19 Practical Tips for Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

If you have decided that breastfeeding your adopted child is the right choice for you, there are a few simple steps to make it easier.

Amy Harmon August 17, 2016
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Breastfeeding an adopted child can seem overwhelming. Information can seem hard to find. But if you have decided that breastfeeding your adopted child is the right choice for you, there are a few simple steps to make it easier. Here are a few ideas to help you on your way.

1. Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you get started in the right direction. She can help you determine the best option for you, whether it is by prescription medications, supplementation, or establishing a pumping schedule. Even if your doctor doesn’t have any experience in induced lactation, odds are good she will be very eager to learn more and help you on your journey.

2. Get a breast pump. When choosing a breast pump, you will want a hospital-grade double electric pump with all the bells and whistles. Consider adding the battery pack, car adapter, backpack and any other accessories that will make it easier to keep it with you all the time. Until your little one is there to nurse, this pump will be key to establishing your supply. You may need to pump as often as every 2-3 hours to establish your supply.

3. Read, read, read. Read whatever you can about induced lactation. There are not many books on the subject, but there are a few. Ask your doctor for copies of literature. Go ahead and perform a Google search. The more prepared you are, the more likely you will have a positive breastfeeding experience.

4. Recruit support. Go ahead and let your friends and family know that you plan to breastfeed your child. You will need the extra support once the baby arrives.

5. Coordinate with birth mom or hospital staff. My son’s birth mom breastfed him while in the hospital (an amazing sacrifice), which helped to prepare him for latching and nursing. Hospital staff can help to minimize pacifier use or help in other ways.

6. Buy new bras. You will need them. Nursing bras may be helpful for you, though some nursing moms prefer a regular bra. But regardless of which style of bra you find the most convenient, you will need a larger size. A much larger size.

7. Consider your nutrition. Make sure you are taking a prenatal vitamin. A healthy diet will help to produce a better supply. There are also a variety of foods that will naturally improve your milk supply. Oatmeal, flaxseed, and some herbal teas can all help. I kept a continual stash of no-bake oatmeal cookies. These were my “milk cookies” and I would eat them periodically to squeeze a bit more oatmeal into my diet.

8. Drink lots of water. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times. I keep a bottle in my pump bag. Every time you nurse or pump, drink water. Aim to have a liter down before lunch, a liter after lunch, and add in whatever more you need.

9. Keep a photo of your baby close by. The visual stimulation of your little one will help with letdown. It is amazing how the body prepares to feed your little one. Even if it is an ultrasound picture or a little outfit you have chosen, your maternal hormones will kick in and help you prepare to nurse your little one.

10. Establish husband duty. Decide (in advance when possible) how to divide the tasks with your husband. I’ve seen couples who decide if the woman is pumping, the man will wash the cups and bottles. I used the SNS (Supplemental Nursing System). My husband prepared enough for 24 hours and kept them in a cooler in the fridge. When our son would start to fuss, my husband would hold the baby until I had everything secure, then he would pass our little one back to be fed. We kept a bowl of soapy water next to the sink for the supplies. Each night, my husband would wash the supplies and refill them for the next day while I put our son to bed. It worked well for us. Find a method that will work for you.

11. Plan ahead. As mentioned, you can set up supplies for 24 hours in advance.

12. Back up supplies. You may benefit from having two breast pumps. One can be kept at work, and the other at home.

13. Manual pump. Keep a manual pump and a couple of storage bags in the car for those moments you get stuck somewhere.

14. See a Lactation Consultant. Lactation consultants are true experts in the field. They can offer more help than a Google search. When I began nursing my son, we had some latching issues. I’ll never forget the help I received from a very qualified lactation consultant. The next thing I knew, my son was well latched and nursing like a pro. It took about 1 minute of her time to see the issue and correct it. I’d been working on it for much longer than that already!

15. Get a prescription. Still having supply issues? Your doctor may write a prescription for you to help increase your supply. Although it is preferable to establish your supply before the baby is born, it is not always possible. Sometimes you may need a little help after your little one has arrived.

16. Learn your herbs. Mother’s Milk herbal tea, raspberry leaf, fennel, fenugreek, and more are said to increase supply. But just like prescriptions, these may cause side effects. Talk to your doctor before starting up an herbal regimen.

17. Find a support group. I was a little nervous to attend my first La Leche League meeting. My little one hadn’t been placed with us yet, and I’d never breastfed a baby before. I was worried I would feel out of place. As it turned out, I was welcomed without hesitation. In later meetings, the women were able to help me troubleshoot and offer their experience to help make my nursing experience better. And I had the unexpected surprise of sharing my experience to help others too.

18. Stick with it. Give yourself time to find a routine. It will get easier. Set a goal. Maybe you want to try for six weeks. Maybe six months. Whatever you decide, stick with it. It will get easier.

19. Relax. Even if you don’t provide a drop of breastmilk for your child, your efforts are not wasted. Someone told me once that you don’t have to “breastfeed” to “nurse” your baby. The time you spend connecting with your child will last a lifetime.

What other tips have you found helpful?

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Amy Harmon

Amy Harmon lives in Kansas with her husband and two boys. Each child was a miracle; the first through adoption and the second through IVF. Her family is her passion, but in addition to that she is an RN, pianist, avid reader, slow jogger and an adoption advocate.


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