Whether you’re a surrogate or carrying your own baby, pregnancy will cause your body to begin producing breast milk. But as a surrogate, you’ll need to choose what you’d like to do with that breast milk after delivery.
During the contract phase of the surrogacy process, you will have already discussed whether you’ll provide breast milk for your surrobaby. Both you and your intended parents will come to an agreement on this before you even become pregnant.
It’s not unusual for intended parents to feel uncomfortable accepting a surrogate’s breast milk. For some parents, the idea of giving their baby someone else’s breast milk can seem a little strange, but really, it’s no less unusual than donating blood! In fact, donated milk and wet nursing (when a woman breastfeeds another woman’s child) were quite common in the early 20th century. Today, people more commonly share breast milk by pumping, and breast milk donation is tightly regulated.
Sometimes shipping breast milk to your intended parents is logistically impossible due to distance. And in some cases, the intended mother may induce lactation and be able to breastfeed on her own!
Of course, not every surrogate can or wants to provide breast milk, and it’s pretty common for surrogates to choose not to pump. This is understandable: pumping can be time-consuming, and many surrogates simply want to return to their everyday lives and focus on their own family. But becoming a breast milk donor after surrogacy is a great option for those who don’t want their breast milk to go unused.
There are tremendous benefits to pumping and donating your breast milk after your surrogacy journey ends — not only for the recipient of your breast milk but for you as well!
Why breast milk is so beneficial for babies
Breast milk is highly nutritious. The first fluid that mothers produce is called colostrum, which is rich in immune-boosting compounds, including secretory IgA, lactoferrin, and white blood cells. It also contains nutrients such as epidermal growth factor, which contribute to a baby’s development. Colostrum is often called “liquid gold” because it contains everything that a newborn needs in the first few days of life.
At about three days after giving birth, your breast milk ‘comes in’, which means your production increases. This is your body’s way of supporting your growing baby’s needs.
The truly amazing thing about breast milk is that the composition of nutrients and sugars within the milk changes as the baby grows. Many of those sugars present in the first month are designed to nourish the healthy microbiome of the baby’s gastrointestinal system, which is necessary to support their overall wellbeing. After the first month, the diversity of sugars changes, and breast milk comprises more fats and nutrients to support the baby’s growth.
Breast milk is comprised of a range of essential nutrients which have significant effects on a developing baby’s gut, blood vessels, nervous system, and endocrine system.
Breast milk donation helps pre-term babies thrive
It’s estimated that around 500,000 babies are born prematurely in the US every year, and there’s not always enough milk to go around for them.
Premature babies have a higher risk of developing a gastrointestinal disease called necrotizing enterocolitis, which leads to waste and bacteria entering the intestinal tract and causing life-threatening infections. However, breast milk can improve their chances of overcoming this disease by a whopping 79%. Breast milk is rich in protein, antibodies, and other nutrients that help premature babies thrive.
One study has even shown that babies born before 33 weeks gestation who were fed breast milk had better brain connectivity than those who were not. That’s reason enough to donate!
Breast milk donation supports moms who cannot breastfeed
Not all mothers find breastfeeding comes naturally. There can be many reasons for this: a premature birth, a medical condition, or certain medications. Some moms may be ill after birth and unable to nurse, especially after complications during delivery.
For these moms, donated breast milk means their baby can still receive the nutritional benefits they need, even if it hasn’t come from her own body. Breast milk is easier for babies to digest than formula, and breastfed babies tend to have fewer bouts of diarrhea or constipation. In fact, it’s sometimes called the “perfect food” for a newborn because it contains the right amounts of lactose, protein (whey and casein), and fat for a developing digestive system.
It’s good for YOU, too!
Both breastfeeding and pumping require a lot of calories to maintain a steady milk supply. You can burn up to 500 calories a day just by pumping — that’s the equivalent of an hour’s workout! Many postpartum women find this is a great way to lose a little baby weight in the weeks after the birth.
The other benefit of pumping is that your pregnancy belly will shrink faster. Pumping stimulates the nipples, causing your body to release oxytocin. This hormone triggers muscle contractions and helps your uterus resume its pre-pregnancy shape and size. As an added bonus, oxytocin and prolactin (another breast milk hormone) help alleviate stress and promote positive emotions in a nursing mom. It’s even been found that moms who pump are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression.
And those aren’t the only health benefits. One study has found that for every 12 months a woman breastfeeds or pumps, her risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3% compared to women who didn’t pump.
Minimal risks, substantial benefits
A human milk bank is an organization that collects and dispenses breast milk donated by lactating women. Donors are screened for any health conditions before they are allowed to donate, and the milk from each donor is processed separately. Donor breast milk is screened and pasteurized to destroy any bacteria before being provided to infants who need it.
Breast milk banks have provided substantial benefits over the past few decades. Donated milk improves the health outcomes of many babies, which in turn decreases hospital costs by reducing the number of treatments for life-threatening conditions.
Learn more about donating your breast milk as a surrogate
As you can see, there are countless benefits of donating your breast milk after being a surrogate. If you’re interested in postpartum breast milk donation, discuss the possibility with your case manager. We’ll be happy to recommend a reputable breast milk bank and provide instructions on how to pump, store, and ship your breast milk!