A Pumping Guide for Surrogates
Advice to inform your active life, from a surrogate who truly embodies the "been there, done that" spirit: Shoshannah Ingersoll.
When the surrogacy journey starts, the thought of pumping after birth is usually the last thing on anyone's mind. However, as the delivery draws nearer, questions regarding the postpartum period *naturally* begin to pop up. Among those questions is, undoubtedly, the conundrum of whether or not to pump to provide breast milk.
Some intended parents are more passionate about feeding their babies breast milk than others; many want to give thier newborn breast milk for the first few weeks at least. For some surrogates, pumping is a non-issue: they are ready and willing. But, for many, there are negative emotions surrounding the idea of 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 months of IVF treatment and pregnancy: without the extra time spent pumping. However, a lot of surrogates fall somewhere in between.
With support and knowledge that will make pumping more user-friendly, they might feel more open to pumping, if just for a short period of time. During your postpartum time, you may be eager to stay mobile and active. Additionally, it’s very common for surrogates to vacation with their families during their postpartum recovery. Surprisingly, pumping on the go 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 wardrobe pumping friendly.
Whether dressing for the day ahead or 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 that she uses her maternity clothing allowance to buy some dual-purpose maternity tops/dresses. So many styles are dual-purpose: 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? The Dairy Fairy. My favorite style of theirs is 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, which makes setting up the pump flange easier than ever. She works beautifully with the Spectra kit, Medela, and many more.
via Sarah Wells
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: many of us have already done our time as parents and 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, 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 portability 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. 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 - 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: 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.
I'm also a huge fan of The Baby Buddha - an incredibly popular model. 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: 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.
General Tips & Tricks:
I just returned from a trip of pumping all over Disneyland. 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. *But,* I still want to do everything I can to provide milk for my surrogate family.
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 as 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 your travel accommodations have 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 out, 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. While traveling, I tweaked my schedule 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. 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.
Being a pumping surrogate doesn’t need to slow you down or infringe upon your family time. You can have a wonderful recovery period and even a vacation while still providing milk.
Yes, it is a devotion of time and energy, but if there is one thing us moms do well, it is multi-tasking. With the right tools, pumping time doesn’t just have to be pumping time.
Wishing all you super surrogates out there a joyful recovery whether you’re pumping, resting, vacationing, or all of the above. You ladies are incredible for all that you have done for others.