You are about to adopt a baby and you want to breastfeed him?
Wonderful! It is not only possible, it is fairly easy
and the chances are you will produce a significant amount of milk.
It is not complicated, but it is different than
breastfeeding a baby with whom you have been pregnant for 9 months.
Breastfeeding and Breastmilk
There are really two objectives involved in nursing an adopted
baby. One is getting your baby to breastfeed. The other is producing
breastmilk. It is important to set your expectations at a reasonable
level. 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. As one adopting mother said,
"I want to breastfeed. If the baby also gets breastmilk, thatís
Getting the baby to take the breast
Although many people do not believe that the early introduction
of bottles may interfere with breastfeeding, the early introduction
of artificial nipples can indeed interfere. The sooner you can get
the baby to the breast after he is born, the better. However, babies
need flow from the breast in order to stay latched on and continue
sucking, especially if they have gotten used to get flow from a
bottle or another method of feeding (cup, finger feeding). So, what
can you do?
1. Speak with the staff at the hospital where the baby
will be born and let the head nurse and lactation consultant know
you plan to breastfeed the baby. They should be willing to accommodate
your desire to have the baby fed by cup or finger feeding, if
you cannot have the baby to feed immediately after his birth.
In fact, more and more frequently, arrangements have been made
where the adopting mother is present at the birth of the baby
and takes the baby immediately to nurse. The earlier you start,
2. Some biological mothers are willing to nurse the baby
for the first few days. There is some concern expressed amongst
social workers and others that this will result in the biological
mothersí changing her mind. This is possible, and you may not
wish to take that risk. However, this has been done, and it allows
the baby to breastfeed, get colostrum, and not receive artificial
feedings at first.
3. Latching on well is just as important, even more important,
when the mother does not have a full milk supply, as when she
does. A good latch means painless feedings. A good latch means
the baby will get more of your milk, whether your milk supply
is abundant or minimal. (Handout When Latching).
4. If the baby does need to be supplemented, this should
be done with a lactation aid with the supplement being given while
the baby is breastfeeding (Handout #5 Using a Lactation Aid).
Babies learn to breastfeed by breastfeeding, not cup feeding or
finger feeding or bottle feeding. Of course, you can use your
previously expressed milk to supplement.
5. If you are having trouble getting the baby to take
the breast, come to the clinic as soon as possible for help.
As soon as a baby is in sight, start getting your milk supply ready.
Please understand, you may never produce a full supply for your
baby, though it may happen. You should not be discouraged by what
you may be pumping before the baby is born, because a pump is never
as good at extracting milk as a baby who is sucking well and well
latched. The main purpose of pumping before the baby is born is
to start the changes in your breast so that you will produce milk,
not to build up a reserve of milk before the baby is born, though
this is good if you can do it.
a. Pumping. If you can manage it, rent an electric pump
with a double setup. Pumping both breasts at the same time takes
half the time, obviously, but also results in better milk production.
Start pumping as soon as the baby is in sight, even if this means
you will be pumping for 4 months. You do not have to pump frequently
on a schedule. Do what is possible. If twice a day is possible
at first, do twice a day. If once a day during the week, but 6
times during the weekend can be done, fine. Partners can help
with nipple stimulation as well.
b. Domperidone. (Handout #19 Domperidone). This drug
can help you produce more milk. It is not necessary for you to
use in order to breastfeed an adopted baby, but it will help you
develop a more abundant milk supply faster. There is no such thing
as a 100% safe drug. If you do decide to take it, the dose is
20 mg four times a day. Check the handout for more information.
Ask at the clinic.
Using pumping and domperidone, most adopting mothers have started
to produce drops of milk after two to four weeks.
But will I produce all the milk the baby needs?
Maybe, but donít count on it. Some breastmilk is better than none.
But if you do not, breastfeed your baby, and allow you and him to
enjoy the special relationship that it brings.
Handout #23 Breastfeeding your Adopted
Baby. January 1998
Breastfeeding your Adopted Baby
Written by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
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