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Lactation counselor provides tips for exclusively pumping

Posted: 08/31/22

Juli Velasquez is highly regarded among our Surrogate Solutions community as the go-to expert on exclusively pumping. As a three-time gestational carrier (single female born in 2015, boy/girl twins born in 2017 and single male born in 2020), Juli pumped after each journey to provide breast milk for her surro babes. She also breastfed both of her sons for 13 months each.

Like many successful “mompreneurs,” Juli decided to turn her passion into a business and became a certified lactation counselor and doula. In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we asked Juli to share her experience and advice for other moms and gestational carriers who choose to exclusively pump.

What has been your experience pumping as a gestational carrier?

I exclusively pumped after each journey. In 2015, I pumped for eight months, then weaned for another journey. In 2017, I pumped for 15 months, then weaned for another journey. In 2020, I pumped for two years. In each of those journeys, I not only pumped for the parents of the baby I carried but for other parents via surrogacy/adoption, local families and preemies milk bank (PMB). For me, it was a very important transition from carrying a baby and nourishing the baby in utero and then getting the chance to continue that earth side. Emotionally, it was the perfect transition. And then to see the babies thrive on my breastmilk was extremely rewarding – truly the icing on the cake.

What led you to pursue a career as a lactation counselor?

I got my lactation certification and doula certification in the same month. I really just dove head-first into birth work. I have a private practice that mostly revolves around pumping. I chose this not only based on my experience with exclusively pumping but because in the lactation course/hours/education, there was very little information provided about pumping, which left lactation counselors to pursue continuing education on the topic on their own. And even when they decided to research and explore the topic, there was so much contradicting information out there. There was no streamlined path for how to assist with pumping. It was mind-blowing. So, this is something I took on because I had the experience, and I knew the need. Shortly after delivering my first surro babe and seeing the need in the community, I found a Facebook group for surrogates who exclusively pump and became a moderator. We now have 1.3k in the group. It’s a safe space to gain information and support and to bounce ideas, tips and tricks off one another. It’s been a great addition to the community.

What advice do you have for surrogates who are exclusively pumping?

I think it’s important to remember that everyone’s bodies are capable of different things, and each person has individual goals. So, I would start there. Then, based on your goals and realistic expectations, a plan can be drawn up. In general, here is a list of things that will help with a healthy milk supply.

1. Make sure your flanges are the right size. It’s not a one size fits all, and unfortunately, not all lactation counselors were trained on how to do this [fit women to the right flange size] properly. They range from 10 mm to 30 mm+ with the average nipple size being between 16-18 mm.

  1. Be hands-on while pumping – massage your breast and do breast compressions.
  2. Make sure you have a good electric pump (hospital grade, if possible).
  3. Make sure you are using your pump settings correctly.
  4. Consistency is key when exclusively pumping, especially without a baby at home. Pumping every two to three hours for 30 minutes is really important for establishing a good supply.
  5. Nourish yourself. This means drinking half your body weight in ounces every day and eating enough calories to sustain your milk output.
  6. There shouldn’t be any pain.
  7. And last but not least – relax! Drop your shoulders, close your eyes and breathe.

What tips can you share for surrogates who don’t live close to the intended parents, and therefore must ship their breast milk?

Bag your milk with no more than five ounces to reduce the risk of the milk bags breaking. Freeze your milk as flat as you can, and then “brick” it in Ziploc wide-bottom freezer bags. Write the number of ounces on the outside of the bag, so it’s easier to keep track of how much milk you are boxing up. Each Ziploc bag can usually hold 60 ounces of milk. You can order insulated boxes off Amazon (Polar Tech is a good one). If you are bricking your milk and sending over 200 ounces, the frozen milk will insulate itself. Most people ship FedEx overnight or two-day shipping. Always ship on a Monday or Tuesday, so if there is a delay, there is less of a chance of it being held up over the weekend. You can also check out
Pirate Ship for lower shipping costs.

What do you think is most important for surrogates to know about exclusively pumping?

That it’s a lot of work. For some people, it’s worth it and for some it’s not – and no one should feel ashamed of that. Exclusively pumping (especially without a baby) is not a causal thing. It’s not, “Oh, I’ll just pump whenever I can.” It’s a commitment but totally possible!

Contacting Juli:
Follow Juli on Instagram and Facebook or contact her at juli.v.doula.clc@gmail.com. You can also submit a request to join the Surrogates Pumping Milk Facebook Group.

 

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