Is breastmilk from an adoptive mom different?

I have been breastfeeding my adopted daughter for about five months. She probably gets about one ounce of my milk a day and I supplement with the supplemental nutrition system. I love this experience and feel so wonderfully bonded with her. One of my friends heard a lecture on adoptive breastfeeding and said the speaker said that it is unknown whether or not adoptive breastmilk contains immunological factors. Are you aware of any articles in the literature that reports on the components in adoptive breastmilk??

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Congratulations on nursing your adopted baby! Some studies have shown that mothers' milk -- whether a result of induced lactation or following the birth of a baby -- may be very similar in composition to milk from the biologic mother (Kulski et al., 1981; Vorherr H, 1978; Vorherr H, 1974). This has also been shown to be true after extensively studying milk from other mammals.

When looking at induced lactation in developing countries, researchers have noted that babies showed normal growth and weight gain when fed "induced milk" -- leading them to consider this milk to be nutritionally adequate (Lawrence 1994).

Some studies have shown differences in protein, fat and lactose concentrations (Kleinman et al, 1980; Brown,1972). In regard to the presence of immunological factors in "induced milk," I am also not aware of any studies, though anecdotally I have heard many stories of babies whose health benefitted greatly from only small amounts of milk from their adoptive mothers.

It is important to keep in mind that even if your milk is slightly different in composition from that of a biologic mother, both you and your baby are benefitting greatly from the closeness you share through breastfeeding. Hoping you and your little one both continue to enjoy the many benefits of breastfeeding. My very best wishes!

References:

  • Brown RE. Some nutritional considerations in times of major catastrophe. Clin Pediatr 11: 334, 1972.
  • Kleinman R et al. Protein values of milk samples from mothers without biologic pregnancies. J Pediatr 97:612, 1980.
  • Kulski J et al. Changes in the milk composition of nonpuerperal women. Am J Obstet Gynecol 139:597, 1981.
  • Lawrence R. Breastfeeding: a guide for the medical profession, 1994.
  • Vorherr H. Human lactation and breast feeding. In Larson BL, editor:Lactation IV, 1978.
  • Vorherr H. The breast: morphology, physiology add lactation, 1974.
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