Adoptive Breastfeeding

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Addressing techniques, medications, concerns.
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Breastfeeding the Adopted Baby
"Breastfeeding the Adopted Baby
by Debra Stewart Peterson

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Since there is more to breastfeeding than breastmilk, many mothers are happy to be able to breastfeed without expecting to produce all the milk the baby will need. It is the special relationship, the special closeness, the biological attachment of breastfeeding that many mothers are looking for.

- Dr. Jack Newman, Breastfeeding Your Adopted Baby

There are almost as many myths about breastfeeding as there are about adoption.

As a result, many women who arrive at the decision to adopt following infertility not only put behind them their dreams for biological children, but also dreams they may have had of the special bonding that occurs between mother and child during breastfeeding. Others give up the hope of breastfeeding because, although they plan to adopt a baby, she won't be a newborn and may, in fact, be several months old.

According to Dr. Jack Newman, an internationally acclaimed expert on breastfeeding, and many adoptive mothers, both of these assumptions are mistaken. If an adoptive mother wants to breastfeed, even when her child is not a newborn, even if she isn't sure she can produce enough milk, chances are good she can. It just takes education and preparation.

How it Works

Experts agree that the benefit of any amount of breastmilk is beneficial to a baby, but the most important aspect of breastfeeding is the physical intimacy, the warmth, the comfort, the bonding. Some women simply put the baby to the breast and let nature take over, and others choose induced lactation designed to promote lactation before the baby arrives.

Induced Lactation

There are two hormones (pituitary, not ovarian hormones) that affect lactation:
  • Prolactin, which is the milk-making hormone, and
  • Oxytocin, the milk-releasing hormone.
Because these hormones are not dependent on a woman's ability to bear children, stimulating the production and release of breastmilk is possible even for women who have had hysterectomies.

Manual/Mechanical Stimulation: This is one method of inducing lactation, achieved by breast massage, nipple manipulation, and sucking, either by a baby or a hospital grade electric breast pump.

Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapies are also available for increasing milk supply, using prescribed medications, such as domperidone, or herbal remedies.

Supplementing Breastmilk

One of the most frequently expressed concerns among all nursing mothers is whether or not they are able to produce enough breastmilk.

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