Breastfeeding as an intended parent may seem exciting and at the same time perhaps intimidating or overwhelming. How is it done? Is it safe? Will I actually be able to make milk? And, if so, how much?
I get it. I was in your shoes. Fifteen years ago, I breastfed my daughter by adoption. It was an incredible experience to be able to nurse her – honestly one of the highlights of my life. But it was a lonely process and largely a shot in the dark as I navigated the process with little information or support.
Fast forward to today. I have been an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for the past 11 years working with hundreds of non-gestational parents from all over the globe to support them with breastfeeding.
Let’s take a look at some common questions or concerns you may have about the process. Watch the webinar here:
How is breastfeeding by an intended parent different than breastfeeding following pregnancy?
Sometimes it can look just the same once baby arrives. But most of the time, intended parents will produce some but not all the milk their baby needs. This means they will need to provide additional milk or formula to supplement what they are able to produce. Sometimes the additional milk is provided by their gestational carrier.
How can I make milk without being pregnant?
Initiating milk production without pregnancy is called Inducing Lactation. Lactation is induced using some combination of hand expression, using an electric breast pump and nursing a baby. Most of the time, all three of these techniques are used at different times in the lactation plan.
Do I need to take medications to make milk?
In addition to the milk removal techniques described above, most intended parents will take medications or herbs as part of their inducing lactation plan. They are not necessary but can help to make milk much more quickly and abundantly. Don’t worry – there are no artificial hormones in the milk when inducing lactation!
Can I induce lactation if I have had a hysterectomy, oophorectomy, or infertility due to other causes?
The hormones of lactation are released from the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain – no ovaries or uterus required. However, when there is infertility due to hormonal imbalances, these same hormonal imbalances can impair the ability to make milk. That said, most intended parents have experienced infertility and they do make milk.
Is the milk from inducing lactation the same as that after pregnancy?
There have only been a couple of research studies on the composition of milk with inducing lactation, but they indicate that the composition of the milk when inducing lactation is the same as the milk following pregnancy and birth.
When do I need to start preparing for lactation?
With surrogacy, an ideal time to start preparing for lactation is around the end of the first trimester of the pregnancy. However, it can be started anytime the parent is ready – either earlier or later.
Can I breastfeed without inducing lactation?
Yes, you can breastfeed without making any milk at all. Inducing lactation isn’t for everyone. Without inducing lactation, you have a couple of options. You can bottle-feed for nutrition and nurse for comfort and connection. Although just a heads up: not every baby will be interested in nursing without any flow from the breast. The other option is to nurse using a nursing supplementer: a bag or bottle containing donor milk or formula delivered to the nipple using a tiny feeding tube. The feeding tube serves as sort of an “external milk duct” allowing a baby to feed at the breast/chest of a parent making some or no milk at all. Even many parents who induce lactation will use a nursing supplementer.
I am an intended parent interested in breastfeeding. How can I get started?
You are in luck! There is so much more information and support available for you today than when I embarked on this journey. My book Breastfeeding Without Birthing is a comprehensive guide to breastfeeding for the non-gestational parent. In addition, I highly recommend the guidance and support of an experienced lactation consultant. I provide lactation consultation services via telehealth. You can learn more about my book and consultation services at AlyssaSchnellIBCLC.com.
Alyssa has been helping parents and babies with breastfeeding since 2002, first as a La Leche League Leader and now as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant since 2009. In her private practice, she consults with families around the globe who wish to induce lactation or relactate as well as with local families with a variety of needs. She is the author of Breastfeeding Without Birthing: A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers Through Adoption, Surrogacy, and Other Special Circumstances and a professional supplement to the book, The Breastfeeding Without Birthing Professional Pack online training. Alyssa has authored articles for The Journal of Human Lactation, The Journal of Clinical Lactation, La Leche League’s Leader Today and Breastfeeding Today magazines, and Adoptive Families magazine. She is an international speaker on the topics of inducing lactation, relactation, and other related topics. Alyssa is the proud mother of three breastfed children, two by birth and one by adoption.