Inducing lactation for your new baby
Breastfeeding adopted baby

adoptive moms can nurse too

Breastfeeding is not the exclusive domain of women who have given birth — adoptive moms can and do breastfeed their infants too.

It’s not an easy road for adoptive moms, however, but with proper support and determination, it can definitely be done.

Adoptive moms don’t have to exclusively formula feed — they can breastfeed too.

Inducing lactation

When a woman goes through childbirth, the delivery of the placenta results in the sudden drop of several hormones, while levels of prolactin — a hormone necessary for breastfeeding — remain high. Adoptive moms, of course, don’t have the benefit of these events, so they have to make efforts to induce lactation.

Leigh Anne O’Connor, certified lactation consultant, told us that many adoptive moms find success using the protocols for induced lactation outlined here. Depending on how much time Mom has to prepare for Baby’s arrival, she can work closely with a lactation consultant and her doctor to stimulate her own milk production. Her doctor can prescribe medication to help jump-start her breastfeeding adventures, such as birth control pills and domperidone, which is medication that can help promote lactation.

Special equipment

Adoptive moms who wish to nurse their babies will likely be advised to buy a quality breast pump, which can help prepare her breasts in the weeks leading up to the baby’s birth. Also, a supplemental nursing system can prove valuable to a mom who is still working on boosting her own milk supply. “Many moms use an at-the-breast supplementer — a tube at the breast where the baby nurses and gets supplemented with extra milk at the breast,” explained O’Connor. The Supplemental Nursing System from Medela is a popular choice and was originally developed to help adoptive mothers induce lactation. The baby gets donated breast milk or formula through the tube while nursing at the breast of her mother, which helps stimulate milk production.

Success rates

The success rate varies, O’Connor said, and depends on many factors — how much time the adoptive mom has had to plan ahead, the age of the baby and the birth history of the biological mother. According to Kellymom, success rates will be higher when nursing is frequent and Baby is younger, but even older babies can learn to nurse.

Look for benefits

It’s important to note that while establishing a good milk supply is important, the physical act of nursing has innumerable benefits as well. The comfort, bonding, skin-to-skin contact and positive oral development are priceless for both a mother and her baby. And even if a mom must supplement, any milk she is able to produce can provide immunological benefits that can help prevent disease and reduce a child’s chances of developing allergies. Even the smallest amount of milk contains amazing nutritional ingredients that her baby can’t get anywhere else.

More on adoption

Adoption and maternity leave: What are the laws?
Bonding with your adopted baby
Cross-cultural adoption: The dos and don'ts for grown-ups

Tags: adoption

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