Women like Kim Kardashian can still breastfeed children who were born to a surrogate mother by tricking their body into thinking they’re pregnant.
Kim, who welcomed her third child with Kanye West on Monday, recently featured a breastfeeding pillow in a Snapchat video of her baby product haul, which left many of her followers wondering if she can produce milk without being pregnant.
Surrogacy is a form of assisted reproduction that involves using a woman’s uterus to carry an embryo and deliver a baby for another person or couple.
But as experts explained to Daily Mail Online, there are many ways the 37-year-old reality star can nurse her daughter.
Kim Kardashian posted this photo on Instagram on Monday with the caption ‘She’s Here’ to announce the arrival of her third baby
Molly Petersen, certified lactation counselor at Lansinoh, a breastfeeding product company, told Daily Mail Online women like Kim can produce breast milk through a process called induced lactation.
The concept of women nursing babies they didn’t give birth to isn’t a new one. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, families hired ‘wet nurses’ — usually women who were already lactating from a recent pregnancy — to breastfeed their child.
Women can experience lactation for nearly two years after birth.
Kim, who gave birth to Saint in 2015 and North in 2013, could induce lactation without medication.
‘Some moms can establish their supply without the use of any medical intervention. Simply putting baby to the breast can induce lactation,’ Petersen said.
It gets a little tricky when a woman who hasn’t given birth wants to breastfeed a baby she did not give birth to.
The production of breast milk is a result of a complex interaction of three hormones — estrogen, progesterone and human placental lactogen — during the final weeks or months of pregnancy.
‘The hormones estrogen and progesterone increase during pregnancy and play a large part in readying a woman’s body for breastfeeding,’ Petersen told Daily Mail Online. ‘Without them, it can be difficult for moms to supply milk.’
Kim has to rely on a successful replication of this process if she wants to produce milk for her third child born via surrogate.
To achieve this, doctors will prescribe hormone therapy, such as supplemental estrogen and progesterone, herbs or medications to trick their body into thinking they’re pregnant.
The hormone therapy, which can last at least six months, should cease about eight weeks before the woman is expected to start breastfeeding and start using a breast pump in order to build milk supply, according to lactation consultant Dr Elizabeth LaFleur of Mayo Clinic.
‘This encourages the production and release of prolactin,’ Dr LaFleur wrote.
For successful lactation, women should do this increasingly over the next few weeks until the baby is born.
‘At first, pump for five minutes three times a day. Work up to pumping for 10 minutes every four hours, including at least once during the night,’ Dr LaFleur wrote. ‘Then increase pumping time to 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours. Continue the routine until the baby arrives.’
The 37-year-old reality star now has three children with rapper Kanye West
Kim gave birth to four-year-old North West (far right) and two-year-old Saint (far left)
Doctors sometimes recommend that women continue pumping after they feed their surrogate or adoptive baby to establish breast milk supply.
The induced lactation process is easier for women like Kim who have given birth before and can be more difficult for those who’ve never given birth or have trouble conceiving.
‘Some of the same reasons that mothers cannot conceive — as in hormone imbalances — overlap with reasons that moms have difficulty breastfeeding,’ pediatrician Dr Jennifer Thomas, who is a member of the executive board on breastfeeding for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told Refinery29.
Infants reap many benefits when they are breastfed,according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including a reduced risk of asthma, leukemia, obesity and lower respiratory infections.
The World Health Organization recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively within the first hour of life until they are six months old.