Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

Is there some way to induce lactation, for example, for a woman who is adopting a newborn?

-- Az


Thank you for your question. The following information is based on publications available through LLLI, Nursing Your Adopted Baby and The Breastfeeding Answer Book. A pamphlet called "Helping Love Grow: Parenting Adopted Children" might also be helpful. If you would like more information and live in the USA, call 1-800-LA LECHE during business hours and request a catalogue and the name of your local leader. You can also check the LLLI Catalogue on the LLLI Web site at for pricing and ordering information for these publications.

Here are some helpful quotes:

The emphasis in adoptive nursing must be primarily on the nurturing aspects of breastfeeding and secondarily on the nutritional advantages of mother's milk. The production of milk, if it happens, is a pleasant side effect of the goal of a happy nursing relationship.

Most mothers are able to produce at least a little milk. Having never been pregnant has no effect on ability to produce milk. Many adoptive mothers are able to induce lactation by using a breast pump every two to three hours, either before the baby comes or after. Some also use a device such as the Medela Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). The SNS is a bottle that you fill with artificial baby milk and hang around your neck. There are two tiny tubes that you tape near your nipples. This way, the baby gets enough milk while stimulating your body to produce your own milk. The key to all this is that the more stimulation by the breast, pump or baby, the more likely milk will be produced.

Adopting an older baby may complicate this issue. Some babies are used to drinking from a bottle and just don't want to nurse. These babies may not be interested in trying something new. But every baby's different, so you have to try and see how your particular baby responds.

As with any nursing mother, keep in mind that some medications that you may be taking may not be compatible with breastfeeding. Be sure to check with your health care provider. You may also want to use discretion when discussing nursing with your adoption agency -- some are very supportive but others may view the idea with suspicion.

Another useful reference that will back up some of the information included here is found in A. Sunderland and K. Auerbach's Relactation and Induced Lactation, Unit 1, Lactation Consultant Series, Avery Publishing, 1985 . It is also available through the LLLI Catalogue.

Many adoptive mothers find it helps to define their goal in inducing lactation and to remember that breastfeeding provides many benefits in addition to nutrition. The ability to produce milk varies widely from mother to mother. Even mothers who have breastfed previous babies may not ever be able fully to breastfeed an adoptive baby. At the 1995 LLLI Conference, author and LLL Leader Martha Sears spoke about how surprised she was that after breastfeeding seven children she was able to provide only part of her adopted daughter's liquid intake. A sensible goal might be to try to provide some, or maybe most, of your new baby's nutrition yourself while fully enjoying the closeness and bonding that breastfeeding brings. Your baby will love you, no matter what.

-- LLLisaJ

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