It’s a question that women ask again and again: “Can you breastfeed an adopted baby?”
The two greatest benefits of breastfeeding for infants are:
Of course, breastfeeding an adopted baby can pose some obvious physical challenges, but it can still be done.
However, it’s important to remember that breastfeeding is not right for every mom. Deciding whether or not to breastfeed your baby is a very personal choice with no one wrong or right answer. Providing proper nutrition for your baby can happen with formula, your breastmilk, donated breastmilk, or any combination of the three.
Even for women who gave birth to their infant biologically, most of them supplement breastfeeding with formula, stored and/or donated breastmilk and individual combinations of those feeding techniques. Breastfeeding a baby is rarely a cut-and-dry process, regardless of how you become a mom!
But for women who have their hearts set on learning how to breastfeed their adopted baby, there are several ways to approach your breastfeeding experience.
How to Produce Breastmilk for Your Adopted Baby
If you want to try producing your own breastmilk for your baby, you’ll need the same hormonal nudge that all moms-to-be need to begin lactating. Breastfeeding an adopted baby will require some preparation and planning several weeks or even months before the baby arrives.
1. Consult with your physician.
It’ll help if you can bring in some information about adopted baby breastfeeding. But your doctor should be able to determine whether or not breastfeeding (and the accompanying hormonal shifts) is safe for you based on your health history, and they can recommend any vitamins or supplements that they think you may need while lactating. Your doctor may be able to put you into contact with a lactation expert, who will also be able to help.
2. Get on birth control pills.
Birth control pills produce hormones that trick the body into thinking that it’s pregnant so that it won’t bother to produce a new egg. That mimicked pregnancy can also be used to convince your body that it’s time to begin producing breastmilk.
3. Switch from birth control to supplements and medications.
Under the guidance of your doctor, you’ll discontinue the birth control once your doctor feels that your body has had enough time to prepare for milk production. Then, you’ll start taking herbal supplements and medications at the recommendation of a lactation expert to help facilitate breastmilk production without affecting the breastmilk itself.
4. Start pumping in preparation for the baby’s arrival.
You’ll start to pump a few times a day, slowly increasing the frequency and length of each pumping session. This will lead your body to begin producing milk, and if you stick to it, you’ll begin producing more and more gradually. Inducing lactation is typically a slow process; keep at it and you’ll see results.
Don’t be discouraged — most adoptive moms won’t have enough of their breastmilk stored up to feed their baby on alone. But this breastmilk can be a great supplement to formula until your milk production increases and you have more pumped and stored.
5. Supplement your breastmilk with a supplemental nursing system (SNS).
Again, you’ll likely need to supplement your own breastmilk with formula or donated breastmilk. This is easily done by mixing stored breastmilk and formula in a bottle.
If you want to nurse your adopted baby rather than feed them breastmilk through a bottle, this can be done with an SNS. The SNS is filled with breastmilk and/or formula, which is pumped through tubes taped to your breast so that the baby will get this supplemental supply in addition to any breastmilk you produce on your own. Carrying around an SNS isn’t always very practical for new moms, but it’s a nice option for adoptive moms who want to achieve the nursing experience.
As most breastfeeding moms do, you’ll eventually forego the SNS in favor a bottle, anyway. You can still continue pumping and feeding your baby stored breastmilk and/or formula after you stop nursing through the SNS.
Where to Find Donated Breastmilk
Donated breastmilk comes from healthy, breastfeeding mothers who have a surplus of breastmilk and want to donate it to other moms so that their babies can reap the health benefits. You can find donated breastmilk at your local donation bank, hospital, or by contacting a local donor directly.
This donated breastmilk is free, and it’s a great way to provide your adopted baby with health-boosting milk without having to take hormones and induce lactation yourself — particularly for moms who are unable to take hormonal birth control for health reasons.
Resources for Moms Who Want to Breastfeed an Adopted Baby
Talking to doctors and other women who’ve induced lactation in order to breastfeed an adopted baby will be helpful throughout the process. Check out these resources:
- La Leche League
- Human Milk 4 Human Babies
- International Breastfeeding Centre
- Ask Lenore
- Breastfeeding My Adopted Child
- My Adoptive Breastfeeding Journey
Read about one mom’s experience with breastfeeding her infant daughter she adopted through American Adoptions here!