Something that I've been thinking a lot about since starting this surrogacy journey is breastfeeding. I have a long and complicated relationship with breastfeeding. When I was pregnant with my first, I was determined to exclusively breastfeed for at least a year. I didn't think it was a big deal and didn't do much to prepare. What a mistake! Breastfeeding ended up being the hardest thing I have ever done. It was painful and exhausting and I was not enjoying it at all. Since I'm so stubborn I stuck with it and after several months we got the hang of it. My son ended up self-weaning at 14 months.
My daughter was born five months later (yep, I was pregnant and breastfeeding) and the whole breastfeeding journey started again, except this time I just wasn't feeling up to it. I ended up making the decision to wean her from the breast after just a week. I pumped for a while, but my supply quickly dried up and she was formula-fed until she turned a year old.
I have vowed never to breastfeed again because I dislike it so much. I am glad I was able to do it with my son, but for many reasons that I won't get into here, I just didn't love it. There's no problem though, because my husband and I are done having kids. We love our two tiny humans and our family feels complete.
But then I decided to do this surrogacy thing and I've been so excited to do pregnancy all over again. I'm excited to grow a baby bump and put on maternity jeans and feel the kicks in my belly. I'm even excited to give birth again. But that's where my excitement ends. I keep thinking, "Am I going to have to breastfeed this kid?!"
I may not feel up to it now, but perhaps once the baby is born and the milk comes in (because it will!), I will feel differently.
I asked around a group of experienced surrogates and got all kinds of responses. One surrogate nursed the baby in the hospital and continued to pump for three months post-delivery. She would ship the milk off to the family once a week. Another surrogate nursed in the hospital but that was it. Some surrogates agreed to pump milk and were compensated for it, while others did it free of charge. And still others never breastfed at all.
Heather Dunn is the Director of Recipient Relations at Get PUMPed!, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing breast milk to babies in Central Florida. She is also a former surrogate who just gave birth to her "surro-baby" last June. Heather had a hard time breastfeeding her own two children so she was determined to pump for at least three months after delivering her surro-baby. In her case, the intended parents were not comfortable with her nursing the baby, so pumping breast milk and feeding through a bottle was what they all agreed on. She has also been able to continue pumping and donating milk through the organization she helps run. For her it was a a good experience and she felt closure with the pregnancy and breastfeeding.
When it comes to my personal situation, I am pretty set on not breastfeeding. But what about pumping? What about donating? I think a lot of these questions will be resolved once my Intended Parents and I draw up a formal contract. There are many different factors that come in to play that just aren't clear yet. Maybe I won't even know how I really feel until I get there. I may not feel up to it now, but perhaps once the baby is born and the milk comes in (because it will!) I will feel differently. All I know now is there is no norm when it comes to surrogacy and breastfeeding. Every journey is different and it's up to each individual surrogate and intended parent to decide what works best for their situation.