August 1 – 7 is World Breastfeeding Week. Breastfeeding is a topic close to my heart. Another topic that is close to my heart is adoption. In light of World Breastfeeding Week, I share with you an article I wrote last year that highlights both the importance of breastfeeding and adoption.
A few months back I was visiting a friend at her home. At the time, she and her husband had been anxiously waiting for the day they could bring home their adopted son. Over sips of tea and freshly made bread, we discussed her plans to bring home her adopted newborn boy. Excitedly, she shared about the cloth diapers that she had made and we laughed and talked about how her first handmade diaper had been a disaster.
After a while of chatting about diapers, I switched the subject to breastfeeding. I asked her how her relactation efforts where coming along. Her face lightened up as she said that she was able to pump and store 3 oz of milk the day before. I could tell that she couldn’t wait to have her adopted son in her arms, while she nursed him at her breast.
The idea of breastfeeding an adopted child is quite foreign to most adoptive parents. Some parents are aware of milk banks, facilities that process and store breast milk that can be acquire through a doctor’s prescription. I even remember as a child a family in my neighborhood bottle feeding breast milk to their adopted baby. I have vivid memories of coming over to their home and witnessing women from our community expressing milk that would be stored for feeding the baby later on.
Barbara Wilson-Clay states in her article, Induced Lactation, throughout history infants have been nursed by surrogate mothers. Wilson-Clay goes on to say that in the event that no already-nursing mother was available, anthropological reports from several different continents describe efforts by a non-lactating woman to induce lactation by putting the baby to her breast. These surrogate mothers, also known as “wet nurses” would nurse another mother’s child the same way a biological mother nurses her own child.
Adoptive breastfeeding takes feeding an adopted baby to a very personal and unique perspective in that it helps to develop a physical and emotional bond between mother and child. According to Adoption.com, more and more frequently mothers planning on infant adoption are considering this option as a way to promote attachment.
Adoptive breastfeeding can happen through thorough planning and preparation. One of the most important steps a mother can take to ready herself to nurse her adopted child is to educate herself about it. Although, there isn’t a lot of written information about adoptive nursing, through research you can find information coming directly from the experiences of mothers who have breastfeed their adopted children. This is invaluable information because it gives a firsthand account of what the process is like.
Many mothers discount adoptive breastfeeding because they feel if they aren’t currently breastfeeding it will be impossible to stimulate a supply of milk. Furthermore, mothers who have never breastfed are often concerned that they will not be able to produce milk. Whether you were an experienced nursing mother or you are contemplating breastfeeding for the first time, you can re-lactate or induce lactation. A woman’s body is uniquely created in a way that if she stimulates her breast she has a good chance of getting them to produce milk. Stimulation can be done through breast massages, nipple manipulation and sucking. Sucking can either be directly from the adopted baby or from pumping devises.
The amount of milk that each woman is able to produce varies from woman to woman. Predicting the volume of milk is very difficult. However, for a normal healthy woman she should be able to produce some degree of milk. Some women consider galactagogues which are substances used to increase milk supply. Some common forms of galactagogues are herbs and prescription medications. While there are no guarantees that a women will be to produce a large enough supply of milk to feed her baby through her breast alone, the more often that she nurses her child the higher her chances are of increasing her supply.
There are instances when no matter what steps a mother takes to increase her production of milk, she is not able to do so. In this situation a mother may want to try an alternative feeding method. One such method is the nursing supplementer. This devise is a container that holds expressed (or formula) milk that hangs from a cord around the mother’s neck. The container sits between the mother’s breasts and a thin tube that leads down from the contain, is taped to one of the mother’s breasts and extends slightly past the nipple into the baby’s mouth. Kellymom.com mentions that if your baby is latching on well, a nursing supplementer can be a big help in that it encourages the baby to nurse at a mother’s breast by giving him a constant flow of milk. The baby’s sucking action will further stimulate the mother’s breast and this could increase her supply.
In conclusion, if you are interested in adoptive breastfeeding you may want to contact La Leche League, a great resource for information regarding breastfeeding.
Previously posted on Quiskaeya.com