Many people don’t realize that it is possible to breastfeed an adopted baby, even if you have never breastfed a baby before. Although breastfeeding an adopted baby is possible, it may not fit every situation. Here are some things to consider before making that choice.

Will your schedule allow breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding an infant takes a lot of time, day and night. This is even more true when you are breastfeeding a child who was adopted. The milk supply may not come as easily, supplemental nursing systems (SNS) may need to be set up and sanitized after use, and you may need to work through latching issues. Do you work outside the home? Do you have other children who will also require your attention? Are you in school? Take a moment to really consider how much time you will have to commit to breastfeeding. Your investment of time will be required to have a successful breastfeeding experience.

Do you have a strong support system?

Sometimes breastfeeding a child who was adopted can take a team. If you have a strong support system in place, you will be more likely to have a positive experience. Your support system can offer encouragement or, more importantly, take on additional chores or family responsibilities. As they help to offload some of your typical responsibilities, you can dedicate more of your time to nursing your child.

What is your adoption situation?

Did the baby breastfeed before placement? What is the age of your baby? There are challenges in switching from a bottle to breast. Sometimes it may be best to continue with the current feeding method to promote stability for the infant, and spend your efforts in other areas. I was blessed to have had a very open conversation with my son’s birth mom before placement. We both felt very strongly that he needed to be breastfed. She nursed him before placement, and I nursed him after. I think her efforts really helped my son with latching and the nursing instinct. Depending on your adoption situation, you may be able to make arrangements for the baby to have limited use of a pacifier or bottle, which can help to decrease nipple confusion.

Are you physically able to breastfeed?

The simplest method for breastfeeding an adopted baby is to just continue nursing after weaning a previous child. Although effective, this is not a very common opportunity. But women can produce breastmilk, even without giving birth. This is called induced lactation. There are a variety of ways to make this happen. Historically it was done by having the baby latch and attempt to nurse frequently. This action alone can begin the lactation process in many women. Others will use a breast pump prior to adoption using the same concept.

Another option is physician assisted induced lactation. This is done by creating a hormonal situation in your body that mimics pregnancy. When the hormones are stopped, this mimics delivery. Breastmilk, including colostrum, can be produced. Some physicians may recommend the use of drugs called galactagogues. These medications cause the production of breastmilk (e.g. domperidone, metocloprimide, fenugreek). Sometimes more than one method can be utilized, but each of them will take time.

Why do you want to breastfeed?

I think this is the most important consideration for deciding to breastfeed. Are you hoping to provide excellent nutrition for your child? Or is your goal to promote bonding? If your answer is the latter, that may be the only aspect to consider. Formula can offer excellent nutrition to your child. For children with health concerns, breastmilk donation may be an option. In spite of all your efforts, you may not actually be able to provide exclusive breastmilk. But you do not need to provide any breastmilk at all to bond with your child through nursing.

Breastfeeding an adopted child is one way to create a lasting bond. While it may not be realistic for everyone, the benefits of breastfeeding are profound. What other ways have you bonded with your child? How have you made breastfeeding successful? Please leave your comments below.

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