Ready for your mind to be blown?
I never was able to carry a pregnancy, but I was able to breastfeed. Inducing lactation as it is referred to, is the act of breastfeeding without physically birthing. Wait, what? Did you just read that correctly? Why, yes you did.
Perhaps, I am getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s back up a bit for some backstory. When I received the soul-crushing news that I would never carry my own pregnancy, I felt utterly broken. My angry uterus was finally getting the last sinister laugh. Most of all, everything I had envisioned about pregnancy and how it would look for me was now in a tailspin into the scary unknown. We began to pursue surrogacy, something that was equally as unknown, it was also a chance to redefine how I would look at how I would become a mother from a new lens.
After 7 years (at the time) of treatments and surgeries and a pre-cancer diagnosis that ended in a partial hysterectomy, we saw double lines for the first time. Not from a pregnancy test of my own, but of my gestational carrier. This was new, uncharted waters. My worries began to shift from if to when. Apart from the normal concerns of impending motherhood such as how to change a diaper properly, and if I researched car seat safety enough, surrogacy brings on another set of worries. Bonding.
I’ll admit when I first heard about inducing lactation, I thought I was reading some sci-fi story. Is this something that could be possible for me? I began to challenge the abyss of Google and reached out to the nominal amount of experts that could offer advice and provide an actual treatment plan. Why was this so important to me? What would others think? This made it apparent to me that my own uneasiness was rooted in the superficial worry (and perhaps a heaping dose of insecurity) that society would consider my child less of my own because I was having my baby through a gestational carrier and that it was “not natural” since that child was not born from me. I am a mother, that is my child. More notably, I have boobs and that is what they were made for, sorry fellas- big shocker they are not there for looks and just to paw at.
I think it is important to stop here momentarily to stress how important it is that fed is best. Hell, having a child you once thought was a fleeting dream is best. More so, inducing lactation is choice but not something that distinguishes your mother-y glory.
To induce lactation, it would take months of preparation. That preparation would include minimal hormone stimulation (although not necessary) and beginning to pump every 3 hours to trigger the bodily response. To me, it made me like I was doing my part to contribute to the pregnancy. While my gestational carrier was dealing with serious kankles and sleepless nights, I was up in the middle of the night for months pumping through the pain of nipples that felt like they were on fire. There is no comparison here, but at least I felt like I do something to contribute to the cause.
Inducing lactation is not just something that intended parents through surrogacy can consider, adoptive parents can too. The catch is, intended parents have some lead time to work with since they know the due date at the onset of the pregnancy whereas if you are an adoptive parent the timeline is sometimes as clear as mud. Now, this does not count adoptive parents out of the breastfeeding club. It just may delay when your milk will come and how bountiful your supply will be.
So WHY did I choose to induce lactation? Here are my reasons:
Remember when I said fed is best? That still applies here too. Many studies have shown that babies who are breastfed or given breastmilk, have been proven to have stronger immune systems. Breast milk carries positive antibodies that boost that immune system. In our second surrogacy, our gestational carrier opted out of some of the recommended vaccinations due to her personal beliefs. Because of that, we wanted to make sure when our baby was born we would be able to give her everything she needed to kickstart her immune system into full gear until she was strong enough to fight off common threats and/or receive her recommended vaccinations.
In short, it is cost-effective. Let’s be real, surrogacy is not cheap and some of us come with the financial baggage of years of fertility treatments before beginning a surrogacy arrangement. Fact: I am not independently wealthy, neither of us has a rich uncle, and I do not sing like Beyonce’ although sometimes I’d like to think I do. The point is, wouldn’t it be nice to not spend a ton of money on something for a change? Since you are the food source, you end up saving quite a bit.
While there is some cost associated with breastfeeding- the cost of a pump and supplies, some vitamins, and some medications involved, the fact of the matter is that it is still way cheaper than baby formula. Baby formula can be expensive, especially considering what brand you choose or what your baby can handle. It is estimated that years’ worth of formula can range anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000. So saving where you can, can certainly help rebuild your adoption/surrogacy drained account.
Will my baby bond with me? A question and concern of almost every adoptive parent and intended parent in waiting. This is why bonding is so incredibly important both for the parents and the baby. Nursing provides regular skin on skin contact, which is a proven bonding method. It also establishes trust and natural mother/parent-baby intimacy that your baby needs in those beginning stages. For me, I needed to be able to do skin on skin contact immediately following the birth of both of my daughters. I also communicated my intent for breastfeeding and bonding with the hospital staff when we were setting up the birth plan before our daughter being born. Not, only was I able to breastfeed immediately upon birth, but my husband and I both had a private, shared room with the baby to help continue the bonding process post birth.
While everyone’s situation may be different and the reasons for wanting to induce lactation may vary, knowing it is an option I think is a miracle in itself. It is also not for everyone and an extremely personal choice. For all my reasons mentioned above, they were my own. At the end of the day, pregnancy does not define parenthood, nor does your ability to breastfeed. What does define parenthood is love.