breastfeeding your adopted baby

Breastfeeding an adopted baby can provide emotional satisfaction for both you, the mother and your child – as long as you have got realistic motives and expectations. For a woman who has previously been pregnant the process of producing milk for an adopted baby is known as relactation. For a woman who has never been pregnant, this process is known as induced lactation. The difference here is that a woman who has been pregnant before will have experienced changes in her breasts and mammary glands during pregnancy which others will not. Without the estrogen concentrations of pregnancy, prolactin may not have the milk secretion effect that it would normally have post pregnancy.

It is a lengthy and time consuming process to induce lactation in the absence of pregnancy, you may or may not be able to nourish your baby on your milk alone and supplemental feeding is almost always a necessity. For this reason, it is important that before you consider taking this path, you establish your motives and goals for wanting to breastfeed your baby. If your intention is to have an emotionally gratifying experience and an opportunity to bond with your baby, you will find greater satisfaction in your breastfeeding experience.

The Nursing Strike

How to induce lactation / relactate?

Assessment: The process of inducing lactation begins like any other breastfeeding process would – check your nipples for inversion or any other potential worries and avoid using drying agents such as harsh soaps on your nipples.

Massage: Nerves to the breasts radiate from the area between your shoulder blades – for this reason, one may benefit from consistent back and breast massage which will increase blood flow to your breasts. This should be done 5 -8 times a day over a period of 3 – 6 months.

Pumping: Should time allow, pumping can begin one month before placement. This should only be done with a good, hospital grade electric breast pump, preferably with a double setup. One can start by pumping several times a day for 10-minute sessions. By the time placement occurs, you should be pumping every 2-3 hours for at least 20-minutes. Massaging your breasts both before and during pumping has shown to greatly increase the chances of successfully inducing lactation.  It may be some time before you see any results from pumping and the time it takes may greatly vary from woman to woman but be encouraged that even the tiniest amount of milk produced is progress. Remember that regular milk removal is necessary for continued milk production. .

Suckling: Once placement has taken place and your baby is now yours the real breastfeeding journey can begin. Suckling is by far the best stimulation for establishing and maintaining your milk supply. But, bear in mind that a baby who has not been breastfed may not want to breastfeed. Spend plenty of time holding your baby skin-to-skin and very gently encourage suckling on your breast. Try not to see this a form of rejection – your baby is simply adjusting to his / her new environment. Many adoption agencies / kangaroo moms will cooperate with the adoptive parents plan to breastfeed and may arrange to have your baby fed with an alternative method before placement to minimize nipple confusion.

Hormonal Therapy: Though used in the past, this method of inducing lactation is no longer favored.

Feeding your baby

Unfortunately, in most cases an adoptive mother’s milk will not meet the nutritional needs of her baby and supplemental feeding is necessary. On average, a mother will be able to produce one third to one half of what her baby needs and for this reason it is important that the adoptive mother’s focus is on bonding with her baby rather than fully nourishing her baby with her milk. A special tube feeding device which is taped to the breast may minimize time spent feeding your baby and make breastfeeding a more pleasant experience for both mother and baby. Alternatively, preparing an entire day’s worth of feeds may make dual feeding a little less stressful and more enjoyable.

Article by breastfeeding consultant Jenna Richards