baby

Even though her baby was born via surrogacy, this is how Kim Kardashian could breastfeed.

When Kim Kardashian was raving earlier this month about a nursing pillow, fans started asking questions. Was Kardashian hinting that she would be breastfeeding her third child – even though a surrogate mum was giving birth to the baby?

Well, breastfeeding a baby born via surrogate is not as uncommon as you might think. Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University, Dr Karleen Gribble says she’s contacted by up to a dozen women each year, asking for help with breastfeeding a child they haven’t given birth to. A lot of them are women whose babies have been born via surrogate.

“With the surrogacy situation, it actually can be quite simple,” Dr Gribble, from the school of nursing and midwifery at Western Sydney University, tells Mamamia.

Kim Kardashian children Saint West North West
Kim Kardashian with baby North and Saint West. Image via KKW.

The process is known as induced lactation.

“It’s been around forever,” Dr Gribble says. “It’s a natural process, based around the hormone prolactin. The body makes it naturally in response to nipple stimulation – the sucking of a baby or a breast pump.”

Some women choose to take medication to boost their prolactin levels. Other women use a breast pump before the baby is born. But Dr Gribble says neither of those things is necessary.

“In a situation where it’s a surrogacy arrangement, you know when the baby is going to be born,” she explains. “Newborn babies are primed to breastfeed. They like to suck a lot. They like to spend a lot of time breastfeeding.”

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She says women in this situation often use a breastfeeding supplementer, which is a bottle that has a tube coming out of it. It can be set up so milk comes out of the tube at the woman’s nipple.  

“They can actually just start breastfeeding their baby with that straightaway, so the baby’s feeding at the breast, but the sucking stimulation of the baby at the breast will actually result in the woman starting to make milk. She doesn’t have to do any preparation beforehand if she doesn’t want to.”

For women wanting to increase their milk production, Dr Gribble suggests they keep their baby close to them – for example, carrying their baby in a sling.

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“Induced lactation works better in countries like Papua New Guinea and India, places where women tend to keep their babies really close to them, so they carry them rather than put them in prams, they sleep with them at night time. Under those circumstances, women tend to make more milk.”

Dr Gribble says the amount of milk produced by women trying induced lactation “varies a lot”. In some cases, it can be enough to feed a baby. But even if it’s not much, it can help the attachment between mother and child.

“It’s not just about milk production,” she adds.

For some women, the biggest obstacle to trying induced lactation can be other people.

“Women who do want to do it often come up against people who are really discouraging,” Dr Gribble says. “They might go and talk to the doctor or a lactation consultant who is quite intimidated by the process and doesn’t really think it works and so actively discourages them, which I think is a real shame.

“I think if it important to somebody, if it’s something they want to do, then they should be supported by the people around them.”

She says some women find it quite easy, while others don’t.

“Sometimes it can be absolutely simple and straightforward. It’s a dream from the beginning. For other people it can actually be really difficult. But I’ve never heard from anybody who said they regretted trying.”

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