Guide to Pumping as a Surrogate
When the surrogacy journey starts, pumping as a surrogate is usually the last thing on any surrogate's mind. But as the big day of the delivery draws near many questions start to pop up regarding the postpartum period and among those questions is the decision whether or not to pump to provide breast milk. Some intended parents are more passionate about feeding their baby’s breast milk than others, and many want to feed breast milk for the early weeks following birth. For some surrogates, pumping is a non-issue and they are ready and willing. But for many surrogates, there are negative emotions surrounding pumping. Some have struggled to pump successfully in the past, and some understandably are ready to return to their normal lives with their families after a month of IVF and pregnancy without the extra time spent pumping. However, a lot of surrogates fall somewhere in between this and with support and knowledge to make pumping more user-friendly might be open to pumping even if just for a short period of time, and in the world of breast milk feeding, every drop is precious! It’s very common for surrogates to vacation with their families during their postpartum recovery, and surprisingly pumping on vacation doesn’t have to be a hassle. Here are some tips and products that have made my experiences as a pumping surrogate mama totally doable:
Make your vacation wardrobe pumping friendly:
When packing your post-surrogacy vacation suitcase consider whether your clothes are going to be easy or difficult to pump in. Many of the maternity clothes you already have (let’s be honest in the first weeks postpartum we are almost ALL still wearing our maternity clothes) will work well for pumping. Dresses with crossover necklines that allow you to easily flip down the top for access while keeping your midsection under wraps are perfect. Leggings with high waistlines will also cover your tummy while you pump in just about any shirt. Most tops designed for nursing work well. I strongly recommend to any surrogate when she uses her maternity clothing allowance to buy some maternity tops/dresses that are dual purpose. So many styles are and they will come in handy post-delivery. Tank tops also work well because you can slip off the straps to get pumping access and still have your postpartum tummy undercover.
While what you wear on the outside can make pumping on the go easier, what you wear underneath is far more important. When it comes to pumping bras we’ve come a long way baby! The pumping bras I can’t live without are made by The Dairy Fairy. The Dairy Fairy recently released the newest style pumping bra called The Pippa. The Pippa is as beautiful as she is functional, comfortable and supportive. With super-soft stretch lace, light padding for support in the lower cup, and a very flattering silhouette she is the full package. This is my favorite bra for pumping on the go and also for those late night pumps. For any pumping person being hands-free is key, but beyond offering a very stable hands-free pumping solution, the Pippa also has clip down cups making pump flange set up easier than ever. She works beautifully with the Spectra kit, Medela, and many more.
Go mobile with a fabulous pumping bag:
One of the biggest challenges surrogate moms face pumping on the go is how much they have to carry around to get the job done. Moment of truth: no surrogate wants to be caught dead carrying a diaper bag when she is NOT the one raising a baby right now, we’ve already done our time as parents carrying the ugly bulky diaper bag. A diaper bag is not ideal for carrying pumping supplies, and when caught carrying one we’re constantly asked: “Where is the baby?” My Sarah Wells pumping bag has been my best friend on my journeys as an exclusive pumper. These ultra-chic bags are life for me, and there are styles to match anyone’s preferences. My personal favorite for pumping on the go is the Kelly Backpack. She is just the right size for pumping on the go and the beauty is in her details. She can convert into a handbag (but the straps are stashed out of the way when you’re not using them). She has a padded pocket that fits my Spectra S1 pump beautifully or when I’m carrying my smaller portable pump (more to follow on that!) I can use that pocket to store my Sarah Wells Cold Gold Cooler which keeps my breast milk cool for 8 hours with no problem, and longer if I have extra ice packs. She fits my Sarah Wells Pumparoo, a handy little pouch with a waterproof compartment that fits all my wet pumping accessories in between pumping, another compartment for my nursing pads, and a detachable drying mat for after I wash my pump accessories. She has several smaller compartments to organize my wallet, keys, pumping cover, snacks for my kids, sunglasses, and much more. She also has the most comfortable straps I have ever felt on a backpack, and they unclip so you could attach to a stroller if you still have a toddler of your own to chase after postpartum.
Unplug from the wall with a portable pump:
You can’t get very far when you’re attached to a cord in a wall socket. There is just no need for that these days! You can and should get a portable breast pump, and there are options strong enough to rival hospital grade pumps. The Spectra S1 is a chargeable lightweight breast pump that works every bit as well as a Medela Symphony at a fraction of the cost and weight. She fits beautifully in any Sarah Wells pumping bag, and she even has a night light for those middle of the night pumping session. Plus the kit that comes with the Spectra has very few pieces to clean.
There is also a new pump on the market known as The Baby Buddha, and there is literally a wait list to get these babies! This pump is so compact you can wear it around your neck and be 100% mobile as you pump. Just one small warning to those very sensitive pumpers out there, this is a VERY strong pump. People who pump on the highest level of suction on the Spectra S1 generally only pump on a 1 or 2 setting on The Baby Buddha. I’m still not sure what happens beyond setting 3 but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be pleasant, less is more with this efficient and powerful pump. You also may need to convert to using a kit from either Spectra or Medela with The Baby Buddha as the flanges only currently come in one size, and the kit has many small parts so it’s a bit laborious to clean. I use my Spectra kit with it (make sure you use the backflow protectors!) and it works great. Also, you can keep it charged on the go using a portable cell phone battery charger, it comes with a USB cord.
Tips and Tricks:
I just returned from a trip of pumping all over Disneyland, and on past adventures, I have pumped in Lake Tahoe, at the beach, and I pump while I work. I’m a busy working mom so I don’t have time to slow down and I still want to do everything I can to provide milk for my surrogate family so here is how I stay sane:
- I use products like the ones listed above to make pumping easier and I can’t imagine pumping as much as I do without them
- I use a nursing cover to pump on the go hands-free. For women who feel more modest, you can always find a private spot or pump in a car but women have fought to be able to nurse in public, pumping is no different. The cover works well for my own comfort and modesty.
- Make sure where you are staying has a fridge/freezer combo and find out their policy on storing your milk in a company fridge/freezer if you need more storage.
- When you’re on outings have at least 2 sets of pump accessories cleaned and assembled with the flanges already lubricated (I love Motherlove Nipple Cream for lubricating flanges) when you’re done pumping you can put them in your cooler if you won’t be able to get to a sink before the next pump, they will be safe to re-use as long as the milk would be safe to drink stored the same way. You can also stash them in a Sarah Wells Pumparoo and put them in the fridge.
- Pack snacks in your pumping bag, I like to stash lactation cookies in mine. Both yummy and purposeful!
- Set your pumping schedule around your day. I tweaked my schedule when traveling to be pumping when we were driving, or having downtime.
- Know the best places to pump. When I visited Disneyland there were actually stations you could use for pumping/nursing/baby care. But I will be honest- I didn’t want to deal with those so we found quiet corners where I could set up the pump and then we went mobile, pumped on the Monorail, pumped in the nice cool theaters and watched the various Disneyland shows, pumped in the dark at The Blue Bayou Restaurant, and I would have pumped in the Tiki Room but it was being remodeled. I’m in favor of normalizing pumping so I didn’t feel the need to hide out. With my pumping cover I can pump anywhere. No one said a word about it, Disneyland is full of moms and babies, I got a lot of comments of solidarity from women who have been there and done that.
- Stay hydrated! When you’re traveling and pumping this is super important. Being dehydrated is never good for you, but when pumping you risk clogged ducts and reduced output if you’re not hydrating.