy? Milk production relies on hormones, in particular estrogen and progesterone, the combination of these and the physical changes during pregnancy encourage milk production when the baby first feeds. Prolactin and oxytocin are produced and this increases milk delivery.
A lactation consultant, Leigh Anne O’Connor tells SELF that it is possible to safely induce lactation. She says it’s not easy, and it doesn’t work for everyone, but it is absolutely possible through physical stimulation and medication, at least 6 months hormone therapy is also required. Daily hormone treatments and the use of galactagogue to stimulate to stimulate prolactin. Finally, domperidone is taken until the baby is born and the milk supply begins. This drug is not FDA approved and they actually recommend against taking it due to side effects such as cardiac arrest.
It is also advised that you begin to pump 2 months before the baby is born to continue the increase of the required hormones as breast milk production works on a supply and demand basis. It’s then a case of nursing the baby with the help of pasteurized donor milk or milk from the surrogate.
O’Connor reminds readers that breastfeeding doesn’t always work even for mothers who give birth themselves so don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work.