On January 16, 2018, Kim Kardashian West welcomed her third child into the world ?. The expectancy and arrival of this sweet baby girl has garnered much attention, because 1: Kardashian, and 2: She was carried by a surrogate.
In a surrogacy pregnancy, a woman carries a pregnancy for another family and then after giving birth she relinquishes her rights of the child.
On her website, Kim wrote that she had medical complications with her last pregnancy leading her to this decision. “I have always been really honest about my struggles with pregnancy. Preeclampsia and placenta accreta are high-risk conditions, so when I wanted to have a third baby, doctors said that it wasn’t safe for my—or the baby’s—health to carry on my own.”
While the experience was challenging for her, “The connection with our baby came instantly and it’s as if she was with us the whole time. Having a gestational carrier was so special for us and she made our dreams of expanding our family come true. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl.”
A Snapchat video hints that Kim may be planning on breastfeeding her daughter. What she chooses to do is of course none of our business. But is has raised the very interesting question, “Wait, can you breastfeed when you use a surrogate?”
The answer is yes, you sure can! (And you can when you adopt a baby, too!)
When a women is pregnant, she begins a process called lactogenesis in which her body prepares itself to start making milk. This usually starts around the twenty week mark of pregnancy (half way through). Then, when the baby is born, the second phase of lactogenesis occurs, and milk actually starts to fill the breasts.
All of this occurs in response to hormones. When women do not carry a pregnancy, but wish to breastfeed, they can induce lactation, where they replicate the same hormonal process that happens during pregnancy.
A woman who wants to induce lactation can work with a doctor or midwife, and start taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (which grow breast tissue)—often in the form of birth control pills—along with a medication called domperidone (which increases milk production).
Several weeks before the baby will be born, the woman stops taking the birth control pill but continues to take the domperidone to simulate the hormonal changes that would happen in a pregnancy. She’ll also start pumping multiple times per day, and will likely add herbal supplements, like fenugreek and blessed thistle.
Women can also try to induce lactation without the hormones, by using pumping and herbs, it may be harder but some women feel more comfortable with that route.
Inducing lactation takes a lot of dedication—but then again, so does everything related to be a mama. It’s a super personal decision, and not right for everyone.
The important thing to remember is that we need to support women and mothers through their entire journey, no matter what decisions they make about themselves and their families—whether Kardashian or the rest of us.