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.
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.