Can You Breastfeed If You Used a Surrogate? The Answer Is Complicated

Just this morning, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West welcomed their fourth baby, who arrived via gestational carrier (Chicago West was also born via a gestational carrier). Curious as to whether or not mothers who use surrogates can breastfeed themselves, we turned to Dr. Kim Bergman, surrogacy expert and author of Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction, to find out what breastfeeding options there are for families who work with gestational carriers.

How does breastfeeding work with surrogacy? Do surrogates ever provide breast milk once the baby is born and throughout the first few months?

KB: Many surrogates are willing to pump breast milk for the baby, and many parents would like that. If everyone agrees, then the surrogate will pump and deliver or ship the breast milk to the parents. Some surrogates are unable to pump — it's a big commitment when one is not also nursing, and many parents are most comfortable using some kind of formula. Just as with any new parent, this is a very personal choice for the parents to make.

Families have even more options than using formula or asking the surrogate to pump breask milk. MayoClinic explains how mothers can induce breast milk: "Normally, the natural production of breast milk (lactation) is triggered by a complex interaction between three hormones — estrogen, progesterone, and human placental lactogen — during the final months of pregnancy. At delivery, levels of estrogen and progesterone fall, allowing the hormone prolactin to increase and initiate milk production. Induced lactation depends on the successful replication of this process." Mothers will need to speak with their doctor about this as early as possible, so they can map out a plan for necessary hormones, supplements, and other lactation steps.