Thursday, June 27, 2013

Breastfeeding...Without Birthing?

Once upon a time...

I was going to breastfeed without birthing.

It started with baby #1.  I asked questions, but I really didn't get much support.  People thought it was WEIRD.  Even adoptive mamas.   It was hush-hush.  I was embarrassed.  Why did I have the inkling or urge to breastfeed when I didn't give birth?   I didn't deserve the opportunity.  I didn't earn the right.   I wasn't the REAL mom...(yet). 

So I didn't.

Then baby #2 came on day #1 of waiting.  Whoa.   There was no time to prepare.   And I was a bit frantic.   I mean, I expected to wait months, if not a year or more.   God had other plans...   So then I had a 2-year-old and a newborn.  There was no way breastfeeding was going to happen.

Then when baby #2 was about 1.5, we got a call to adopt a toddler.  Out-of-the-blue.  So we scrambled, made many, many phone calls.  And in the end, he wasn't our son.  The complications of the interstate adoption without our paper work in order was just too much.  (Thankfully, he went to a family whom we knew and adore!)    But we began to wonder...why did we get that phone call? Were we supposed to be getting our paperwork in order?

By the time we were preparing for baby #3, I began to re-explore adoptive breastfeeding.  I found a Le Leche leader and consultant, had a consultation, got a pump, and started pumping.  Then we learned that IL DCFS and the FBI had a contract dispute with NO END IN SIGHT.   Meaning, we had no idea how long it would be before we could get our background checks and officially start waiting for a baby.  In our frustration, I stopped pumping.  I wasn't willing to pump for months on end, not knowing when we'd ever be in the clear to adopt.

But then a few weeks later, all our paperwork was taken care of, and then we got the call we had been matched.  Should I start to pump again?   I was tired of adoption already...and I had a 4 year old and a 2 year old.  And a part-time job.  And a house.   And...and..and.  So I didn't.   We were placed in January with Baby Z.

He may be our last baby.  I hope he isn't.  But he might be.

And it's sad to think of all the times I wanted to breastfeed and didn't for a myraid of reasons:  feeling like others wouldn't approve/understand, unsure my diabetes could handle the physical demands of breasfeeding, unsure I was willing to make the appropriate sacrifies, unsure I really wanted to do it, feeling tired, feeling uncommitted.


I'm sharing all this because finally, finally, FINALLY, there is a book (with a fantastic author) who is here to tell adoptive mothers that you CAN breastfeed, and you CAN deal with the doubts and challenges, and you CAN do all these things because you have HER support!  

Meet my new friend Alyssa Schnell, author of Breastfeeding Without Birthing.  

Rachel:  Your book, Breastfeeding Without Birthing, was just published. What was your motivation for writing the book?
Alyssa:  Writing this book has been a dream of mine since I first started seriously researching adoptive breastfeeding soon after deciding to adopt. The book that I was hoping to find to help me successfully breastfeed my baby through adoption did not exist. So, I researched until I found everything that I needed. I was all out there, but not in one easily accessible and organized resource. I wanted take what I had learned on my journey to help other mothers who wanted to breastfeed a baby they did not birth. And that is why I decided to write this book.
Rachel:  Tell me about yourself, personally and professionally.
Alyssa:  I am the mother of three children, now ages 16, 13, and 7. My first two children arrived by birth and my youngest by adoption. I fell in love with breastfeeding with my first, although it was tough at the beginning. I got through the rough spots with the help of La Leche League and went on to become an accredited La Leche League Leader so that I could help others in the way that I was helped. I clearly recall the day I received all of my reading materials as I began the process of becoming an LLL Leader, because the first thing that I did was scan all of it for any information about breastfeeding an adopted baby. That surprised me, since we had no plans to adopt at that time. But the seed was planted. Several years later, my husband and I decided to adopt and I knew that I would breastfeed. We adopted a darling baby girl in November 2005 and breastfeeding went beautifully. I became even more passionate about breastfeeding than ever before. At that point, I decided to make a career of it and became certified as a lactation consultant. I work in private practice in the St. Louis area. I work with all breastfeeding mothers and babies, but I have an extra special place in my heart for working with adoptive mothers.
Rachel:  How is your book different than other breastfeeding guides?
Alyssa:  What I found in researching adoptive breastfeeding was that the information available out there was either too vague or too prescriptive. For example, one source mentions that mothers can use herbs such as fenugreek to help induce lactation, but it doesn’t say how to use the herbs and which other herbs may be helpful. Another source gives very specific instructions for inducing lactation which work great for some mothers, but aren’t a good fit for many others. And almost all of it is outdated, including one source that recommends a medication that is no longer considered safe. My book aims to provide detailed information and the most current information available, while at the same time providing lots of options so that each mother can customize her plan for breastfeeding to match her individual needs.
Rachel:  Many adoptive mothers consider breastfeeding, but don't end up pursuing
it. Why is that? And what can we do, as adoption-supporters, to help women
feel that it's ok to have a desire to breastfeed?
Alyssa:  I suspect that most adoptive mothers who are interested in breastfeeding but don’t pursue it do not have adequate support and information: it seems difficult and overwhelming, they don’t know how it will fit in with their (uncertain) adoption plans, and they don’t know where they can get help. They may have even heard of other adoptive mothers who had bad experiences with attempting to breastfeed for these very reasons. I am hoping to change all this.
It is very normal for an adoptive mother to want to feed and nurture her baby in the same way that mothers throughout time have done so. Those of us who support adoption know that that the love, commitment, and bond that we have for our adopted children is no less than if that child grew in our womb. I wonder if some people feel that breastfeeding an adopted baby is unnatural because of a bias that the adoptive mother is not the “real” mother. My daughter once asked me if her birthmother is her “real” mother. I said that she is. I said that I am, too.
Rachel:  You have written that breastfeeding is about bonding, not about milk. Can
you share a bit more about this? And what would you say to an adoptive mother
who really wants to breastfeed but isn't able to produce much/any milk, feels uncomfortable, or is discouraged?
Alyssa:  Over the past 11 years working with breastfeeding mothers, I have heard from mothers that the most common reason that they decided to breastfeed was because of the health benefits of providing their milk to their babies. However, when I ask mothers who are already breastfeeding why they continue, they say that the closeness is the most important part. Once we actually hold that little angel against our breast, see her look adoringly into our eyes as she suckles and releases the breast with that milky smile…there is no greater high than that. And this isn’t just emotional – it’s physiological. The hormones released during breastfeeding help both mother and baby feel calm and connected with each other. Breastfeeding isn’t just feeding - it is a unique, loving relationship between mother and baby.
Because breastfeeding is much more than feeding, a mother can still breastfeed even if she makes little or no milk. In many cases the mother will use an at-breast supplementer, which is a bag or bottle which hangs around mother’s neck and delivers extra milk or formula through a tiny tube to the mother’s nipple. We call this the “external milk duct” and it allows a baby to completely feed and comfort at the breast. Other mothers who don’t produce a significant amount of milk will nurse primarily for comfort and bottle-feed to provide nutrition. Some babies will not be interested in latching at the breast if there is no flow, but others won’t mind. I love this quote from a dear colleague of mine: “Mothering success is not measured in ounces – or drops – of milk that flow from breast to mouth; it’s measured in the love that flows between mother and baby.” -Diana Cassar-Uhl, 2012
If an adoptive mother wishes to breastfeed but is feeling uncomfortable or discouraged, I encourage her to seek support: from family and friends, other breastfeeding mothers, breastfeeding professionals, and probably most importantly from other breastfeeding adoptive mothers. My website contains various links to resources for support.  Although it may seem like this at first, you really don’t need to travel this journey alone.
One last thing that I would like to share: breastfeeding my adopted baby has been the most rewarding experience in my life…even more rewarding than getting a book published! I hope that I can help other adoptive mothers and their babies to have the same opportunity. Please feel free to contact me through or the Breastfeeding Without Birthing facebook page.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lifting Up "The Least of These"

Are you parenting a child who is one of "the least of these"?  A child who might struggle with being different?   Well, these books are for you!   They help children understand that though they are different, they can use their difference in productive, positive ways.  


Flop Ear


Exclamation Mark

Happy reading!  

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Miss E came home from her last day of school with this worksheet in her bag.

"Draw a line to match each baby to its parent."

So at first, I rolled my eyes, sighed, and then thought about the note I should send to the teacher.

Then I thought, it's the last day of school.  What's the point of sending a note?

And then I decided I was being oversensitive.

But now I'm fired up again about it. 

What is the point of this worksheet?

Yes, typically a "cub" matches a "lion."  They are the same species.  

But what is the lesson in all of this?  That kids and parents always match?  Need to match?

What if my kid had drawn a line from the chick to the wolf?  Would it have been marked wrong?  

Even in the animal world, there are some fantastic stories of adoption that take place from animals who do not "match."   One of our favorites is Little Pink Pup

So, parents, would this worksheet bother you?  What do you think it says about adoption, if anything?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ah-ha. It's Ok to Say No When you Have 500 Kids

I recently wrote about the art/power of saying no.

But there's also a certain amount of grace necessary to accept no from someone.

Going from two kids to three has been quite challenging for us.   I feel like I have 500 children, not three.   (Ok, yes, I'm exaggerating...but it is very overwhelming!)

I have friends with four, five, six, seven, eight kids...and now having three, I'm finally getting it.

I get why they cancel playdates more often than they attend.

I get why they serve lunch at 10:30 a.m. and dinner at 4:30.

I get why they run out of milk, eggs, bread, and cheese.

I get why they seem a little (or a lot) dazed all the time.

I get why bedtime is not to be compromised.

Because, I'm starting to do it too.

The other day, I tried to put contact drops in my ears instead of my eyes.

I have to cancel plans about half the time.

Sometimes we have dinner at 4:30, and sometimes it's served at 7:30.

Attempting to accomplish anything or reason with children after 5:00 p.m. is pointless.

I am always multitasking---physically and mentally.

Bedtime is NOT EVER to be compromised for my safety and sanity. 

So when you have friends with multiple children, or a friend with just a few kids (but perhaps one has a special need or one is particularly needy), have the grace to say, "No problem!" when they cancel your plans...again!    Be the friend who doesn't attempt to add guilt to the shame they might already feel.  

We are all busy.  We all have stress.

We all need grace from one another.

Thursday, June 6, 2013



I kind of suck at affirming others.

As you can see on my kitchen chalk board, up at the top, there are two acronyms.   One is for my husband whose love language is Words of Affirmation.    (Mine is Acts of Service).   I've heard/read that the mistake many people make is trying to give their love language to others instead of giving the person what their love language actually is.   

Not a bad thing---but my siblings and I were raised to have high self-esteem.   So this has carried into my adult years, and I often forget that everyone else doesn't feel so good about themselves.  

I'm not saying I'm "all that and a bag of chips," because I have have struggles, doubts, and insecurities just like every other person, but I tend to not dwell upon them.   

I was recently reading in a parenting book how it's so important to not let negative attitudes, moods, or seasons affect the words we use to describe our children:  their behaviors or their personalities.

You might be thinking---duh!    But reading this was a great reminder for me...because I struggle in this area.

You see, I don't want the words I speak to determine who my children will be.   They are free to have struggles and moods and hardships.  That's part of life.  They don't need a label to tie them down.

Easy to say---be positive---hard to do.  I mean, parenting is HARD work.  Someone posted on FB the other day a little sign that said, "Having a two-year-old is like having a blender with no lid."   So true!    Then there's the baby and the preschooler.   Whoa. 

I also read a few months ago that it's a good idea to make a list of the things you most appreciate about your children---what's special/cool about them.

So from these two ideas, I wrote on my kitchen chalk board a word to describe each child---a word that is positive and true.  A word I can go-to to describe my children in conversation.  

It's important to do this because we know our children are almost always listening to us (even if they are listening when we don't want them to and they don't listen when they should be...), and not just our words, but also our tone and our facial expressions.

So here's what I came up with:

Miss E is so much like me.   She likes to sleep and can get in a slump easily when things don't go her way.  She's a typical oldest child.  ;)    What I love about her is that though her slumps and moods can really get to me sometimes, she is a very creative young girl.  She loves to make up stories, tell us all about Ben (her imaginary friend), "read," dance, create art. 

So for Miss E, I'm focusing on the fact that she is creative.

Baby E is a firecracker.   She gets into EVERYTHING.  A few weeks ago, I caught her wandering around the house at 4:30 a.m., and she said, "Mommy, I scared you!"   She had taken lotion and rubbed it all over a wall.  She writes on her stomach with markers.   She never just walks.  She dances, skips, jumps, gallops, bounces.    This can be incredibly challenging.   I find myself feeling quite overwhelmed with her at times.     But a conversation with a friend who has a similar child helped us both realize that our children will never take "no" for an answer.  They will be able to overcome anything in life and meet their goals.

So for Baby E, I'm focusing on the fact that she is energetic.

Baby Z is quite young still...not even six months old.   My fear is that he will have "third child syndrome" where he's too laid back (not a go-getter), unmotivated, and pampered (which yes, would be our fault).   He's a very happy baby, content to grin at anyone.  

So for Baby Z, I'm focusing on the fact that he is charming.

What does this mean for you, readers?

1:   Make a list of the words you have used/do use that negatively describe your children.  

2:  Make a list of a few attributes you most admire in your child.

3:  Choose one of these attributes (preferably not one focusing on looks) and write it down somewhere you'll see it often.  The fridge, your screensaver, the cover photo on your phone.  

4:  Tell your child that you admire X about him/her (and be sure to talk about what that word means---and give examples), and when parenting conversations come up, use the word.   (Yes, conversations about challenges have their place and time...but a convo with a fellow mom at the park probably isn't the time).  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Parenting Goals + Kid Goals for Summer 2013

Last month, I was growing pretty frustrated.   Learning to balance life with three kids has been such a challenge.    And summer is a transition period for us because Miss E is out of school and I'm not teaching.  So there's all of us.  Here.  For three straight months.   And did I mention I live in the Midwest where the summer heat index eventually creeps up to 115?!?  Yikes.

So here's what I'm doing.   First, I created a list of parenting goals.  Here they are:

1:  To spend daily time with God so that His patience, love, grace, and wisdom naturally flows from God to me to my children.

2:  To discipline/correct with confidence, patience, and wisdom.  This means watching my word choice, tone, and level of sound; speaking calmly and firmly.    It means making eye contact and getting down on their level.  It means taking time out of whatever I’m doing to discipline, even when it’s not convenient.  

3:  To allow plenty of time for my children to play freely by themselves/with each other, without parents or other adults guiding/pushing.

4:  To spend time with my children individually, listening to what’s on their hearts.

5:   To encourage and praise my children often and genuinely.  

6:   To embrace their personalities, preferences, and talents.

7:  To take care of myself physically so I can be the best parent possible to my children and model healthy behaviors and choices.

8:  To respect my husband, to jointly parent my children with him, and to co-parent with wisdom and togetherness, so our children learn we are a unified team who parents consistently.  

And then there are the goals I have for my older two this summer.   (I'm type A and forever feel that I need to be accomplishing something).

Miss E:
  • Teach her how to tie her shoes (she REALLY wants to learn this skill)
  • Teach her how to tell time
  • Begin teaching her how to read  (because she REALLY wants to do this)
  • Learn more about money (learning the coins and their values, learning about money management)
  • Teach her anything else she's interested in learning about
Baby E:
  • Learn colors
  • Learn shapes
  • Begin learning letters and numbers
  • Teach her anything else she's interested in learning about
What we hope to do each week:
  • visit the library
  • host a playdate
  • attend a playdate
  • have a few devotional sessions (learn Bible verses, read Bible stories)
  • minister to others (not sure what this will look like yet.  With three little ones it's hard to volunteer somewhere, so we might do more card ministering at home)
  • find some new favorite easy and healthy recipes