Breastfeeding the Adopted Child

It may come as a surprise, but adoption and breastfeeding can go together. It’s a very personal decision, and not everyone’s cup of tea (or milk, more like it). However, having the option to breastfeed your child can be a wonderful, although perhaps unexpected, gift of the adoption journey.

Not Just a Boob Job

Breastfeeding is not only about feeding, nor is it only about breasts. Aside from the pregnancy, nothing ties a mother to her child more closely. The physical act of providing nourishment for her baby from her own body bonds mother and child on a mental and emotional level.

Although lactation is simply the secretion of milk by the mammary glands (a seemingly straightforward biological function), the connection between brain and breast is as tangible as itch to scratch. Mammals on both sides of the nipple instinctively understand the cues that indicate it’s feeding time for Junior.

Ungulates, hoofed mammals like deer and cows, rely on a nudge and gush system. This is when the baby does the nudging and the mother responds with breakfast. A nursing human mother’s milk can be stimulated by less physical gestures, like a glance at a clock showing nap time is almost over or a baby’s hungry cry.

Lactation expert Dr. Jack Newman has these encouraging words for mothers considering breastfeeding:

“You are about to adopt a baby and you want to breastfeed him? Wonderful! It is not only possible, it is fairly easy and the chances are you will produce a significant amount of milk. It is not complicated, but it is different than breastfeeding a baby with whom you have been pregnant for 9 months.”

Not just newborns

It can be easier to get the process underway with a newborn, but older infants have been breastfed by their adoptive moms too. With either, it takes planning, dedication and will, but many women who want to nurse their adopted children are able to so.

There are two primary hurdles that must be overcome.

  1. You need to produce at least some milk.
  2. Your baby must take it from your breast.

There are many resources with guidance for both areas. The La Leche League offers advice, coaching, and products for adopted newborns and older babies. Adoption.com has everything from discussion boards and forums, to manuals, tips, supplements, and fact sheets that will explain, illustrate, encourage, and inform.

Get Started Early

If breastfeeding is something you would like as an option with your child, you will need to start preparing as soon as possible. It can take a while to get things flowing, so to speak. Even if you are not able to produce enough milk to satisfy all the baby’s needs, a little bit of breast milk will still make a big difference. Combined with the experience of tenderly sharing the milk, it will go a long way toward building a loving relationship that will carry through the years.

Ignore the Naysayers

Although it’s true that breastfeeding is about more than your breasts, breasts are certainly involved. There may be some who comment on drafting them into use with a child you haven’t gestated. Preparing to breastfeed your baby may spark questions, concerns, or judgments from family and friends.

Milk and mind are whelded together. So, your chances of success in breastfeeding will seriously decrease if you find yourself second-guessing your decision. You will need to maintain a strong commitment from the beginning. You will also need to be comfortable enough to relax and focus. Stress not only puts a damper on the experience, but it also hinders milk production. Consequently, educating, convincing, or ignoring loved ones may be required.

You don’t need to breastfeed to bond with your baby. But, if breastfeeding your baby is important to you and you’re willing to make the commitment to do the work it takes, it is possible. They’re your breasts and it’s your baby, so you make the call.