Surrogacy and Breastfeeding: Inducing Lactation
The benefits of breastfeeding newborns are widely recognized. Breastfeeding not only provides a newborn baby with proper nutrition, but also helps maintain health and ward off illness during infancy as well as in the future. But there is also a bonding experience that takes place between a breastfeeding mother and her baby during these early stages following birth. For intended mothers whose baby is born by surrogacy
as well as adoptive mothers, inducing lactation offers an opportunity to experience the physical and emotional bond of breastfeeding with her newborn.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding fosters a unique closeness that is comforting to both mother and baby. In terms of health benefits, breastfeeding has been linked with protection against the following:
- ear infections
- respiratory problems such as asthma
- high blood pressure in the future
Breast milk contains a protein known as CD14 that helps the development of immune system cells known as B cells in newborns. In addition, colostrum - breast milk that is produced in late pregnancy and during the first few days following birth - has a high concentration of antibodies and helps early digestion.
How Inducing Lactation Works
Lactation involves two hormones. Prolactin is considered the milk-making hormone while oxytocin is the hormone responsible for releasing breast milk. Both of these hormones are controlled by the pituitary gland and are therefore not ovarian hormones. This means that even a woman who has undergone a hysterectomy can induce lactation.
The hormones involved in inducing lactation both respond to nipple stimulation, and thus respond to manual stimulation such as:
- breast massage
- nipple manipulation
- sucking by baby
- sucking by a hospital grade electric breast pump
While manual stimulation alone should be sufficient in inducing lactation, hormonal therapy to induce lactation is also available. This typically involves administering high levels of estrogen hormones in order to simulate pregnancy. This is followed by an abrupt withdrawal of estrogen to mimic the hormonal environment in a woman’s body after birth. Medication to enhance prolactin levels will then be administered, and sucking – whether by baby or a pump – will begin at this point.
Inducing lactation can take anywhere from 5 days to 4 months, so expecting mothers often begin to induce lactation during the third trimester of a surrogate pregnancy. Inducing lactation should only be attempted with the guidance of a pediatrician, lactation consultant and/or doctor.