There is definitely some speculation out there as to whether or not you can or should breastfeed your adopted baby. The truth is, breast milk has always been and will always be the best thing for babies. It’s also very true that you can breastfeed your adopted baby with a little help and preparation, and in fact, it is recommended to do so by the America Academy of Pediatrics.
Breastfeeding in any situation
It’s possible to breastfeed a baby even after menopause or if you’ve never been pregnant before. The process for doing this is called induced lactation — while that may sound like a scary and daunting task, it can actually be easily achieved with a little patience. While it may be possible to induce lactation with little to no preparation, there are several methods that you can try if you have advanced notice that a new baby will be joining your family. These methods can be used by traditional adoptive moms, mothers with babies born by surrogacy and female partners of birth mothers.
Realize your goals
Before making the decision to breastfeed a baby that you did not give birth to, you should explore the reasons that make you want to breastfeed in the first place. It’s something that can take a lot of time and effort but of course can and will be very rewarding. If your goal is to exclusively breastfeed your adopted child, you may want to adjust your expectation. Establishing a steady supply of breast milk takes a lot of time and you may need to supplement with an alternative occasionally, and that’s okay! You may eventually be able to provide all the milk that your baby needs but it can take some time to get there.
Things that you can do to help induce lactation:
- Stimulate your breasts by hand or pump for several weeks or months before your baby arrives.
- Galactagogues: herbs or prescription medications that increase breast milk production.
- Goldfarb-Newman Protocol: this method involves first taking birth control pills to stimulate pregnancy hormone changes and then both expressing the breasts and taking medication that increases hormone levels.
- Herbal remedies such as fenugreek are available over the counter.
Every mom is different
While the benefits of breast milk are enough to stand alone that’s not the only reason to breastfeed your adopted baby. The amount of milk you will be able to produce varies from mother to mother just as much as the ability to feed varies from baby to baby. There is no way to know ahead of time how much you will produce and how good your baby will be at feeding. It’s all trial and error but it’s something that you and your baby are experiencing together and that is a beautiful thing. Rather than worrying about how much milk your baby is getting, try to keep your focus on the breastfeeding relationship that you have. The physical connection of breastfeeding benefits both you and your baby.
“Adoption universally involves loss. Babies recognize their mothers at birth and at delivery healthy babies placed on the abdomen of their mother will crawl up onto her chest and, locating the nipple via its familiar smell, will attach to her breast and suckle. Newborn infants desire to remain with their mother and if removed from skin-to-skin contact with her will give a specific "separation distress cry/call" as an appeal for reunion. Maternal separation is stressful for infants, and all adopted children have experienced the loss of their birth mother” (Gribble, 2006).
Making the choice to breastfeed your adopted baby is a hard one to make, but the choice is a very rewarding one. With a little hard work and patience, the benefits that you both receive will all be worth it in the end.