Inducing lactation: 6 things adoptive moms need to know

I'm pursuing the adoption of a Chinese infant. I'm told that she will likely be three to four months old when I get her, in seven to nine months. Is it worthwhile for me to attempt to breastfeed her? Will she be too old to learn how? Is it harder for a woman who has never been pregnant to induce lactation?


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

It is a very common myth that it is easier for a mother who has given birth (in the past) to induce lactation than it is for a woman who has never been pregnant.

If you want to breastfeed your new baby, it is definitely worthwhile. Since your baby may be between three and four months old when she arrives, there is a good chance that she may not readily take to your breast. You won't know until you try.

1. Be patient. (This is the key!) Your new little one may seem surprised when you offer her your breast.

2. Begin to pump ahead of time if you will know when your new baby will be joining the family.

  • About two to four weeks before your baby is due to arrive, you can begin using a hospital-grade electric breast pump, with a double-pump kit.
  • Begin by expressing for about five minutes, three times a day, increasing the length of the pumping session as you become more comfortable, until you are expressing for a total (double-pumping) of about 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours during the day.
  • You can include nighttime pumping sessions, allowing one four- to five-hour period of sleep.
  • It can take four to six weeks for the breasts to begin producing milk. If you don't see any milk at all during this time try not to become discouraged or concerned. This is not uncommon.

3. Use a nursing supplementer. This will help her to get the idea that your breast is a very nice place to be. Once you become skilled at it's use, the Lact-Aid in particular is not easily detected under your regular clothes or while you're nursing your baby, even in public.

4. Allow your baby to enjoy lots of skin-to-skin contact with you (naps, baths, carrying in a sling, massage...), especially as you're transitioning her from bottle to breast.

5. Bottle feed in the nursing position, against your bare breast, during the transition period. After she has taken the edge off her hunger she may enjoy a few sucks at your breast.

6. Work with an IBCLC who is skilled in the area of induced lactation. She will work with you in transitioning your new baby to your breast, help you evaluate your progress, and give you some much-needed support. 


Keep in mind that your success is not measured by the amount of milk that you are able to produce! Very best wishes in mothering!

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