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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

I have several friends and family members hoping to adopt. When we were trying to conceive James, I thought about what would happen if we ended up building our family primarily through adoption, and the number one regret I had at this idea was missing out on breastfeeding.

However, in the time since then, I've discovered that it is actually possible to breastfeed even if you have adopted your baby. Here is a basic outline of how you could proceed if you would like to try to breastfeed your adopted baby. You actually don't need to do ALL of these things, you can pick and choose which parts are going to work for you.

1. Before your bring your baby home (several months before, if possible), buy a high-quality, double electric breast pump. Start spending time every day stimulating your breasts by pumping them. You will not get any milk at first, but the stimulation builds up the prolactin levels in your body, which will start to stimulate your breasts to produce milk. It might be uncomfortable, especially at first, but the more and the longer you can do it, the better off you'll be. After a while, you might start to see tiny drops of milk coming from your breasts--this is a great sign!

If you have the time to do it, the goal should be to pump for 120 mins per day. You could do four 30 min sessions, five 25 min session, six 20 min sessions, etc. However, even if you can't get to this 120 min goal, as much as you can do will help.

If you start to get more than a couple of drops of breast milk, save and freeze the breast milk so that you can use it later on!

2. Start taking supplements to help your body produce more milk. Fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfalfa, plus eat as much oatmeal as you can. The old-fashioned steel cut oats work best. You can also drink oat milk as an easy way to get more oats.

There is also a prescription medication that can be extremely helpful--domperidone. Talk to your doctor (ideally, at least three months before you bring your baby home) about getting a prescription.

3. Buy a supplemental nursing system. You can see how it works here. Basically, it allows you to supplement saved breastmilk and f0rmula AT the breast. So even if you decide NOT to do parts 1 and 2 above, you can still give f0rmula while providing you and baby the bonding experience of suckling at your breast.

4. Buy a nipple shield (especially if your baby is not a newborn). Babies who have gotten used to bottles will have a harder time feeling comfortable at the breast. A nipple shield can help the breast seem more like a bottle to your baby, which might help you transition them to the breast.

5. Offer your baby's birth mother the opportunity to sell you her breast milk. Some birth mothers are interested in pumping their milk and providing it to you for feeding your baby, at a negotiated cost. This can be beneficial for both parties. If your birth mother is willing to do this on the short or long term (even a week or two of breast milk can give your baby needed immunities), make sure she is educated on the proper handling and storage of breast milk.

This milk can be given in a bottle or through the supplemental nursing system.

6. Look on Milkshare, Eats on Feets, or another milk bank to see if you are able to get donor milk from a Mom other than your birth mother.

P.S. If you are a breastfeeding Mom and you find yourself with extra frozen breast milk, donors to milk banks are badly needed. Preemies and other babies with health issues are the first to benefit from donated milk!

7. Expect it to feel strange or unnatural at first. Even with my biological son, I have to admit there was a week or so of getting used to regarding my breasts as feeding implements. There can definitely be an initial weird-out factor. However, your love for your baby will quickly change the way you think about your breasts. Just stick with it and soon it could feel quite natural!

Be flexible, persistent, and have reasonable expectations. Most adopted Moms do need to supplement with f0rmula or donor milk, but every drop of your own milk you are able to give to your baby is going to feel awesome! Plus the experience of your baby suckling at your breast is really like no other--even if his/her main nutrition is actually coming through the supplemental nursing system!

Also, this is going to be more of a challenge the older your baby is. A newborn baby is pre-programmed to latch at the breast (though even for biological parents this can also be challenging), but the older a baby is, and the more bottles he/she has had, the harder it might be to get him/her comfortable at the breast.

Finally, here are some tips from Kellymom that might help--especially for an older baby.

There are also a great amount of resources out there on the web!

I hope this is helpful to someone--anyone who reads who has additional tips, please share in the comments! All experience and info wanted!

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