A Surrogate's Guide to Pumping and Shipping Breast Milk

A Surrogate's Guide to Pumping and Shipping Breast Milk

Feeding a baby breast milk is the best source of nutrition. According to the CDC, breast milk can help protect babies against short-term and long-term disease. Whether you're interested in becoming a surrogate (also known as a gestational carrier) or looking to hire one to expand your family, you may wonder how and if breast milk can fit into the equation. Good news: It can. It’s estimated that approximately 30% of surrogates pump and ship breast milk for anywhere from one to two months.

Here's what you need to know about pumping and shipping breast milk for a baby born via surrogate.

What Are the Benefits of Breast Milk?

The benefits of breast milk aren't just for a baby. Breastfeeding can be beneficial to a surrogate, too. Here's what you need to know about breastfeeding and its health benefits. 

Benefits of Breast Milk for the Baby

The benefits of breast milk for the baby range from both short-term benefits as well as long-term developmental ones. Breastfed babies may have a lower risk of:

  • Asthma
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Ear infections
  • Stomach bugs

Benefits for the Surrogate

The benefits of  breast milk for a surrogate (in this case, pumping breast milk) can reap the same benefits as breastfeeding, such as:

  • Helping with recovery post-birth
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers

In many cases, this makes the double-duty benefits of breast milk and pumping appealing for both the surrogate and intended parents.

Do Surrogates Produce Milk?

Yes, surrogates produce milk, and many may choose to express or pump milk for the first few weeks of the baby’s life. Since the surrogate spent the past 40 weeks being pregnant, their milk and colostrum (which give the baby antibodies and nutrients that are vital in the first few days of life) are specifically formulated for that child.

What Do Surrogates Do With the Breast Milk?

Surrogates may choose one of the following for their breast milk:

  • Pump for intended parents
  • Not pump at all, which will stop breast milk production
  • Pump and donate breast milk to a donor milk bank
  • Pump and sell breast milk to a milk bank
  • Pump and donate via community groups like Facebook

Pumping and Shipping Breast Milk by the Surrogate

Whether you’re a surrogate or the intended parents, you’ll discuss pumping and the possibility of feeding a baby breast milk early in the surrogacy process. For surrogates, you're not expected to give a definite answer, but this is a chance for all parties to start thinking about how they want to feed the baby and what the resources are to achieve this if breast milk is the preference. 

It’s also worth noting that intended parents can change their minds at anytime. For example, if the originally outlined preference was for the baby to receive breast milk, but circumstances changed, and they received formula in the hospital for a specific medical reason, they may decide to continue with formula, no longer requiring breast milk from the surrogate after delivery.

How to Feed the Baby if Surrogate's Breast Milk is Not Available

However, this doesn’t mean that if you choose to use your surrogate’s milk and she cannot or does not want to pump, you’re out of luck. Here are some other ways to feed a baby if a surrogate's breast milk is not available:

Donor Milk 

For parents who want to give their baby breast milk, a milk bank may be a cost-effective way to achieve this. Donor breast milk not from your specific surrogate can still be used and has many of the same nutritional and developmental benefits as using your surrogate's breast milk. If you choose to go this route, it’s important to use milk from a bank that is associated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America so that the proper safety protocols are practiced and observed.

Intended Mother Breastfeeding

In some cases, a surrogate baby can receive milk through an intended mother, even if she did not carry the baby. This type of breastfeeding is achieved through a process known as induced lactation. This is when a woman takes certain hormones, supplements, and medications in addition to pumping to make her body produce breast milk for her baby. However, induced lactation may not be possible or successful for all women and if it is something you are planning to try, speak to your physician as early in the surrogacy process as possible.

Formula or Combination Feeding

When breast milk from either a donor, the surrogate, or the intended mother isn't available, the formula is a healthy, safe alternative way to feed a baby. Or, perhaps you're giving the baby breast milk from one of the sources above, but the infant requires more food than the breast milk provided. In these cases, combination feeding of both breast milk and formula is a great way for a baby to get the benefits of breast milk while making sure they are eating enough to grow and develop. 

Do Surrogates Get Paid for Breast Milk?

Yes, surrogates get paid for breast milk. This can be anywhere from $200 to $300 per week. Intended parents will also pay for the supplies and equipment a surrogate will need to pump, such as a breast pump and storage. The intended parent or parents can purchase these for the surrogate or simply reimburse them. 

Don't Forget to Factor in Shipping Costs

Many surrogates do not live near the intended parents. Shipping breast milk is convenient, safe, and relatively easy to do, but it’s important to remember that delivery of the breast milk will need to be covered once your surrogate starts pumping and supplying breast milk. Unfortunately shipping breast milk outside of the US is currently prohibited.

While there are some for-profit milk banks, surrogates who choose to give their breast milk to a donor milk bank are typically not compensated, aside from covering shipping and storage costs. 

How to Ship Breast Milk for a Surrogate Baby

In general, breast milk should be frozen in bags before shipping. Remember that breast milk expands when frozen, so you only want to fill the bags about 2/3 of the way. If you’re not using a third-party service, most breast milk shipments require a proper-sized Styrofoam container with dry ice that’s then placed in a cardboard box.

Many companies assist with breast milk shipping, making it easier than ever for surrogate or donor milk to be shipped and delivered. For intended parents, look into options like MilkStork or FedEx that provide packing materials and shipping labels to make frequent breast milk shipments easy and safe by keeping breast milk cold in transit. 

Surrogate Pumping Tips

If you’re a surrogate who is planning to pump after birth, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success. Keep these tips in mind as you begin the next part of your surrogacy story – pumping:

  • Get your breast pump ahead of time. Some insurance companies may cover a breast pump for a surrogate, so intended parents should investigate their options for a pump early on.
  • Speak to a lactation counselor. The hospital will have lactation counselors on-hand after delivery, but if you and the intended parents have the resources, it might be a wise move to speak to a lactation counselor that specializes in surrogacy pumping for resources that will be unique to your situation.
  • Set a schedule of when you’ll pump. One of the benefits of surrogacy pumping is that many surrogates don’t have a newborn they are simultaneously caring for. This can make it easier to stick to a pumping schedule and produce enough breast milk for the baby.
  • Pump more frequently, not for longer. This can be a faster way to produce more breast milk without giving yourself pumping fatigue by being strapped to a breast pump for extended periods at a time.
  • Find a pumping community. Contact La Leche League to get involved in a pumping support group, or take to social media to find a community you can join virtually or in-person. Going through the pumping experience with other surrogates and/or pumping mothers is a great way to find emotional support and share tips to make the pumping process easier for you. 
  • Ask for help. It doesn't matter if you're caring for a baby or not - pumping is time-consuming! Don't feel shy or embarrassed to ask friends and family members for help, be it around the house, helping with meals, or anything else. Pumping is extra work, and you need a support system to lift you up as you do it. 

Additional Resources for Surrogates and Intended Parents

The surrogacy journey is a beautiful and rewarding one. It’s also one that becomes more popular as means to start and expand a family every year. With the increase in surrogacy, the number of resources and information also grows for intended parents and those interested in becoming surrogates. You can find plenty of information in our surrogacy blog, and here are some additional resources you may be interested in reading as you begin this process:

For many couples and individuals who want to expand their family, surrogacy offers a way to do it when other forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART) may not be an option or may not have been effective. For surrogates, the chance to bring a baby into the world for a couple or individual who so desperately wants one is a priceless, timeless gift that enriches the surrogate's life as much as the intended parents'. 

If you're interested in discussing surrogacy, whether you are looking to hire a surrogate, or become one, please contact us online or call our office on (310) 566 14 87. We look forward to hearing from you.

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