Monday, October 22, 2012

Adoptive Breastfeeding

UPDATE:    Well, my internet has been funky all day, so I'm just now posting this.   I pumped for two and half days.   Then I learned the extent of the FBI and DCFS contract conflict in our lovely state of Illinois, which means it might be longer than expected for us to be able to adopt.     So the pumping is on hold.

Here's what I want to say:

1:  Please read the original post below.     I stand by everything I said!

2:  My consultant made a great point:  Breastfeeding is about a relationship, not about milk.    I stand by this as I put the pumping/breastfeeding on hold for now.

3:  I am not willing to pump for months on end with no due date, no end to this state nonsense, and with no match.     It's time-consuming, and to be perfectly honest, I am SO tired from staying up until 11 p.m. to pump and then getting up at 3 a.m. to pump.

4:  It wasn't painful to pump at all, and my consultant says pumping or breastfeeding shouldn't be painful.  If it is, you need to get help on fixing the issue.  

5:  I encourage you, if you are tinkering with the idea, to give it a whirl.    If it weren't for all this legal drama, I would probably continue.

I continue to welcome your comments and thoughts!  You all have been a tremendous blessing and source of encouragement!


Arguably, adoptive breastfeeding is one of the most taboo topics in the adoption realm.     I think this is the case for a few reasons:

1:  Some just think it's outright strange.  Breastfeed a child who isn't biologically yours?   

2:  Some think you haven't earned it.  If you can't conceive, or go through 9 months of pregnancy, or give birth, then why do you think you deserve to breastfeed?  Earn your right to breastfeed, sister.

3:  Some think breastfeeding in general is gross/unnatural/strange/inappropriate/inconvenient, so adoptive breastfeeding.....

4:  Some don't know it's even possible, so when they hear of it, the initial reaction isn't positive.

5:  Some people are uncomfortable with anything that isn't within their own experience.

6:  Some people believe that birth parents would be deeply hurt knowing that their child is being breastfed by the adoptive mother.    Some also believe birth parents should be involved in the decision of the adoptive baby being breastfed or not.  

7:  Insert your own thoughts here.

I have contemplated breastfeeding for over four years now.  I didn't vocalize it much, because I wanted to avoid judgement (which is funny since we adopted transracially, and I don't care if someone has a problem with it).  

There is only one fairly-current book dedicated to adoptive breastfeeding:   Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby and Relactation.     Many breastfeeding books touch on the topic, but generally, very lightly.    There's also the Newman-Goldfarb method where the mother is encouraged to take certain medications and follow a particular set of techniques to induce lactation.    This book on attachment and this book on breastfeeding are also helpful.    (Note: Martha Sears, wife of Dr. William Sears, is an adoptive mother and breastfed her adopted daughter.)  Finally, my own breastfeeding consultant, Dee Kassing, published a fantastic article on a bottle-feeding method that supports breastfeeding.   (My sources say that many adoptive mothers do not make enough milk to exclusively breastfeed, so these moms have to supplement with alternative ways of feeding, be it bottles or an SNS).     

Here's what I've learned, in a nutshell:

1:  Inducing lactation, even if you've never been pregnant, is probably quite possible, but it can be extra challenging.

2:  Breastfeeding, even if NO milk is produced, is still beneficial for the mother and the baby.

3:  If you're adopting, you are already in the realm of "abnormal," so don't worry about what other people think and do what you want with your baby.  :)    (Get some inspriration here.)

4:  There ARE people who will support you.  The first person who needs to support you, if you go the breastfeeding route, is your partner.  The second person is your consultant (be it your doctor, a LeLeche leader, another lactation consultant, etc.).   Finally, you need others (friends and family---some, not all) to support your choice.  

(Note:  The best advice I got from a fellow adoptive mom when we were waiting to adopt transracially and needed to tell our nearest-and-dearest that we were open to a child of any race was this:  Tell with confidence; don't ask permission.     I think the same can be applied to adoptive breastfeeding.   You want support, so you may say, "We are choosing adoptive breastfeeding, and I hope I have your support."   Offer resources if prompted or if you think it would be helpful).  

Here are my personal fears:

1:  My diabetes.  Always.  My diabetes.  (Did I mention my diabetes?)

2:  Having two small children in the house already.   Is it possible to effectively breastfeed and care for two other children?  I also worry how fair it is to give a new baby so much mommy-time (more than I would having bottle fed) when I already have two children who need my attention.  And my husband generally did many of the middle-of-the-night feedings with our first two; will he be missing out on his bonding time if I snatch so much of the baby's time? 

3:  Sleep.  I don't just love to sleep.  I NEED to sleep.  People who sleep well weigh less, are overall healthier, and are more productive.  Oh yes, and they are in better moods.  :)

4:   Convenience.  I know, I know.  The age-old argument is that you don't need a bottle; just whip out the breast and feed the kid.   But it's likely I'll need to do both (breast and bottle feed), so it's almost extra inconvenient.  And I love convenience.  I hate time gaps, driving long distances, waiting.  basically, I'm impatient and demanding.   Though I've grown a bit better with time, I'm still me.

What I know is:

1:  I really want to do this.   I have wanted to for four years.  I don't know how many kids we'll adopt, but I don't want this chance to pass me by.

2:  Breastfeeding will force me to bond with my new baby quicker than if I (or any nearby person who wants to help a desperate mom of three) pop a bottle in the baby's mouth (perhaps propped up by laundry-waiting-to-be-folded). 

3:  It's healthier for the baby than formula.  (I know, I know.  Formula has come SUCH a long way; it's healthy; babies across the world are fed formula every day and are fine.)     My oldest daughter received milk from my sister-in-law for the first month of my daughter's life.   I strongly believe this great start has helped my oldest daughter continue to grow up healthy.    Maybe the breastmilk helped her with the potential family allergy issues?  I'd like to believe it did! 

4:  Babies grow up SO fast.   There's only a small window of opportunity when adoptive breastfeeding is possible for any given child.  (THIS IS THE THING I KEEP REMINDING MYSELF OF.....)

5:  I don't carry much at all about what other people think.   I'm confident in my choices.  If someone has a problem with my decisions, he or she is spending too much time focusing on me and not on himself or herself.     (I did consider NOT blogging about this.  Is it TMI?   Will anyone care?  Will I lose readers if I start throwing around the b words like breastfeeding and breasts and bras?)

6:  There are always options.   I'm not up for taking any drugs to induce lactation.   Some mothers swear by it, but I'm incredibly picky about what I put into my body (thank you, diabetes!).   My consultant has shared with me that by pumping, along with some other natural procedures (hand expression, herbs, along with my own belief in positive thinking and visualization), it's possible to produce milk.  (BIG SIGH OF RELIEF).      And again, even if I don't produce anything, it's ok! 

I'd love to hear from you.  What do you think about adoptive breastfeeding?  Have you done it?  Considered it?  Researched it?   Why was it (or why wasn't it) for you?   

For more inspiration, check out these articles found on Adoptive Families website:

How I Was (Sort of) Able to Breastfeed

What You Need to Know to Breastfeed Your Baby

Nursing School

Nursing Matthew


  1. We are matchwith a birth couple due next month and I have been thinking more and more about adoptive breastfeeding. I want to do it for my baby and for me but it seems overwhelming. So far my husband isn't sure about it. He feels like we will get weird stares when we are out with our bi-racial baby if I am breastfeeding. I thank you for writing about this taboo topic. I haven't made up my mind yet but reading your blog post has encouraged me!

  2. I've been breastfeeding our son we adopted since his birth and he is now 4 months old. For me it worked easily because I was still nursing my biological daughter who was almost 2 when our son was born. Her nursing along with pumping and now the addition of medication have made it possible to not have use formula yet. There are times when I think it would be easier to have the night off of being the only one up with him or be able to run errands all day on Saturday and leave him home with dad, but in the end the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks for us and our son.

  3. I SOOO WISH I was able to breastfeed. My milk dried up when I my biological daughter was three months old. I was told because of the stress my body was under, from the blood transfusions etc. I asked my dr what I could do to keep my milk flowing and she said nothing. I shouldn't have accepted that and I wish I would have gone to a laleche (sp) meeting. When we adopted our son I tried to pump my breasts. I did 20 minute (10 minutes a breast) 8 times a day. I did that for a week and when there was nothing. Not even a slight swelling in my breasts I quit. I don't think it's taboo. I really really wished I could have. But I am glad to have a son to bottle feed, and that's all that matters.

    If I saw a woman with an adoptive baby breastfeeding I would probably get sad and jealous.

  4. I love that you want to breastfeed! I've never heard much about people judging anyone FOR breastfeeding, only choosing not to!

    I hope you do blog about it as you might inspire others to do it as well!

  5. We were matched in May and I began inducing lactation in July (baby was due in late August). Our birthmother decided to parent. I am still pumping and have stocked up a great supply in the freezer. I have over 500oz and I get about 3-4 oz per pumping and I pump about 6 times a day. I am hoping we get matched with a baby soon so I can actually nurse and be done with pumping all the time! It was hard at first, not really getting much but after a few weeks my milk came in and has been gradually increasing ever since. I used/am still taking domperidone, fenugreek and blessed thistle. I also made lactation cookies to help with supply in the beginning. I think I am going to try to wean the domperidone for now- my supply is pretty well established. Good luck to you. I know you and your baby will benefit!!

  6. I'm so glad you blogged about this, Rachel! So many people don't even know that it is possible.

    I did follow the Newman-Goldfarb protocol...and I've been able to breastfeed our precious son, Gabriel (adopted at 1 day, now 9 months old). We are all about healthy eating here (homemade freshly milled bread, raw milk, etc.) and the only thing I knew going into researching inducing lactation was that I would NOT take medicine. But after researching, it appeared that my best shot at the best supply for our future son would be taking meds...and I wanted what was best for him, so I did take meds. It has worked out great for us. I'm so glad to be able to do this for him. People in our friends/family circle were shocked, but then very supportive.

  7. Thank you for posting this!! Please keep sharing on this journey. Adoptive breastfeeding is something I've been pondering but done only a little reading about. I breastfed my biological son and worry about missing that bonding time.

  8. I didn't know it was possible without medication. When I was feeding my adopted baby there were times I yearned to be able to breast feed her, which surprised me because I didn't think I would want to even if I had given birth. Please blog about it more if you want to. This is one of those options some of us didn't know was possible.

  9. Posted a comment last night- here are some posts off my blog about inducing lactation.

    It is possible!

  10. That is so funny that you posted this today! I had never even heard of adoptive breastfeeding before this year, and now it seems like it keeps coming up everywhere I turn!

    Guess who's currently pumping milk for her expected baby! Yep, that would be me! :)

    As a NICU nurse, I see first hand the huge difference between breastfed and formula fed babies. I really wanted to be able to give our baby all those health benefits and also to be able to have that bonding experience right from the start.

    It has gone really well so far! I've learned a lot, and my husband has been super supportive! Since we are both numbers geeks, I also calculated out approximately how much it would cost to breastfeed for a year vs. formula feed (including the cost of the herbs, a breast pump, etc...) and it's still significantly less expensive than formula feeding!

    I'd love to share more if you have any questions! We have only told a few people at this point, but a lot more people will find out when I start nursing my adopted baby at the mall! :)

  11. I think that the idea of adoptive breastfeeding is so beautiful. As a breastfeeding mama to my biological child, it created such a bond. I bet that creating such a bond with an adopted child could be so great for both mom and baby. My husband and I are looking into adoption, and I definitely have thought about breastfeeding. Thank you for sharing both your fears, and your hopes in this situation!

  12. I did nurse my two adopted babies. I'm glad you're giving it a whirl, and I'm glad you're writing about it.

  13. This made me go to the dr and get a script. Does anyone/ has anyone been able to order the lactation pill from Canada? If so, how do I do that?

  14. I thought about this and really wanted to, but just couldn't manage it... we have friends who did it and loved it. They used domperidone (sp?) to help induce lactation.

    p.s. I am also type 1 and an adoptive mom!


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