In case you’ve been living under a rock, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West just welcomed a baby girl to the world via surrogacy. And since it was revealed she was expecting, the reality TV star has been in full nesting mode, showing off alllll her sweet baby swag on social media.
The product she’s obsessing over? A nursing pillow that she says is “the most necessary thing of life.” In one Snapchat vid she even admitted to getting multiples to keep in every room of the house.
Given Kim didn’t actually give birth, curious fans are questioning how she intends to nurse.
“You’re going to breastfeed your new baby?” one of her followers asked on Instagram. “Your milk production is coming how??? Won’t the surrogate be the one that will produce the milk???"
And while we can’t be 100% sure how Kim is planning on putting the pillow to use (bottle feeding, anyone?!) they do raise a valid point: is it possible to breastfeed your baby if you used a surrogate?
It turns out you can. And it’s all thanks to a process called ‘induced lactation.’
When women get pregnant, their levels of estrogen and progesterone spike to ready the body for lactation. Once the baby is delivered, these hormones quickly decrease, signalling the release of prolactin and oxytocin. This is what promotes the milk production and sends it to the boob.
This usually occurs naturally, but when the mother hasn’t carried the baby in her womb a little extra help is required to trick the process into action (aka hormone therapy, herbs or medication.) According to Julie Lamppa, a certified nurse midwife at Mayo Clinic, pumping is also recommended.
“Milk production works on supply and demand,” she told SELF. “The more you pump, the more milk you make.”
Induced lactation can take a few weeks to start working, with mothers who have breastfed in the past more likely to see success. Often though the supply needs to be supplemented with formula (or the surrogate’s milk) once the baby arrives.
“[Induced lactation] is challenging to establish, however, not impossible with patience, support and dedication,” Lamppa added.
The wonders of the human body, eh?