Nursing Your Adopted Child

motherMy name is Mary Ostyn, and I am the mom of six kids, two of whom were born in Korea. In the fall of 1997, when we decided to adopt a baby, our four birth children ranged in age from three to nine years old. We filled out mountains of paperwork and showed a social worker around our temporarily spotless house.

The waiting was similar to my other pregnancies. Sewing diapers and tiny clothes. Making lists of things to get done before the baby came. Daydreaming about this child I'd never met -- a little stranger whom I already loved. As I daydreamed, I realized that I wanted something else to be the same. I wanted to nurse this baby, too, if I could.

In early May we were assigned a little boy who was two months old. We named him Joshua, and I began to prepare to breastfeed in earnest. I used an electric breast pump to stimulate milk production. I expected that soon I would be producing enough milk to save for Joshua. Even if he refused the breast, I could slip some breastmilk into his bottles. And I heard about a supplemental nursing system (called a Lactaid) that made it possible for a mom to add formula while her baby was sucking at the breast.

Two weeks went by with me pumping four times a day for 10 minutes or so, and I couldn't even see so much as a mist in the bottles. Discouraged, I wondered if this was really going to work. I began to feel anxious -- even though I was planning to use the Lactaid, I really wanted to have some of my milk for him.

A lactation consultant told me that 100 minutes a day of pumping was the standard rule for moms who are separated from their babies. One hundred minutes?!? How was I, with four kids under age 10, supposed to find that much time? But I reminded myself that I would be spending that time nursing in a few weeks -- and I found the time.


I was a pumping zealot. But the more time I invested, the more I feared that this baby would refuse to nurse. Even worse, after a week of pumping diligently, my milk showed no sign of increasing. Then I found a wealth of information on the Internet.

One mom, Darillyn Starr, had successfully breastfed five adopted babies, although she had never been pregnant herself. Darillyn told me not to worry -- most moms don't have much milk until their babies arrive. She also surprised me by saying that extensive pumping before the arrival of the baby does not increase an adoptive mom's chances of breastfeeding. Pump if you want, she told me. But don't feel like you have to. There is nothing like a real baby at the breast to build a milk supply.

--by Mary Ostyn

This is part one of a two-part article. Click here to read part two.

Mary Ostyn is a registered nurse, a freelance writer and the mother of six beautiful children, including two from Korea. For more information, visit her Website.

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