Monday, January 26, 2009

Adoptive Breastfeeding is Possible

The first time I ever heard of an adoptive mother being able to breastfeed her baby, I was about 12 years old. I was watching one of those, "Baby Story" type shows and a woman was using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) in order to stimulate her nipples so she could provide breast milk for her newly adopted son. I remember thinking, "How cool!" and being in awe of the human body and all that we are capable of.

Most people probably assume that if you are going to adopt a child, you will have to formula feed. Of course you can bottle feed with love and mother your child at the breast without actually breastfeeding, by cuddling your baby close to you, baby-wearing, co-sleeping and feeding your baby while both of you are topless to provide skin-to-skin contact.

However, if you are an adoptive mother and want to breastfeed, it is possible! You begin with what is known as an induced lactation protocol. The protocol involves preparing your breasts to make breast milk, and drugs are used to mimic the hormonal process that takes place after pregnancy. This typically involves beginning birth control pills 6 months before the baby arrives, along with Domperidone, a drug typically used to treat reflux that has been proven beneficial in increasing milk suupply. About 6 weeks before the baby is due to arrive, mom begins pumping every 3 hours, around the clock. Once the baby arrives, you should have a full milk supply. If you don't (or if you have no idea when your adoptive infant will be born), you can use an SNS. The SNS holds a reservoir of expressed breast milk or formula and a very thin tube that brings the milk to the baby's mouth while he is latched on to the breast.
Here is a picture of an adoptive mom breastfeeding with an SNS:

The device allows an adoptive mother to supplement her baby without fear of nipple confusion. If mom has no milk yet or a very low supply, the nipple stimulation provided during breastfeeding with an SNS aids in boosting mom's milk production.

Check out the happy family!

Photo by Denise Punger

Interested in finding out more information on adoptive breastfeeding?


Dr. Jack Newman's section on adoptive breastfeeding

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