Breast Milk vs. Formula: What are Intended Parents’ Options?

As a new IP (intended parent), you may tend to assume that baby formula will be your only option for feeding your baby-to-be but the truth is that you have a few choices.

Experts all agree that the decision about which path or combination of paths to take is best left to the personal feelings of the intended parents in consultation with their physicians. Even so, it’s important to learn the basics of what’s available before making up your mind.

In fact, Global Surrogacy Services recommend that IPs begin to think about how they will feed their children even before they are matched with a gestational surrogate. The longer you wait, the fewer choices you may have. Here are some of the basics.

Baby’s First Meals

During the first few days of a new baby’s life, the mother’s breast milk goes through some important changes. Colostrum is the milk produced by the mother before and immediately after birth. It contains additional nutrients, important digestive support, and key antibodies to boost a newborn’s untested immune system. Even if you prefer to go with baby formula for the long-term feeding of the baby, colostrum is typically harvested from most moms, surrogates included, as they begin to lactate before giving birth so that the thick, golden-hued liquid can be fed to the baby soon after birth to ensure the little one gets all of the important health benefits.

A more personal decision is deciding if are comfortable with allowing the baby to latch to the surrogate for their first few meals. Many parents are fine with their babies obtaining that desirable nutritional support from a mother’s first milk. While you will naturally want the opportunity to bond with your child as quickly as possible, there is no solid evidence to support the concern that this will somehow get in the way of the bond, whatever you may have heard from others. However, as with all matters, the choice is entirely up to IPs, their physicians, and surrogates.

Longer Term Feeding

IPs have several options to choose from regarding the feeding of their baby during its first year.

Doctors generally tout the protective advantages of breast milk but today’s infant formula provides excellent nutrition that is usually more than sufficient; more than half of the USA’s babies live off of it and mostly do very well. If that’s what you prefer, don’t let parental guilt get you down – you know what’s best for you and your family. However, you may also want to look into ways to get smaller amounts of breast milk to use in conjunction with formula. There’s no need to take an all-or-nothing approach.

Surrogates Provide Milk
Since they are bearing your children and have been through our painstaking surrogate screening process, getting surrogates to provide breast milk is a logical solution, though rarely an easy one. In fact, most surrogates do not provide breast milk but it is possible if they and the IPs can make a mutually satisfactory arrangement. There will be challenges. For example, depending on where the surrogates and IPs live, getting the surrogate’s milk may require freezing and shipping breast milk, with the added time and expense that will require. Moreover, breastfeeding for any mother may be tricky and unpredictable and some people find it much easier than others.

Since surrogates have always had children in the past, you may want to discuss their experiences with lactation to get an idea of whether it will be practical with your chosen surrogate. It’s important to be sensitive to the needs of everyone involved, including yourself. Also, remember that dry spells are not something to panic over and you don’t have to make this a binary or permanent choice if you don’t want to. Research is indicating what millions have seen anecdotally; it’s not a problem for infants to go back and forth from formula to breast milk.*

Intended Mothers Provide Milk
With a significant period of preparation before the baby’s birth and the use of hormones like estrogen and progesterone as well as supplements and the use of a breast pump, lactation can be induced in many intended moms. Since no two women are the same, how well this may work out will vary greatly and it will be important to have clear and direct conversations with physicians to make sure this is practical in your case.

It’s more common than you may realize for mothers to share breast milk with other mothers. It’s considered to be a safe practice as long as the women in the group are screened for communicable illnesses such as HIV. Many moms participate in informal groups who get around the vagaries of lactation by sharing breast milk. Obviously, this should be done with great care and only with people you know very well and are confident have no health issues that might impact their milk. Again, it never hurts to ask a doctor about their thoughts on this.

Breast Milk Banks
Many hospitals and breastfeeding organizations can provide breast milk that has been donated and screened to parents with a doctor’s prescription. While the availability of the milk will vary, it is the only safe way to obtain milk from people you don’t know well.

Wet Nurses
Familiar to readers of classic and historical fiction, wet nursing as we once knew it is mostly a thing of the past and has been replaced by far more equitable and safe arrangements. Cross nursing, mentioned above, is by far the most common way that one mother might provide food to other parents. Something closer to traditional wet nursing is mainly performed on an informal basis; there are stories of doulas and nannies providing milk in addition to their other services. Of course, whoever is providing milk must be screened for any health problems.

A Resource for Intended Parents

If you are interested in using gestational surrogacy on your path as an intended parent, Global Surrogacy Services is here to guide you through the many medical, logistical, and legal hurdles required to start a family with children of your own. From covering matters such as obtaining breast milk to ensuring all of the legal red tape has been covered.

To get started, feel free to call us at the phone number on your screen. You can also get started by visiting our page on how to become an intended parent. You can also reach out by visiting our contact page.

*The Effect of Early Limited Formula on Breastfeeding, Readmission, and Intestinal Microbiota: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” The Journal of Pediatrics. Valerie J. Flaherman, M.D., M.P.H., Nicole R. Narayan, Ph.D., Dennis Hartigan-O\’Connor, M.D., Ph.D., Michael D. Cabana, M.D., M.P.H., Charles E. McCulloch, Ph.D., and Ian M. Paul, M.D., M.Sc. March 14, 2018.

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