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Adoption: Inducing Lactation

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Question:

We are in the process of adopting and I want to nurse. I read so many conflicting opinions on relactating. Most literature says I will not get enough milk. Is it possible to get a full supply of milk in and what should I be doing?

Answer:

It is possible to breastfeed an adopted baby, much to many people's surprise. Inducing lactation, which is the process involved in nursing an adopted baby, is more challenging than relactating. Relactating involves rebuilding your milk supply once you have started nursing and then stopped for a period of weeks or months. Induced lactation is the process of building a milk supply in a mother who has either never nursed a baby, or who has nursed years before. You will find that there is a lot of contradictory information out there about inducing lactation. I think that's because there are no exact answers about a 'right' or 'wrong' way to do it. Relatively few mothers have tried adoptive nursing (many people are surprised to know it's even possible) although the numbers are increasing as the many nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding become more well known. What works for one adoptive mother may not work for another, so a lot of the research has been on a trial and error basis. As far as I know, there are no exact statistics on how many adoptive mothers are able to produce a full milk supply, but based on my own experiences over the years, the numbers are relatively small. It is important to have realistic expectations. An adoptive mother may or may not ever produce a full milk supply. Most women will produce some milk, some produce a full supply relatively quickly, and some never produce milk at all. The majority of adoptive mothers will not produce enough breast milk to adequately nourish their baby without supplements.

How much you produce depends on many factors, such as the baby (his age, sucking needs, previous feeding experience, and temperament; how frequently and effectively you stimulate your breasts (type of pump used, baby's willingness to suckle, how often you are able to find time to pump/nurse, etc.); your individual response to stimulation, since each mother's body chemistry is unique; and how long you have been nursing or pumping (some mother's supplies build slowly, then level off; some keep increasing for many months or years).

Since nursing involves so much more than just transferring milk from breast to baby, many adoptive mothers find that the act of nursing, with the physical and emotional closeness it brings, is just as important as the amount of milk the baby actually receives. Even if you produce only small amounts of breast milk, your baby will get significant benefits from both the milk itself and the security and warmth of nursing at the breast. For specific details about how to induce lactation, read the article "Relaxation and Adoptive Nursing" http://www.breastfeeding-basics.com/html/Relactation.htm on my web site. There is also a great web site for adoptive nursing moms, and you might find some answers there, as well as lots of support. The address is: http://www.fourfriends.com/abrw/ (ABRW stands for
Adoptive Breastfeeding Resource Web site). Congratulations to you on your new little miracle, and best of luck with breastfeeding.

Credits: Anne Smith

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