S1E11 Crystal’s Story | New Little Life Breastfeeding Podcast

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Show Notes

In this week’s episode, I am joined by Crystal– a mom of three, breast pumping consultant, and surrogate. She shares her own breastfeeding journeys including low supply issues, her business Save The Milk, and pumping after each surrogate pregnancy. She also shares the intimate emotions surrounding surrogacy.

Helpful Links

Surro Connections surrogacy agency: http://www.surroconnection.com/

Connect with Crystal

Links from Allison

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Episode Transcript

Allison (00:00:06):

Hey everyone. It’s Allison here with New Little Life. I’m an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a nurse, a doula, and a mom of three little boys. Here on the New Little Life podcast, we’ll talk with real moms about their breastfeeding experience– the good parts and the bad– and share real and practical advice about breastfeeding. Connect with and learn from other moms and professionals to help you meet your breastfeeding goals. Hello once again. Welcome to the New Little Life podcast. Okay. Wow. The interview I get to share with you today is one of the most interesting ones I think I’ve been able to do so far. Crystal is our guest today and she is the founder of Save The Milk, where she helps women with pumping. And more specifically getting the right phalange size so they can maximize their milk output and increase efficiency, which she’ll talk to you a little bit about it’s really cool. She’s super busy with her business, but is also a mother to three beautiful children. And on her fourth surrogate pregnancy of her fifth surrogate baby. That’s right. There’s twins. She’ll tell you more about that too. Today she’s going to share with us a bit about her own breastfeeding experiences, how that shaped her pumping-based business today. And then we dive into some great conversation about surrogacy. Now I’ll admit I haven’t had much experience with surrogates, so I really loved learning from Crystal. And I appreciate how open she was in talking about some of the logistics and emotions that come with surrogacy. She does pump after her surrogate babies, and I really liked the reasons and what she said about why she does that. So you’re not going to want to miss this. Let’s jump right over to Crystal. Good morning, Crystal. I think it’s morning over the West coast for you. I’m so happy that you’re here today.

Crystal (00:02:03):

Thank you for having me.

Allison (00:02:04):

I’ve actually been dying to have you on my podcast for awhile. You’ve been on my little wishlist, so I’m really glad that we connected. I think it was in your Facebook group, wasn’t it?

Crystal (00:02:13):

Yeah, I did post something and you responded, “I have a podcast.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s so interesting.” I’m like, “Please pick me.”

Allison (00:02:23):

Because I casually threw it in there like, “Please, I want to talk to you.” You have such a unique story. This is going to be really, really fun today. So to start, can you just kind of start out and tell us about your family, your life, your business. Just kind of give us the setting to start this chat today.

Crystal (00:02:40):

Sure. So I have three of my own kids. My daughter’s going to be nineteen pretty soon. My son, middle kid, he’s going to be sixteen in two weeks and I have a seven-year old. And I’ve been married for 16 years and I live in Oregon and I am a California transplant.

Allison (00:03:06):

All right. You like Oregon?

Crystal (00:03:09):

I do really like Oregon, although I missed the activity of California. I like the small town feel and Oregon just has everything that I need. It’s like hot, snow, snowmobiling, quading, camping. The coast is right there. So it’s just like right in the middle and I actually do live in the middle right in Oregon. So that’s wonderful.

Allison (00:03:36):

And then what have you been doing since then? You’ve been doing other cool stuff. I already know, but tell our listeners here.

Crystal (00:03:42):

Yeah. So this whole thing transpired because I got pregnant as a teenager and in high school I read an article about surrogacy and I loved being pregnant. You know, it was the biggest experience of my teen life. So my life to that point, I wanted to be a surrogate. And I put that on my bucket list and fifteen years late,r I was able to start the process to become a surrogate. And that process led me to just loving all things breastfeeding, nursing, and pumping, and that created a tiny little business that I’m going to share with you.

Allison (00:04:32):

Yay. How many surrogate pregnancies have you done since your last one who’s now seven. Your last child is now seven.

Crystal (00:04:40):

I had a girl in 2015. I had twin boys in 2017. I had a boy in 2018 and I am currently pregnant, 2021, with another.

Allison (00:05:01):

Congratulations. That’s amazing. Totally amazing. Okay. We’re going to chat more about your surrogacy and pumping journey a little bit later, but first, can we start with your first one? So I would love to hear about your breastfeeding experience there. You were very young. Were you still in high school?

Crystal (00:05:16):

I was. It’s California. Apparently it’s normal there to be a teen mom. I went to an all teen-pregnancy high school. And they had a daycare in there. I can go in there at any time and feed her when I needed to.

Allison (00:05:37):

What a great resource. That’s so cool.

Crystal (00:05:39):

It was great. And for the longest time, that was one of my bucket list things. It was to create a pregnancy high school when I moved up to Oregon. But life had other plans. Yeah.

Allison (00:05:50):

Okay. So did you know you wanted to breastfeed your first? Had you ever thought about that? Did you grow up around breastfeeding?

Crystal (00:05:58):

I have a small family. So what I was around was my aunt, who had kids later in life and she breastfed all her children. And my sister was seven years older than me and she breastfed her first child. There was just like an unspoken thing. You just breastfeed, that’s it. And so there was no question about it. It’s just like what you do. I wasn’t planning. I didn’t have any like, “Oh, this is the whole plan that I’m going to do.” It was, I just do it.

Allison (00:06:35):

That’s just what it is.

Crystal (00:06:39):

And I think breastfeeding is the most beautiful thing ever. I mean, to be able to hold your tiny little, tiny human in your arms and be able to nurse was just the most amazing bond that I could ever, ever have. And probably why I keep on doing surrogacy so many times. But things didn’t actually go as planned. I didn’t know what a lactation consultant was. I didn’t know that there could be issues with breastfeeding, although I didn’t have any specific issues, like bleeding nipples, cracked, pain, any of that. I had low supply. And so I actually got sick with strep throat when she was three months old and my supply tanked. Within three days, it was just gone. Which was my first introduction to a breast pump. The old-school, big old blue Medela pumps that were hospital grade.

Allison (00:07:50):

Let’s see. That was 19 years ago?

Crystal (00:07:52):

Yes. That was 2002, to age me. And it was a monstrosity of a pump, but I used it like once or twice. And so that was my first experience with the pump and I was able to get milk out. But unfortunately, like I said, it just dried up within days.

Allison (00:08:19):

And you never did get it back to enough where you could feed her?

Crystal (00:08:21):

No, once she got that bottle in her mouth, she did not want to take any interest in nursing at all. And she was a great baby, great sleeper. She slept through the entire night, but she got that bottle and she didn’t want to go put any effort into nursing anymore.

Allison (00:08:42):

Yeah. And that was about the three or four month mark for you with her?

Crystal (00:08:47):

Yeah, exactly. About three months.

Allison (00:08:49):

How was that transition? Was it emotionally difficult or was it okay, based on your scenario?

Crystal (00:08:56):

In my head, I’m like “I got sick. It’s nothing I could have done.” I justified the ends to the journey, but this entire time I really wish I could have nursed her longer because she actually had a really bad reaction to all the formula that I was giving her. And as a teen mom and the only resource I had was WIC, I didn’t know that I could be trying different formulas for her. So she had really bad eczema. She would break out in rashes head to toe all the time. And I just I didn’t know what to do. Unfortunately, it was like that up until we broke away from formula and I went to milk.

Allison (00:09:44):

And even 19 years ago, the culture was just different. There wasn’t as many lactation consultants. There wasn’t help so readily available, even online. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago, but there was a different culture around breastfeeding, for sure.

Crystal (00:10:02):

Exactly. I think it was more, you just nurse– in the area that I lived in any ways. And especially, I wish I could’ve had more help from my mom. My mom was an over supplier and my mom was born and raised in Mexico. She had an abundance of milk and the culture is wet nursing is still a thing. She would be nursing other family, help other kids and their families. And she didn’t know how to help me because like I’m dry.

Allison (00:10:41):

And she’s like, “Wow. I’ve never had that problem.” Yeah, exactly. Oh, interesting. Okay. Was it a little bit easier with your second kid?

Crystal (00:10:49):

They were horrible sleepers. And once again, I reached the three-month mark and they weren’t satisfied. And unfortunately I had to introduce formula, but I was still able to continue nursing all the way up until a year with both of them.

Allison (00:11:12):

With your second and your third?

Crystal (00:11:14):

Yes. With my second and my third. So that brings joy to me. I was able to be able to continue to the year mark. I think that’s a typical year mark of the moms.

Allison (00:11:31):

I think the American Academy of Pediatrics says like the first year. I think actually they say two years also has benefits. But yes, I would say one year is a really common goal for a lot of moms and you don’t get like a gold, good mom star for making it a year. But it is kind of hard when you have a specific goal in your mind, whatever that is– three months, six months, a year, three years. And if you have to readjust, it can be a little hard emotionally. Just from the goals you set yourself, you know?

Crystal (00:12:02):

Yeah. And one thing that I tell the moms that I work with is just like, “Your kids are not going to come back in 20 years or in 15 or 10 and say, “Thank you, mom, thank you for nursing me.” It’s not something that you’re going to get, you know?” So this goal that you have, it’s about you. It’s about your feelings that you have as a mom and raising kids, you have to adjust everything that you do at any time. So you know, I tell them “Don’t be hard on yourself. Just try. Try what you can and if it doesn’t work, it’s going to be okay.” You know?

Allison (00:12:49):

Our favorite word here on the podcast is pivot. Do what you do until it doesn’t work for you anymore. And then pivot and do something different. Motherhood, right? In a nutshell. Did you have any other problems or success stories with your second two? Were things pretty easy there?

Crystal (00:13:12):

Well, I’ll go to the success things. So in California, we had a local midwife that did calendars throughout the year. An annual calendar and it was a nursing camp calendar. So she would get pictures from all the moms that were nursing in public. And I think that was one of the things that when I was a teenager, pregnant and being around my sister. Seeing how like congratulatory it was to be put into this calendar. And I wanted to be in that calendar so much that I think it just felt so natural to just not pump but nurse in public. So I lived in a little bubble in my own little world and it was just me and my daughter and I just nurse her whenever I wanted to. And I think I was just so consumed in nursing her that I wouldn’t look up to see if anybody cared that I was nursing in public. And if I did, I think in my head, I would only say that they’re looking at me because I’m a teen mom, not because I’m nursing in public. So I was definitely a naive because nowadays you nurse in public, people just come at you and like give you the nastiest stares. It’s ridiculous. But I think I took that away. Just pivotal feeling, you know, great feeling that I had to be able to do that for my kids. But difficulties is one of the things I said was the under-supply. I didn’t know that you could do things to increase your supply. Like as simple as eating oatmeal or increasing your fluids or electrolytes. I had no idea. And I think the only resource that I had for nursing was like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, and that really didn’t teach me anything about increasing my supply. That was the Bible that I had throughout my entire pregnancy and soon after. But yeah, I think that’s the most difficult thing that I struggled with because I thought that “It’s just me, there’s nothing I can do.” When there was a lot of things that I could have done, and I just didn’t know what options I had. And maybe if I owned a computer back in the day, but as a struggling mom, I didn’t own a computer. I didn’t have time to go to the library. So I didn’t have the resources that I have now. And a lot of moms have now to just be able to grab their phone and type in, How do I increase my milk supply?

Allison (00:16:26):

Yeah. Did you struggle with that low supply with all three of your kids?

Crystal (00:16:31):

I did. I was probably only being able to pump like 20 ounces a day and they were more like in the 30 range. Plus I had to go back to work with the two younger kids. And I didn’t have the best pump or I’d have a hand pump. And at that time still, there were just the standard flanges. So I’m using a 24 when I really should have been using like a 17 or 19 phalange, that I’m pretty sure would have helped a lot.

Allison (00:17:09):

When did you kind of get into the pumping world? So it sounds like with that first one, you had kind of an archaic pump, but then you kind of got into more pumping. When was it that you really dived in and kind of learned the ins and out of pumping?

Crystal (00:17:24):

It was when I had the twins. Well with the first surrogacy, I wasn’t nursing my son because he was over a year and we hadn’t done it for a long time. And my husband didn’t like that I was trying to nurse after a year. He thought it was weird. Any time before a year he was fine with, but after a year he’s like, “No, I don’t agree with that.” So out of respect, I wasn’t nursing. But I was pumping and I was sore. And I knew that I could pump more, but just nothing was coming out. So that was my first really real experience with the pump. And then after I had the twins, I was on maternity leave for like six months– like three months before I had them, I was on bed rest. And then I had nothing else to do but be on my cell phone. And started going in Facebook groups and learning about pumping and better techniques. And then once I actually started pumping, I was catching on to all these issues that moms were having. And I’d just offer some suggestions and the moms would take my advice and I’m not practicing it on myself. I’m just making these connections. I’m like, “Well, what if you tried this?” And I’m like, “It worked. Okay. What, what’s the other issue?” They gave me the issue. I’m like, “Okay, what about trying this?” And it would just work. And so after a while, moms would just start coming to me for advice. A lot of moms would come to me for advice. I started helping them as best I could and they’d keep on texting me or private messaging me for a couple of weeks. And I’d just be there to continue helping them. And that’s how they started telling me “You should be charging for this. You know, we’re taking up all your time.” I’m so shy and scared. I don’t like getting out of my comfort zone. I don’t like being the center of attention. That’s just not how I was raised. And I’m like, “Okay, okay, I’ll try.” And so it started with like five bucks and I’m like, “Yay, I get some coffee money.” And then it snowballed into moms coming and really just coming. And so they pushed me again, “You know, you should really be building a business out of this.” I’m like, “Oh, well maybe. I don’t know, I’ll think about it.” And it rolled into me starting Save The Milk and helping moms specifically just find the right size phalange for them to respond to.

Allison (00:20:29):

I want to ask you a couple more questions about your business model here. I have some questions about surrogacy and pumping and breastfeeding there if you don’t mind. So you have a little business now called Save The Milk. Your website is awesome. I love it so much. Can you tell me, what are you currently doing in your business? What services do you offer? What does this look like right now?

Crystal (00:20:52):

Moms come to me to help them with their breast pumps. They’re having pumping issues and it’s stemming from them using the wrong size flanges. And so I actually size their nipples and I decide which phalange would be more appropriate for them to use. So if you go to my website, you can kind of see, “Do you have cracked nipples? Are you not able to empty out your milk efficiently while you’re pumping? Are your nipples changing colors?” And if there’s one thing on there that you can say, “Yes, I’m having that issue”, then it’s worth having your nipple sized, just to see if something could be changed to help.

Allison (00:21:46):

Oh, that’s so cool. So do you do this, like via video call? How does that work? Do they send in pictures?

Crystal (00:21:53):

Yes. it’s actually patent pending. Moms will take pictures with items that they have around the house. And so I never see anybody virtually. I don’t get on the phone and we don’t talk. It’s all by text message or Facebook messenger, email– however they choose– where it’s in writing. They can go back at any time and read the information that I’ve provided to them. And I’m available all the time. So if they have a question in the middle of the night, they can text it to me. And then when I’m available, I’ll text back with, “I think you should try this. Why don’t you try that?” And I’m still keeping that same pattern that I did in the past of, I know how it is to be a mom. I can’t make appointments and move my entire day to be able to get out of my house and go meet somebody. So I, I do what I like to do, which is be in my bubble because I’m an introvert. I like having moms just when they have an issue, feel comfortable that knowing I’m going to be there. And preggo-brain and mommy brain is real, so I want to have that information there so they can read it back whenever they need to.

Allison (00:23:21):

Oh, that’s really interesting. Do you specifically kind of specialize in phalange sizing? Or do you have some other breastfeeding training? Do you help in other ways too? Mostly the pumping stuff.

Crystal (00:23:31):

It’s pumping stuff because I am not a lactation consultant. I’m not a breastfeeding counselor. So if I were to give any advice on breastfeeding– which I don’t– that would be construed me being a lactation consultant. And so I don’t want to go over that boundary, but I do have a lot of information from the state of Oregon, where I’m not supposed to be going over that line and crossing it.

Allison (00:24:03):

So you mostly do like pumping stuff, phalange sizing?

Crystal (00:24:06):

Yeah. Then if moms need more help I tell them, “Please go talk to your doctor. It could be this. Why don’t you do some more research on that, and see what your doctor said.” So it’s straight. Just I am going to help you with your phalange size. It’s like 90% it’ll help you with your issues. But if there’s that 10%, you should probably talk to your doctor.

Allison (00:24:31):

That’s so cool because there’s a lot of lactation consultants around. And if you have breastfeeding issues, that’s who you should see. But there’s not that many people that I would consider an expert in the field in pumping. And so when moms have these issues with their pumps or even sizing, they don’t teach you that really in your lactation consultant training. I’m an IBCLC now and I’ve been doing lactation stuff for a long time, but they don’t ever dive into the pumping stuff. We’re trained more to do the breastfeeding issues and a lot of those clinical things. And there’s no training really to be a pump consultant. You know, I wish that was a thing.

Crystal (00:25:14):

And that’s the title I gave myself, when I’m filling up the forms a couple of years ago for my state. They want to know what the title of my position is. I’m like, “I don’t know. I guess I’m a breast pump consultant or breast pumping consultant.” I didn’t get pushed, but everything kind of just slowed in the direction of I’m going to help moms with their breast pumps. And I have been walking a fine line between not being a lactation consultant and letting everybody know that I’m specifically helping with their breast pumps. So I’m sure I’m going to get some backlash at some point, but right now I’m really trying to walk that line and make sure that people know that this is just to help them with their breast pumps.

Allison (00:26:09):

No, I think what you’re doing is so cool. And I don’t think there’s enough people that are putting themselves out there with pump training and experience to help others. So I absolutely love what you’re doing.

Crystal (00:26:20):

Well, thank you very much. And you know, my goal is to let lactation consultants know that pumping should be integrated together with nursing because the reality is that all the women in the world are gonna have to go back to work at some point. If you’re the lucky few that can stay home and nurse, that’s great. But even then, you have a couple of kids. You can’t be tied down to sitting there nursing and you want to have that flexibility of walking around, being able to pump if your baby is sleeping through the night. If you need to increase your supply, pumping is one of the greatest forms of increasing your supply because it’s stimulating your breasts and you’re emptying better. So there’s so much benefit to pumping in addition to nursing. And I want the community to know that that just a little bit more help in sizing correctly would really extend the journey for all the moms to meet their goal. And that is my goal– is to get moms there to their goal because I wasn’t able to do it. And I want others to be able to.

Allison (00:27:41):

That’s really interesting to hear you talk about that. And as a lactation consultant, I have a slightly different view on that. I don’t think that you should introduce a breast pump unless you have to or you want to. But the reality is is that– like you said– a lot of moms are pumping and a lot of insurances are giving moms pumps. So it’s very easy to add that into your routine and have a little bit more flexibility if you want it. If you’re going back to work, which a lot of moms do, you’re going to need to know how to pump. If you want to have a small freezer stash so you can go to the dentist or out with your girls for a night.

Crystal (00:28:21):

Yeah, if you’re going to a weekend wedding, if you want to celebrate your anniversary and you don’t want to have your kids with you, you have to introduce that pump. In my opinion, it’s not— how would I say this? It’s a necessity to have. The insurance companies do give them out, which is great. And because of that, moms are nursing longer because they do have that pump. I was doing a lot of research on it last year. And I think the move to provide pumps through the insurance was a great one.

Allison (00:29:10):

Yeah. It’s so interesting. I actually just filmed a YouTube video a couple of weeks ago where I talked about, I see on Facebook a lot moms will say, “Is there anyone that doesn’t pump and just breastfeeds? Because that’s what I want to do, but I’ve had this pump in my schedule.” I am like, “Yes, you don’t have to pump if you don’t want to.” There’s some moms that they don’t want to, but they feel like they have to. But I think more often, the reality is that moms want to introduce that in some way, and then there’s just not a lot of resources out there to help them figure out how to do that. Because it’s not a natural thing. Breast pumps come with one or two sizes of phalanges and not everybody fits in those beautiful little boxes. And then what do you do? Where do you find help for that? So I think what you’re doing is so cool. If you’ve been on my channel, you’ll see that there’s a lot of breast pump reviews on there and stuff too– for the same reason. There’s just not enough resources for moms and moms are pumping and they need help. And so, so cool what you’re doing.

Crystal (00:30:20):

Thank you very much.

Allison (00:30:22):

Have you seen a lot of success with moms? Once they have the right phalange size, are they having more success?

Crystal (00:30:29):

Absolutely. So there’s three things that I usually consider success. The obvious one, they start increasing their supply. You start pumping with the right flange and there’s milk in there that you didn’t know you had. Or you did know you had, but you could never get it out even with hand expressing. And I’m one of those. I would try hand expressing and I couldn’t get anything out. So that’s the obvious one. Then you have comfort. Even if moms aren’t able to get more milk, they are so happy to be pumping comfortably. And the last one is it can shorten the amount of time that you spend pumping. So the normal amount of time pumping is about 30 minutes. It obviously varies per person, but if you can get from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, moms are happy. If you can get from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, you have a lot more time in your day. So those are the three things that I consider success. And if anybody goes to my Facebook group or Facebook page, you can see my reviews and they will all be the same.

Allison (00:31:55):

That’s so cool. So when moms come to you, how many moms are actually using the right size of phalange? I’m sure you don’t have a number, but just like guess.

Crystal (00:32:07):

It’s really low. I’m talking like 5%. Those 5% can still benefit from using a different type of flange. So yes, I do size moms, but I guess my title breast pump consultant means that I know about a wide variety of products and about the different type of suction patterns that different pumps have. And so if you have the right size phalange, but you’re not responding to the suction pattern, I will do everything in my power to work with you on what you have. But in the end I might just say, “I think it’s your pump.” And I’m not afraid to say that, but I am also hired to help with a specific issue. And I’m going to try to do that.

Allison (00:33:04):

Yeah. So the other 95% of moms that are like not using the right size, would you say that they’re often using one that’s too big or too small?

Crystal (00:33:13):

It’s usually too big. You usually downsize. I do downsize and it could be a sliver. It could just be two millimeters that I think they need to size down or I think that they need to try a different product. And just tweaking just a few little things to see if it’ll help. Moms don’t know which direction to go with. So I’m there to provide all the knowledge that I have on all the products and I will choose and tell them about the ones that I think are the going to be the best fit for them.

Allison (00:33:53):

Do you have a couple of favorite products that are your go-to things that you find yourself recommending a lot?

Crystal (00:34:02):

I don’t play favoritism on the products, but there’s not that many products out there, and I’m sure you’re aware.

Allison (00:34:11):

Yeah. Every time there’s a new one I’m like, “Yes, I got to get it and try it!” Because there’s just not that many.

Crystal (00:34:17):

Right. So the easiest one to go with is BeauGen. And I think that’s how you say it. I think it’s BeauGen Cushions. And it really depends on what the issues that mom is having with her pumps. And I usually use it as secondary to the standard phalange. So the standard phalange is your basic plastic phalange. They come in 24mm, 21mm, 19mm, 17mm. So on. So the, the BeauGen ones are flexible material. For anybody listening, flexible material, it’s only two millimeters, so you can bend it, you can fold it. And for some moms, they really do need that extra cushion and barrier between the phalange and their nipple, if they’re in a lot of pain. So that usually becomes a secondary recommendation. My first recommendation is always to go with the standard phalange. It’s the cheapest, it’s normal usage. So they they’re familiar with it before I start going down the list of other products. And there’s really like only four other products on the market.

Allison (00:35:44):

I totally agree. There’s not a lot. Is it very common that moms have different sizes on each of their breasts?

Crystal (00:35:51):

Absolutely. Oh, absolutely. So I can have one nipple that’s like the 21mm. They usually start with the 24mm, I’ll size them downs with 21mm, but then their other nipple could be a size 19, which isn’t that far off. But there are some that one’s a 15mm and the other is the 21mm. So the sizes have to be exact for each nipple. And that’s what I’m able to do.

Allison (00:36:21):

That’s crazy. That’s crazy. The sizes are usually the ones I’ve seen are in like two millimeter increments, like 13, 15, 17, 19.

Crystal (00:36:33):

Isn’t that amazing that they now have a 13, they have 12mm and they have a 10mm.

Allison (00:36:39):

Are you serious?

Crystal (00:36:40):

Oh yes, yes.

Allison (00:36:41):

I have not seen those. That’s why.

Crystal (00:36:44):

I try to stay on top of everything. Yes they have a 13 millimeter insert too. So these little tiny changes that the companies are making are because they know and they see that things are changing. And I don’t want to say it’s because of me, but in the communities out there on Facebook, moms are talking about it now. “I’ve been sized or I know my size. I wish that they made my size.” So I’m really happy that things are progressing rapidly within the last two years with these new sizes.

Allison (00:37:22):

I agree. And new products are coming out all the time. And I feel like they are kind of hearing the complaints of mothers because more mothers are pumping now and which brings more problems on learning. And I feel like the companies are trying to adapt and give them what they want, you know?

Crystal (00:37:40):

Yeah. I’m really happy.

Allison (00:37:43):

So cool. Oh, thank you so much for sharing with that. I’m going to put some of your links down in the show notes because I think the resources you offer is super valuable. So that people can connect with you there– your Facebook group, your website, anything else you have that might be helpful would be great.

Crystal (00:37:59):

I think the number one thing is I have an Amazon page, so I list all the products, all the phalanges right there. So if you have a Willow, if you have an Elvie, all the standard flanges, all the inserts are right there and you can find them very easily. And some other products– if you’re looking to increase, if you’re checking out supplements, they’re all on there. I think that’s the basic one, because it’s all right there and you don’t have to go searching for it and get lost.

Allison (00:38:36):

So that’s awesome. Okay. I’m going to ask you a question and I hate it when people ask me this question. So I apologize in advance. Do you have a favorite breast pump? If a mom comes to you and says, “What should I get?” Do you have some that you recommend?

Crystal (00:38:51):

Okay, so this is kind of a Catch-22 because the best pump for the last two years has been Spectra, for sure. And moms love it, it’s offered through insurance. So Spectra has been the number one, except there has been a couple of pumps that are not offered through insurance. And it really depends on mom’s situation at home. So if you’re a healthcare worker, then you’re going to want to look at a pump that’s either the Willow or Elvie, because they’re discreet. They’re pumps that go in your bra. I don’t recommend Freemie, so no Freemie. That’s not my recommendation. But there is another pump that’s new on the market. It’s Pumpables. You’re in Europe, isn’t that correct?

Allison (00:39:57):

Yeah. We live in Belgium right now. Yeah.

Crystal (00:39:59):

So it’s actually popular in Europe. They’re coming out with different sized phalanges and I’ve been in communication with them. They really are listening to the customer. They’re really understanding that there’s different size nipples, and they’re really trying to adjust their products to size. I have two of their pumps, but because I’m pregnant, I can’t use it right now. So I’m eagerly waiting to use it at the end of the year. I have a feeling that that is going to be really great pump to look into if anybody has options or doesn’t have insurance or whatnot, that would be a great pump to try.

Allison (00:40:50):

Do they have a different style of phalange? Am I remembering that right?

Crystal (00:40:54):

Yeah. So they have these things called liquid flanges. Okay. They are shaped really weird, and I’ve heard that you are able to use them with other pumps. But because it’s not a common pump and not a lot of moms know about it, I haven’t made the recommendation for their phalanges yet. I think they’re just a little bit more pricey as well. Right now, I’m just sticking to the standard stuff that we all know about. And spectra is coming out with a new pump too. Not sure if you’re aware.

Allison (00:41:30):

Oh, I preordered it girl, you know I did, but I’m waiting for an email. Like it should be in the mail. I was hoping this week, but I’m dying to try it. It has two motors. So you can control each side. How valuable do you think that is for moms? Does every mom needs something like that? I’d be really interested to know your thoughts on that.

Crystal (00:41:52):

Well there are other pumps on the market that do do have dual motors. That was kind of hard to say. But I haven’t worked with a lot of moms with those pumps. Usually it’s more European or like in Australia, there’s some pumps out there that have dual motors, but we’re limited to what our insurance gives us and we don’t want to pay for anything else. So in my experience, yes, I think it will be really helpful for a lot of moms. But I think it’s pretty low. I think 30% of moms actually have more of a discrepancy on how much they can empty in the longer, shorter amount of time. If that makes any sense. We all have boobs that one’s a slacker and one’s an overachiever. But the reality is the slacker has less breastmilk tissue. So even if you’re power pumping, if you’re pumping it longer, you’re not going to get the same amount of milk. So in my opinion, I think only 30% of moms will benefit from using this pump.

Allison (00:43:09):

Oh, interesting. Yeah. I want to play with it so bad and see what it’s like. I agree with you though. I don’t think everyone needs that. But for those that do or want to try that, I think it’s going to be really cool.

Crystal (00:43:23):

Exactly. And now there’s just so many options out there in terms of breast pumps. So it’s a matter of figuring out exactly what you need. And for first-time moms, you have no idea what you’re gonna need. So if I’m giving advice to new moms that are out there, I would start with the basic standard Spectra pump and start there. And once you realize what issues you have, then you can start making changes to the products that you’re using. If that includes getting a new pump, there are Facebook pages that you can trade pumps so you don’t have to go out of pocket. I’m all about trying to save moms money too.

Allison (00:44:11):

I feel you. I have a Facebook group that’s specifically designed to help moms choose a breast pump because it’s so overwhelming. And sometimes your insurance gives you weird options but there’s a lot of first-time moms that are like, “Oh my gosh, I have no clue what I’m doing. Like help me, you know?” Yeah. It’s a lot and it can be tricky. And I feel like a lot of moms think they need multiple pumps right off the bat. But I’m always like, “Okay, how much pumping are you going to be doing? What does that look like? Do you know?” I don’t want you to have to buy three pumps if you’re a stay at home mom and we can get you your free one through your insurance and it’s going to work. I’m the same way. I want to save you money, but also get you what you need. We’re on the same page there.

Crystal (00:45:00):

Good. Very good. Yeah. And there’s nothing wrong with a hand pump. Like I said, if you’re one of those moms that are gonna only take two trips out of the entire year and that’s going to be your anniversary and it’s going to somebody’s wedding, then just get a hand pump. It’s only like $15 and it’ll save you for those few days that you’re going to be away from your baby.

Allison (00:45:21):

So I think those are under-utilized. Just the manual hand pumps can be all you need. So cool. Okay. I have a couple of questions for you about your surrogacies and breastfeeding, if you don’t mind. Do you pump after pregnancies for your surrogate babies?

Crystal (00:45:42):


Allison (00:45:43):

Is that common in the surrogate world? I’m sorry. I’m a little ignorant in the world of surrogacy. So I would love for you to kind of tell me what that’s like.

Crystal (00:45:54):

Okay. So like I said, I’m an open book and I don’t mind sharing all the information. So in our surrogacy contracts, there is always a clause that says if the intended parents want to have your milk, they will pay you a certain amount of money every week to provide them with that milk. A normal contract is $250. And if the parents are far away, then they are responsible for paying the shipping costs to get the milk to them. Okay. So a lot of moms will continue to pump and to get the extra money. In my opinion, I think it’s just a waste. If you have this milk and it’s the only time that you’re going to be able to get that milk, then why not? And for me, it’s just a wonderful experience to transition from being a surrogate, being consistently needed and checked up on and all these appointments. And then when you have that baby, it’s like a breakup. There’s no appointments, there’s no being checked on. You’re baby-less and you have nothing else going on in your life. So pumping, for me, becomes the next step. It becomes the next thing that I can concentrate on and I can watch my ounces increase day by day. And I can watch the milk change from a dark yellow to milky color. And it really helps my sanity to be able to use that as the transition platform and kind of calm my inner emotions that I just had a baby. It’s not my baby. This breakup is happening, but I’m going to concentrate on this other project. So if the parents don’t want milk, I take the personal choice, continue pumping, and I go and I donate it to local moms. Or I’ve had moms drive like three hours to pick up my milk that I’m donating. Or I’ll sell my milk to people across the country that need it and I’ll cover the shipping costs. And I use my discounts and in any way I can, I’m just trying to just give my milk cause I have the opportunity to do so. And that is also how I turned this company just like surrounding every aspect of breastmilk. Because now I offer coolers and everything that you need in it, like the cooler packs and how to freeze it and best times of day to ship your milk. And I offer discounts on shipping the packed cooler from one location to the next, which no other company does. And so I think it’s a great resource and for the select few that actually do ship their milk, it’s it does save them the money.

Allison (00:49:16):

That’s amazing. There’s a lot of logistics that go into shipping breast milk that you just don’t think about until you’re faced with that situation. So a little like kit or something to walk you through that, sounds like an amazing resource for someone that needs or wants to ship breastmilk. Yeah, it’s really cool.

Crystal (00:49:35):

I have a common theme is pretty much pink and cute and girly. And even the ice packs that I chose for my company come with pink polka dots. You know, it’s just being able to feel like you’re a part of something is what I want moms to know that there’s so many more moms like them out there that are just trying to feed their kids and they want to do it with breast milk and I’m trying to help.

Allison (00:50:09):

How long do you usually pump after a surrogate baby or does it vary just based on your life and your goals at the time?

Crystal (00:50:16):

It definitely varies. So I think with the first, it was only around for four or five months. I wasn’t selling or donating. I was providing it to my own son. And then with the twins, I went about ten months before I needed to stop and wean in order to move forward with the next surrogacy. Anybody, if they’re interested in becoming a surrogate and you’re currently pumping or nursing, you have to be able to wean in order to start taking medication because the weaning and the medication interfere with each other. So I had to stop at 10 months, be able to have two periods before I can start the next surrogacy process. So that one was 10 months. And then with this last baby, I had them in October and then I got COVID in March. And my goal was originally to make it to May and then wean to start the next surrogacy process. But in March, my supply went from like 30 ounces to 12 ounces within like a week. And I pumped for a couple more weeks. I was like around 17 ounces, but I wasn’t putting as much effort into it because I knew I was going to wean. So I just dragged it out a little bit. And so I weaned in April. And I’m like, “Oh, it’s okay. I got sick and I was going to wean anyways. That’s fine.” So I justified it again in my head. So this one, I’m not quite sure how long I’m going to do it because it’s 99% going to be my last.

Allison (00:52:19):

You’re amazing for doing so many already. You’re incredible.

Crystal (00:52:23):

Thank you. But this time around, I really want to concentrate on me. I’m 36, but I’m feeling that midlife turn coming and my body and my life has been so concentrated around babies. I’m making plans to get a mommy makeover. And so I’m not just too sure how long I’m going to be pumping for.

Allison (00:52:53):

Oh, cool. That’s that’s so interesting. Okay. Here’s the question. I just want to know, do you ever breastfeed your surrogate babies at the breast? I don’t know what the standard is there.

Crystal (00:53:06):

Yes, I have. So the standard in the surrogacy community is not to, and the reason why is because the parents normally don’t want you to have that extra bond with the baby, once the baby is there and born. And luckily, like I said, I’ve worked with very practical parents– intended parents– and I always let them know exactly how I felt about breastmilk and I wanted to work with somebody that would allow me that 15 minutes to nurse and just that extra little bond. So for the first surrogacy journey, the mom was three hours late to her daughter’s delivery. So I actually birthed, delivered by myself. The only person there was obviously the doctor, the nurse, and a lactation consultant. It was a slow day and I didn’t have anybody with me. My water had broke and she was just making her rounds and had nothing else to do that day. So she just stayed with me for about an hour and held my hand while I was pushing and took pictures for me. I’m like, “Can you please take pictures? The parents aren’t here.”

Allison (00:54:40):

Yeah. Wow.

Crystal (00:54:43):

But I’m bringing this up because we had initially talked with the parents and like, “What if you’re not able to get there in time? How do you want me to take care of her?” She’s the one that actually said, “Would you be willing to breastfeed her if I’m not there?” And it turns out she was three hours late. So I was able to breastfeed her for the first few hours of her life. I had the same plan with the twins, except the twins came early and the boys had to be taken to the NICU. So there was no time to nurse them, but I did pump for them for about nine weeks. And then the last one, the mom was so nice and we just have the greatest connection. Her whole family was in the birthing room with me. They spent the night in the room with me. I was nursing him a couple of times and it was just the greatest experience to be able to connect and it just felt complete, you know?

Allison (00:55:59):

Yeah. And kind of a closure.

Crystal (00:56:04):

Thank you, that’s the word. It was just closure for me. And it felt wonderful to be able to do it. But my experience is just unique. That doesn’t really happen with other surrogacies because the parents don’t want you to have that connection for fear that you would get too attached to their baby. I think people know how practical and level-headed I am so I think they trust me.

Allison (00:56:32):

And especially if you had that conversation, “Like this is a great piece of closure for me. This is not like the beginning of my attachment to your baby. This is like the final part of the process. And I want that first milk to go to your baby.” I think that’s a really sweet thing that you could do.

Crystal (00:56:56):

Thank you. Yeah. I think I’m blessed in that aspect that I have been able to choose the families that I work with and just feel that connection with them. So I think I’m very blessed.

Allison (00:57:10):

Wow. You seem really in tune with kind of your own emotions and things around surrogacy. I really liked when you described the pumping process as a transition for you out of that section of your life into the next thing, because I can imagine how after having that baby, that you would feel empty. I’ve never done it, so I don’t even want to guess what that feels like.

Crystal (00:57:40):

I mean, I can explain it for you.

Allison (00:57:42):

That would be great. I would love to know.

Crystal (00:57:45):

So like I said, it is like a breakup. You are so consumed with every aspect of your blood levels, your hormone levels, every doctor’s appointment, every sonogram, every piece of paper. You’re consumed in it for almost an entire year. So when you get to that day, you are pumped full of hormones. I always look at my body cause it’s like a train wreck, right? I’ve like put on 20 pounds of adema– swelling– and my face is just like a pumpkin and my stomach is swollen and saggy. And the parents, it’s not their fault. You know, this is totally not their fault. This is how it’s supposed to be. They come in, they give you a hug. They say, thank you. And then they take their kid away. And some people don’t even get the hug and the thank you, you know, it’s a whole business transaction. They just come and take the baby and that’s it. So like I had the wonderful experience of the parents would bring me gifts and I would get flowers. But still the moment they leave that room and not even if they’re leaving the room with their baby. It’s just like, they leave that room and you’re just sitting there like, “I just did all of this and nobody knows what I went through. Nobody knows how hard it was.” There is nothing that I can even translate to say. Like you just lost something and you can’t even put it in words and you just cry and you don’t really know why you’re crying, but deep down, you’re happy. You’re happy that everything went well. You’re happy that the baby’s healthy. You’re happy that they completed their family. But you drive home and there’s no baby in the car and you feel like crap. And you’re like, “Nobody knows that I just had a baby. And I feel like crap.” You’re thinking in your head, “I shouldn’t feel like this.” But you do. And so it takes about a solid week, in my opinion, for any surrogate to really feel the feelings that she’s feeling. To cry, to be sad. But if you are in tune with all of that and have a good support system. I can’t stress that enough, have a husband or a best friend, or a mom, that’s not going to say, “Well, you did this to yourself.” Have that support system. Like “I’m not feeling well, can you please…?” And you don’t even have to finish your sentence. That person knows what you need and is going to be there for you. Just having that person really helps you transition and realize and focus that everything you’re feeling is completely normal.

Allison (01:01:14):

Wow. You mentioned your husband. Is this difficult for your husband? This process? I’m sure he’s supportive because you’ve done this so many times. What is that like from his perspective, do you know? I’m sure you don’t want to speak for him.

Crystal (01:01:30):

I’ll tell you what he would tell anybody else. He loves it when I’m pregnant. He loves the belly. He loves the extra jiggliness that I come with. You know, he loves me. He loves me the way I am. And he doesn’t like seeing me in pain. So normally he’s not there when I’m delivering. I’ll have somebody else be there when I’m delivering. He says, “It’s not my kid. There’s no reason I need to be there.” And I’m fine with that. I don’t need to push him to be there. That is not what I need. I know I can do it all by myself because I have. But for him, he likes the extra money. I always bribe him with something. I’m like, “If we do this, we can buy a house.” I put $8,000 down through my first surrogacy. I bought this house that I’m in right now. So we’ve owned that for five years. And then the next time it was like, “Come on, I’ll get you some quads. We’ll get you some snowmobiles.” There’s not much arm twisting with him. He knows that I love being pregnant. He knows that this was a bucket list dream that I had while we were dating. So it took a while for him initially to do that first one, he was very apprehensive. He said, “This is crock. I don’t believe in it. I don’t know.” But I eased him into it as a wife does, you know? And it’s made us stronger through all of our journeys. It’s made us stronger. It’s given us so many opportunities in our lives and to meet all these other amazing families and make connections that he loves surrogacy as much as I do.

Allison (01:03:35):

That’s incredible. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that. This is an intimate thing to talk about and especially the emotions and things that come with doing this unique thing. I really appreciate you being so open and talking with me about that.

Crystal (01:03:51):

I didn’t know how much surrogacy was going to take over my life how it has. But being able to actually have a conversation like this, it really centers me. Cause I tend to forget how much my life revolves around it. So I don’t really get the opportunity to talk to anybody as much as I have now in this conversation. So thank you for taking the time to ask me these questions.

Allison (01:04:23):

So interesting. This is not something that I’ve had a lot of experience with. So I’ve learned so much today and I really appreciate your honesty and your openness in this whole conversation. And I really think that you’re going to benefit a lot of moms just by simply sharing your story and just bringing some feelings of peace and validation to moms everywhere.

Crystal (01:04:47):

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Allison (01:04:49):

Is there any piece of advice while we kind of wrap this up that you would like to share with new moms? So about breastfeeding, motherhood, anything at all. I think you have a lot of really valuable experience and are well-spoken about these things.

Crystal (01:05:08):

That’s a little tough one, cause it’s just so broad. So if I were talking to a new mom, I can only relate to mine. I like going with the flow. I try not to prepare too much, but I like to have a plan just in case. So the things that I would say is talk to your friends. If they had troubles with their pumping or lactation journey, get the telephone number and name to the person that they used– beforehand. Before you have any issues, down the line because that could set you up for you’re scrambling and you’re stressed and you’re trying to call and make an appointment with the right person. And that can set you out a couple of weeks and your journey might end by then. I lost my supply with my first in three days. So don’t be afraid to pick up a book and start reading it. There are books at the library still, and sometimes getting off of your cell phone and off of your computer to actually flip real pages is very Zen sometimes. And when we do need to get back to this calming ourselves and just know that if you’re taking small little steps for a plan that may or may not go wrong, that’s the best thing you can do. If you do come up into a situation where you’re having struggles with pumping or nursing, again, reach out to your friends, reach out to Facebook, reach out to the community and ask questions. Women are always eager to help. But remember that we are also full of hormones. So if you’re asking for advice and somebody is telling you, “Well, you should probably not do that. Or I wouldn’t do that.” Moms they want to help, but they always put their two cents in there. So take it with a grain of salt. With whatever you do, go with the flow, do what feels right. Do what feels natural to you. Talk to your doctor and see what they say. If that’s something that they can help you with, or a lactation consultant regarding nursing. And in regards to surrogacy, it comes with a lot of research. So you have to make sure that you talk to your significant other. You make sure that you have that communication with that person to see if it’s actually the right time to do it. Don’t be afraid to wait. There’s good money in surrogacy. Everybody should be straightforward with that, but that shouldn’t be the sole reason why you should be a surrogate. And be honest with yourself. Can you take shots for months? Can you keep on track of all the medication that you need to take? Can you have an honest communication with the parents that you want to work with and do you want to work with those parents? That is the number one thing. You’re going to be stuck with two people for a whole year, and if something goes wrong and if you can’t have a communication with them, it’s going to be the worst journey that you’ve ever had. So really, really take the time to do research and see if surrogacy is something that you want to bring into your life.

Allison (01:09:07):

Wow. Thank you so much for that. Do you have some places that moms can connect with you if they either want some of your pumping help or maybe some surrogacy chat? Is there any place where you tell us where they can connect with you?

Crystal (01:09:22):

Sure. So obviously my website SaveTheMilk.com. I’m on Instagram and Facebook. I’m available. My telephone number is on my website. I prefer text messages. I will respond when I can, but I am very busy. Facebook Messenger is great. If anybody is interested in knowing more about surrogacy, the number one company that I can recommend is Surro Connections. They are based in Oregon, but I have done a lot of research on different companies and talking to other surrogates that have used other companies. And I have found that Surro Connections is the best company. Just to give you a little blip ladies, if you’re listening to this. And this is one of the realities of surrogacy. The owner of that company was a surrogate and was several months pregnant when the intended mom just decided to disappear. She didn’t die. She’s still alive. She’s still out there, but decided to abandon the entire surrogacy journey while the owner of the company, Surro Connections, was still pregnant with her daughter. This is how wonderful this person is. She delivered the baby and adopted her. And that is her child now. So if you’re considering working with a wonderful person, that is somebody that you want to work with.

Allison (01:11:05):

Yes. Wow. What a story?

Crystal (01:11:08):

I get chills every time I think about it. I would do the same, but I’m not looking to open up my own agency. Although people have told me I should. I’m like, “I don’t have time.”

Allison (01:11:23):

You’ve got a great business that helps a lot of moms and I’m really grateful for what you’re doing. So keep it up. I look forward to following you through this last, maybe last, pregnancy journey for you and just continuing to see what you’re doing in your business because you’re helping so many moms. And I hope that I can help you get in front of more moms and that we can work together and get people the help they need because that’s really what we’re here for.

Crystal (01:11:52):

Well, I wasn’t going to say anything. But I’m going to drop this with you. I have been in the works for several months now, coming out with a patent pending product that is going to help all moms size themselves for all their pumps. And it’s not a paper ruler. It’s something very unique. And I think hopefully if everything goes well, it’ll be coming out in just a few weeks.

Allison (01:12:24):

Oh, I cannot wait. That is so cool. Oh, it’s moms like you that just take their experience and build it into something amazing to help more moms that I think is incredible.

Crystal (01:12:38):

Yeah. I’m trying, and like I said, I’m an introvert. I don’t like being the face of my company. If I could sell it, I would. But it’s kind of hard to sell something that it’s so attached to me. And so I’m working on trying to figure out how I can actually get all this information that I have in my head and give it away to the masses. So that is something that I am trying to work on. I am not trying to be the center of attention. I am definitely willing to depart with everything that I have so moms can continue their journeys as much as they could, for as long as they can.

Allison (01:13:27):

Wow. That’s incredible. I can’t wait to see what the next little while brings for you and your business. Crystal, thank you so much for taking the time today to talk with me. I have really, really loved this conversation and I know you are very busy, but I appreciate your time.

Crystal (01:13:43):

I cleared my day for this. We’re okay. We’re okay.

Allison (01:13:48):

Thank you so much. You can find all the links and stuff that we talked about today down in the show notes. Crystal is going to send me a bunch of hers. There’ll be some links for me down there too. So those show notes are going to be really valuable for you if you’re listening to this today. Thanks again, Crystal. And I hope that we talk again soon. Good luck with everything that you’ve got going on.

Crystal (01:14:05):

Thank you for having me.

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