Adoptive Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

Adoptive breastfeeding is not only possible but includes many advantages. If you are adopting a child that has been abused, or that has been taken from temporary parents, breastfeeding can actually help the adopted child heal; helping him/her feel content and enhancing the bonding experience.

Some Moms that adopt a baby that is over six months old have found that adoptive breastfeeding really helps to get the baby relaxed and feeling wanted and safe.

Some Moms might need to use an at-the-breast nursing supplementer for some feedings. An SNS will ensure that Baby is receiving her breastmilk, the supplement and at the same time, Mom will be increasing her milk supply.

Some Moms take up to 5 months before being able to produce a full supply of breastmilk, others never develop a full breastmilk supply, but every little bit counts.

Successful adoptive breastfeeding and milk supply also depends on the occurrence of usual breastfeeding problems, like a bad latch, bad positioning and/or not feeding or pumping enough.

Adoptive nursing allows Mom the opportunity, to enjoy the physical closeness, skin-to-skin contact, and mother-infant connection; same as if it was her own biological child.

Making Adoptive Breastfeeding Possible

How does Relactation work?

When a baby sucks on a mother's breasts, it will trigger milk production, so that the mother does not depend on pregnancy to breastfeed.

When you stimulate the breast enough, your “milk hormones" (prolactin levels) will go up, and therefore encouraging milk production.

Stimulating lactation in mothers who have been pregnant previously has been found to be easier. This is because their breasts have already gone through a growth process, in which the ducts and alveoli become lactation ready. 

What if I don’t produce Enough Breastmilk?

It doesn't matter. You can supplement breastmilk with formula, or just have Baby on the breast with only formula. With a supplemental feeding system, your baby will still be getting the benefits of bonding with you, and also will benefit from oral development, which occurs while breastfeeding.

Instead of using formula, you could always contact a breastmilk bank.

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What is a Supplemental Feeding Device? How Does it Work?

A nursing supplementer consists of a silicone tube, attached to a milk reservoir. The reservoir is filled with formula or with breastmilk. The tube is taped to your breast so that the tip of the tube comes out past your nipple. The baby then sucks on the tube and receives the milk in the reservoir. This stimulates the breast, which causes you to produce more milk.

Induced Lactation for Breastfeeding Adopted Children

To induce lactation for adoptive breastfeeding, you can:

  • Pumping in between feedings ~ You will need to pump at least six times a day, for ten minutes on each breast (An electric, hospital grade pump is the best to use)
  • Using herbs and foods that increase supply. Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily.
  • Using drugs that increase supply (metoclopramide) Domperidone: This drug can increase breastmilk production. This medication can assist, in developing a more abundant milk supply, faster. 
  • Taking hormones: Oestrogen and Progesterone.

How to Increase Lactation

  • Pump after each feeding.
  • Eat a good, well-balanced diet.
  • Breast massage and nipple stimulation will help. Breast compression during breastfeeding can also help drain the breast, therefore increasing milk production. 
  • Remember that a pump can never remove the same amount of milk as a baby. A pump does not stimulate your breasts like a baby. So always breastfeed your baby and then afterward you can pump, to remove more milk.
  • Always breastfeed skin to skin when possible. This will not only get your milk flowing but will improve the bonding process. Kangaroo mother care is recommended. 
  • Stay away from using a pacifier. Pacifier use takes attention away from the breast. 
  • Try waking your baby at least twice at night to breastfeed. Learn more about Co-sleeping.
  • Increase your milk supply with lactogenic foods and/or galactagogues.
  • Kangaroo care is a great way to increase supply. 
  • Wearing your baby in a sling will promote bonding and your milk supply. 

What about Nipple Confusion?

If your baby is accustomed to drinking out of a bottle, he/she might not want to breastfeed.

Finger feeding is something that some adoptive Moms have found works, this is to prevent the frustration of breast refusal in the beginning. Baby will continue to consume breastmilk, while slowly being weaned onto the breast.

Learn more about nipple confusion here.

How to get baby to accept the breast

  • The earlier Mom starts adoptive breastfeeding, the better. If possible, be there immediately after birth; begin breastfeeding the same day.
  • Using a Lactation Aid (Lact-aid) / supplemental feeding device can encourage baby onto the breast.
  • Many mothers have successfully started breastfeeding their adopted babies at 6 months, so it is possible. 

Breastfeeding the Adopted Baby while you are already breastfeeding another child.

Some mothers that are still breastfeeding their own babies adopt a child and wonder whether the milk will be substantial enough for a newborn.

Although you will not be producing colostrum for your adopted baby, breastmilk is still superior to formula. Breastmilk contains immune protection, growth factors, gut protection and is much easier for a baby to digest.

With adoptive nursing, it is especially important that you get as much support as possible. Try talking to other adoptive breastfeeding moms.

A mother who would like her adopted baby to receive all the benefits of breast milk but who is incapable of breastfeeding might want to consider a milk bank.

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