Breastfeeding An Adopted Baby
Breastfeeding An Adopted Baby
Even women who have never gave birth to a child (those who have had a hysterectomy as well) can nurse an adopted baby. Thousands of women have demonstrated this. But you need considerable perseverance, patience and serenity, a great deal of assertiveness and a strong belief it is possible, because you will have to withstand doubting, incredulous commentary from many other people. This could include your doctor, who may never have heard of it.
Breastfeeding an adopted child works because prolactin release can be stimulated through the baby's sucking or by pumping the breast, even when pregnancy has not preceded it. Conventional medicine is familiar with this phenomenon as a hormonal disturbance called galactorrhea (milk flow from the breast not associated with nursing).
The growth of ducts and alveoli to produce milk takes many weeks, during which time the breasts have to be stimulated by sucking or pumping. This onset of lactation can vary from one to six weeks, the average being four weeks after initiation of stimulation. When the infant is actually nursed at the breast and being nourished by supplements, milk may appear within 1 or 2 weeks.
Adoptive mothers cannot approximate the level of growth in the breasts that occurs during pregnancy, so adoptive mothers usually produce a milk supply that is smaller and less responsive to demand.
There is no guarantee of success, however. Not every baby who has been bottle-fed is willing to transfer to a breast that may still be unproductive. And not every woman has a high enough frustration threshold to persevere until success is achieved. Sometimes the emotional and physical difficulties are so great that it makes more sense to bottle-feed.
If you want to breastfeed your adopted baby, prepare yourself for it as you would during a pregnancy. Then start pumping and hand expressing three to five minutes at a time, several times a day. Try to stimulate the milk-ejection reflex. Your partner's strong sucking at the breast is most helpful for this purpose. In this way, you may have enough milk when your baby arrives to breastfeed almost exclusively. But probably you will have to supplement with artificial feeding or donor milk at first. Most mothers do have to continue feeding with a supplement under these circumstances.
Feed your baby as often as he is hungry, but at least every two or three hours during the day and for as long as he is willing to suck. If you are using a nursing supplement, he will get milk from it while he is sucking at your breast and will be encouraged to continue sucking at the still-unproductive breast.
You can also drip milk on the breast with a pipette while he is nursing, or give him milk after he has nursed with a cup, a small spoon or a syringe, until he is satisfied. You can reduce the supplementary feeding gradually, every few days, by about 1/3 to 1/2 ounce (10 to 15ml). During your baby's growth spurts, you will have to maintain the same amount of the supplementary feeding, or even increase it a little.
If you want to breastfeed an adopted baby, you need a lot of support, especially from your partner. You may also want to consult a lactation consultant. Get in touch with a breastfeeding support group, which may be able to give you the address of someone nearby who has nursed an adopted baby.
Lastly, don't pressure yourself to produce milk. Just enjoy the body contact with your baby as one way to get to know this unfamiliar little person better - and accept everything else as a gift.