Breastfeeding may be possible, even if you havenít given birth.by Marybeth Lambe, M.D.
Attracted to the health benefits and intimacy of breastfeeding, an increasing number of moms of newborns are choosing to nurse. Just as with bio moms, the amount of milk adoptive moms produce varies widely. Just as with bio moms, the practice can be frustrating, discouraging, and immensely rewarding. The science behind adoptive nursing is based on the fact that stimulation triggers milk production. While itís possible to induce lactation through stimulation alone, many women take advantage of supplemental nursing systems (SNS), herbs, or medications.
Itís easiest to start a few weeks before your baby comes home, rather than waiting until he arrives. Start using a breast pump several times a day, simulating the frequency of a young infantís nursing. Gradually work up to pumping for 10 minutes, repeating the process eight to 10 times over a 24-hour period. This pumping and massage will induce prolactin, which, in turn, switches on the milk glands in the breasts.
Even with a late start, you can still teach your baby to latch on to the breast; the babyís suckling every few hours will begin to stimulate your milk production.
Younger infants usually take to the breast more easily, especially those who have not been exposed to a bottle. If you are adopting a newborn and will be coming to the hospital for the babyís birth, let the staff know that you plan to breastfeed. You may be able to nurse immediately. Older babies, who have already gotten used to drinking from a bottle, may take more time and patience to breastfeed successfully. A lactation expert can help.
Feeding and Bonding
The amount of breast milk generated and the time it takes to build a supply will vary greatly by individual. Even moms who have breastfed before may not be able to exclusively breastfeed an adopted baby. In such cases, you can provide nourishment using an SNS. These feature a bottle or pouch filled with formula connected to a thin silicone tube. You drape the tube around your neck and tape the end to the nipple. As the baby suckles, he takes in formula, along with any breast milk.
Remember that attachment is rooted in a childís need to be held, fed, and cared for. Whether you feed your newborn via bottle, breast, or supplemental nursing system, holding your baby, meeting her basic needs, and providing affection and nourishment all promote the foundation for a lifelong attachment.
Marybeth Lambe is a family physician and adoptive mom. She lives with her large family on a farm in Washington State.
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