As we contemplate adoption, there is one thing that I would really like to be able to do for our adopted child. I felt it was very important with both my sons to breastfeed them as long as I could and I would really like to try to do this for our adopted child also. Breast milk is easily digested and contains antibodies that can help protect infants from infections. Not only does breast milk provide a great source of nutrition, but it really is a wonderful bonding time between mother and child. Something that is especially important with an adopted child.
However, breastfeeding an adopted child provides its own unique set of challenges. Here are some tips to help in breastfeeding an adopted child:
- Relactation, where a mother has previously breastfeed, tends to be more successful than induced lactation for a mother who has never breastfed in the past. It usually provides a greater milk supply. The shorter time since she last breastfed, also helps with a larger production of milk.
- Prior to the baby arriving, regular breast stimulation is needed, preferable using a hospital-grade double electric pump. Pump for 10-15 minutes every 3-4 hours for several weeks to several months before the baby arrives if this is possible. Make sure to freeze it to store up. It may take a week or more to begin producing milk. This can cause a problem if you are placed with a child that is about to be born or already born but it is still possible.
- Once the baby arrives, the baby can be encouraged to suck by using a Supplemental Nursing System. This aid allows a baby to breastfeed while at the same time receiving supplemental formula through a thin tube next to your nipple.
- Many women try to induce lactation by using medications and supplements. One such supplement, Goat's Rue Capsules, are made from an herb and are reported to help increase breastmilk by stimulating the development of mammary tissue. Some physicians will prescribe short term use of an oral contraceptive containing estrogen and progesterone.
- Often times supplementing with formula is needed. Realistic expections are that most likely enough milk will not be produced and supplementing will be needed. The adopted mother should concentrate on the amount she is able to provide no matter how small, and the bond she is creating with her child.
- If you are unable to produce milk, you can still use the Supplemental Nursing System to fed your child formula and create the skin to skin contact that helps create a feeling of trust and security for a newborn.
- La Leche League International can provide more information, and possibly connect you with other adoptive mothers in your area who are nursing or have nursed. They also have online forums where you can ask questions of leaders and other nursing mothers.
- Local lacation consultants can also be a great resource in making sure the baby is latching on properly and giving even more tips and advice. Do not hesitate to call them if you have any concerns.
Breastfeeding an adopted infant is definitely possible and definitely worth it. The more educated and commited one, the better chance there is of having a positive outcome for both mother and child.
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association
- Alison Dodge of Happy Bambino
- Great Expectations: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding ©2009 by Marianne Niefert, M.D. Used with permission from Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
- Breastfeeding an adopted baby (Baby Center)