Adoptive mothers can and do breastfeed. Often they can lactate and nourish a baby, and almost always they will succeed in comforting a baby. As a matter of fact, this experience can be an important way a new, adoptive mother can bond with a child. Woman can become mother and baby can become her child through this experience.
Just talking about the fact that an adoptive mother can breastfeed makes it more likely that more will. Our exposure to possibilities outside our experience triggers our “Ah-ha!” response and encourage us to ask not whether we can but HOW we can.
It takes determination and preparation to succeed in breastfeeding an adopted baby, but the benefits to mother and child are well worth it.
How Can You Make It Work?
You need to prepare yourself in at least two important ways: get information and stimulate lactation.
As with so many other parenting issues, it really helps to talk to those with experience. Find out from your local La Leche League Leader whether someone locally can help you. If you can’t talk to anyone face to face, seek out online support. Those who have been where you are going are your best resource.
Stimulation milk production. You can do this by pumping for 4-6 weeks before the baby arrives. The trouble with this advice, of course, is that it isn’t always clear when an adopted baby will arrive. If an adoption falls through, it can be even more discouraging if you are producing milk. So, this is a difficult one to know when to start, but it is important to lactation success that you try.
You can also use lactation inducing herbs or drugs (galactogogues) such as fenugreek, milk thistle and goats rue. Or you can use medications, hormones, or other supplements.
Is Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby Always Successful?
This depends on your definition of success.
Most adoptive mothers who breastfeed are able to bond with and comfort their baby.
Not all adoptive mothers are able to lactate, though most are. Fewer are able to produce enough milk to supply all of a baby’s nutritional needs, but that is certainly done. Experts say, set your expectations at a reasonable level then work to get there. And, push further.
Any breastmilk is better than none. Don’t add anxiety to the mix. Set out to find the bonding experience, and you might build the nutritional experience as well.
You might also choose a supplemental feeding system.
I often said that nursing my children was the lazy way of feeding. Breastfeeding an adopted child is definitely not the lazy way. This is a relationship that is chosen, a relationship that takes work and dedication to be successful by any definition.
Is it worth the effort? Absolutely. The health benefits of breastmilk are undisputable for any baby. The relationship that any mother builds with her child is worth the effort.
- La Leche League International articles
- Darrillyn Starr is a mother who has breastfed six adopted children. Her experience has helped many.
- Adoption.com forums