Tag Archives: adoption

Adoption and Breastfeeding

14 Feb

I am seeing and hearing more on this topic.  Adoptive moms are hearing about it and want to see if it will work for them.  Birth moms are able to take a more active role in the adoption and are also requesting to be able to breastfeed.

This is an emotionally charged topic for both women.  We are surrounded with messages when we are “expecting”.  The best way to parent.  The best way to feed, sleep, discipline, birth, etc.  ad nauseum.  There are books all over the place.  But not so many on adoption and lactation, whether it be inducing a milk supply for a baby who is coming to you or pumping for a baby you have already placed.  Myth abounds in this arena.

I will attempt to provide you with a well-rounded review of your options.

For adopting moms:

It is really important before you begin this process to know your motivations!  Why do you want to induce lactation?  Is it so that you can feel the bond to your baby?  Is it to make it more “normal”?  Is it to do everything perfectly?  Is it to help mitigate the losses you all will feel as the baby is placed with you?  Knowing this is very important.  Even if just to articulate to yourself your true motivations.  None are inherently wrong or right.  It can help you make choices and find direction during those tough times and times when things need to change.  Knowing why you are doing things is a great motivator.  🙂  Once you know this, the rest tends to iron itself out much more quickly.

One of the biggest helps I’ve seen for other moms is that they find support.  It can be online support where they talk to other moms who have chosen to nurse their adopted babies, or your local LLL group, which may or may not have adoptive moms, but they are great cheerleaders.  🙂

Adoption and breastfeeding resources:

These are the best places that include the most accurate information about inducing lactation.  The first one is simply the nuts and bolts of inducing lactation.  There are several different choices that she has listed and be aware that you can tweak and change as you see fit, just be aware that you may change how you respond to the interventions as well.

The second is just a really great clearinghouse of resources as well as real women and their stories.

Newman-Goldfard Protocol


Both of these websites have their merit for different reasons.  If you are nursing (whether it be with an at-breast supplementer, full-time, part-time, or just for comfort), you are a nursing mother.  The Newman/Goldfarb protocol can be rough.  It certainly is not the easiest way to feed a baby, but if it is what you want, then go for it.  Any piece of it will increase your chances of providing species-specific milk for your baby.  If you choose to follow all or part of it, it is your choice.  The second website is how that protocol (along with other things) works in the real world with real moms.  Some of the pieces are expensive and you have to decide what your motivation is and what you need (along with your HCP)  Consider the costs of Artificial Infant Milks (AIM) and how feeding your baby at the breast will offset that cost along with the reduced health care costs.  Many health risks of AIM are dose-dependent.

Call and enlist the help of your local IBCLC.  She can help you maximize your milk-making potential in a way that works for your family.

Spending lots of time skin to skin will help your baby make the transition to his new home.  It will help him learn your smell, sounds, and warmth.  It is an amazing healer that babies can never get too much of.

Depending on why you chose to adopt, you may or may not be able to induce a full supply for your baby.  That is okay.  Every drop you can provide is helping him to reach his potential.  Every minute he spends at the breast helps his brain to grow and body to thrive.

For BirthMoms:

This is an emotional time for you too and maybe it just occurred to you that you might want to nurse your baby before placing him.  It is always best to talk about your wishes with your adoptive parents.  In most places there is a time for you to spend with your baby before placing him.  Usually it’s 36-72 hours.  This is a time for you to smell, touch, and see your baby.  It is also your choice to nurse your baby.  You will not have a full milk supply when the baby is born.  This is normal.  What you will have is colostrum, which is very nutrient dense and the perfect, normal first vaccination for your baby.  Worrying about the right positioning is not a priority as you will not be nursing long term.  This time is for you to just *be* with your baby.  Spending time skin to skin will help your baby make the transition to his adoptive parents.  It will help his brain know that the world is a safe place, even in the midst of a difficult situation.

Usually your milk will “come in” after your baby is placed.  There is no way to keep this from happening.  It is driven by the hormones that cascade after your placenta is delivered.  What you choose to do with this milk is your choice.  Some birthmoms choose to pump for their babies in a way that works with their lives and they gradually cut down until the milk is gone.  If the adoptive family does not want this milk, you can donate it to your local milk bank so it will go to babies who need it most.  Some birthmoms choose to dry up their milk immediately.  Any end of that spectrum (and anywhere in between) is just fine.

When you decide that you no longer want your milk, you can make it dry up in a few different ways.  Usually, the most comfortable is to do it gradually while slowly eliminating or spacing out your pumping sessions.  Sometimes it must be done more quickly and there are several things that help different women.  One is simply to stop removing the milk.  You may need to hand express simply for comfort, but don’t remove more milk than you need to or your body may continue to make more.  Herbs like peppermint and sage have been known to dry up milk along with cabbage leaves and antihistamines.  There used to be a medication designed specifically to dry up milk and it was taken off the market due to its side effects.

If you have any questions about what to use, call your local breastfeeding helper or IBCLC.

This is an important piece of adoption that I am glad to see taking a more center stage role.  Breastfeeding is the normal way that we care for our babies, and it makes sense to continue that across the parenting spectrum.  I hope this helps you navigate this precious and short-lived part of adoption.