You may be aware of the many health benefits of breastfeeding, which is why when you had your own children you were determined to perfect the latch, master the hold, and get your babies that liquid gold.
Now that your journey as a gestational surrogate is underway, you may begin to consider whether you feel as strongly about pumping as you did about breastfeeding. Or perhaps you have not yet really begun to consider whether you want to pump for this journey. Fear not, we have created a short list of pros and cons to help you sort out whether pumping as a surrogate is right for you.
Although the idea of pumping as a surrogate may be new to you, there are many women who have been sharing their ideas and providing support for one another for many years. A quick Google search results in dozens of online resources and communities, all devoted to pumping surrogates. These networks are a rich resource capable of providing you with both practical insight and inspiration. We especially recommend checking out this Facebook group centered around pumping after a surrogacy pregnancy.
Pumping promotes nearly all of the healing and health benefits that breastfeeding does. We say “nearly all” because science has yet to decipher how much of the healing process triggered by breastfeeding is a result of snuggling and interacting with an adorable infant. That said, it looks as if pumping will help shrink your uterus, burn extra calories, and help reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Plus, pumping does release oxytocin, a powerful hormone linked to love, trust, and pair bonding.
Breast Milk is full of antibodies that help babies to fight off viruses and bacteria. The medicinal benefits to your surrobaby are not diminished by the milk, having been pumped then presented via a bottle. The milk you provide will help bolster your surrobaby’s immunity, and decrease episodes of diarrheal illness, ear infections, severe lower respiratory tract infections, diabetes, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome. No wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics considers breastmilk the most 'optimal form of nutrition’ for infants.
You may have felt overwhelmed by the prospect of pumping when you had your own children. The equipment can look a little intimidating at first and some pumps look downright bulky. The great news is that pumping has come a long way in just the past few years. Consider The Willow™ Pump- it is the only wearable breast pump that fits in your bra with no external tubes, cords, or dangling bottles to hold you back. You can pump while vacuuming, shopping at Target, you name it!
Although compensation is likely not one of your primary motivations, it is worth mentioning that many surrogates are indeed compensated for the milk they pump. Check your contract or surrogacy agreement for the compensation details associated with supplying breast milk.
Alright, now that we have covered a few reason pros, let’s get to the cons and chat a bit about why you may not want to pump as surrogate.
As mentioned previously, although it is easier now than ever, pumping can take some work and it may still cause multiple interruptions to your day and nightly schedule. For some busy mamas, fitting this additional task into their schedules is just not a possibility, but that is okay! You have given your Intended Parents an incredible gift. If you are not excited about pumping, it is very likely that they will understand.
Unless your Intended Parents live nearby or are “setting up camp” in your neck of the woods for a few months after delivery, you are going to have to not only pump your breast milk but also ship it. Since breast milk is perishable you will have to follow some strict instructions to assure that it arrives fit for consumption, including the application of dry ice, and only shipping on certain days of the week. Check out the helpful guide created by All Things Surrogacy for pro tips on how to ship breast milk.
Make certain you and your Intended Parents have discussed not only compensation for breast milk but also reimbursement for costs associated with the shipping it. You may be surprised how expensive it is to ship a week’s worth of milk cross-country.
You may not see this one coming but even if you are open to pumping, there is no guarantee that your Intended Parents will be receptive to the arrangement. Some IPs prefer to stick to formula and not deal with the hassle of breast milk logistics. If you find yourself in this situation- willing and wanting to pump but with uninterested Intended Parents, we would like to suggest donating your breast milk to a milk bank near you. Many hospitals also are interested in donated breast milk for premature babies.
Ultimately the decision to pump as a surrogate is entirely yours. As with many aspects of motherhood, infant nutrition can inspire heated debate. Our hope is that surrogates feel empowered to do what is right for them, their family and their circumstances. Because again, you have already done a lot! It is okay if you want to keep going or take a break.
Follow the ConceiveAbilities blog for more information on the surrogacy journey and caring for a surrobaby.