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Nursing Matthew

Breastfeeding my baby has been one of the most challenging endeavors I’ve undertaken, and also one of the most rewarding. By Sharon K. Trumpy



Ever since we began the adoption process, I envisioned a moment just like this one. I am sitting in a cozy armchair with my eight-month-old son, Matthew, snuggled in my arms. His tiny hand is curled around my finger as he nurses contentedly at my breast.

Adoptive breastfeeding has been simultaneously one of the most challenging and rewarding journeys I've undertaken. At times, I have felt overwhelmed and misunderstood. But I persisted, and the irreplaceable bonding experience has been worth it.

When I first voiced my interest in breastfeeding, to a social worker, she smiled sympathetically and said, "Some women want to do that, but then they find they can't generate enough milk." An obstetrician told me that adoptive breastfeeding was "impractical." And a friend wondered aloud why I wouldn’t take advantage of a socially acceptable reason to formula-feed.

Finding an ally

I thought I would never find support for my desire to breastfeed, until I spoke with a lactation consultant. She listened quietly and then said, "How wonderful! OK, here's what we'll do." Relief swept over me as she said she was confident that I could successfully induce lactation, and stressed that the benefits of breastfeeding are not limited to nutrition. She encouraged me to focus on the bonding opportunity afforded by breastfeeding, instead of obsessing about how many ounces of milk I might produce. Finally, I had an ally in my quest!

I began following the Newman-Goldfarb protocol to gradually induce lactation through a combination of medication, herbs, and pumping. Weeks later, we finally got “the call”—and learned that we had been matched, not with an expectant mother, but with a three-day-old baby boy! In between frantic calls to our families and shopping for diapers, I began pumping. When Matthew came home, two days later, I was producing only drops of breast milk. Instead of giving him a bottle, however, I fed him his formula at my breast through a Lact-Aid nursing supplement system.

In those early, sleep-deprived days, there seemed to be little reward in breastfeeding. Matthew was hungry every moment he was awake. Whenever I wasn’t nursing, I was pumping to increase my milk supply, or mixing formula, filling the bags, and cleaning the tiny tubes used by the supplement system. It was endless and exhausting.

A dirty secret?

Looking back, I am amazed at my own perseverance. During those tough first months, I continued to call on the lactation consultant regularly—as much for her encouragement as for her professional advice. Two other people gave me their unwavering support—my husband and my best friend. Their faith in me, along with my desire to do what I felt was best for my baby, kept me going.

Breastfeeding my son meant giving him the best nutrition possible, along with a generous helping of maternal affection—by any standard, both wonderful things...so why did it feel like a dirty secret?

I felt that I was being scrutinized by adoption professionals. Friends who had been fully aware of my intention to breastfeed seemed shocked to hear that I was actually doing so. My well-meaning mother frequently reminded me that it would be easier just to give Matthew a bottle. I hadn’t expected to get much sleep parenting a newborn, and I found I could cope with the physical demands. But I had hoped for a little support from friends and extended family.

Gaining confidence

By the time Matthew was three-and-a-half months old, I was amazed to find that I was able to put away the formula and breastfeed exclusively. I began to find pleasure in those late-night nursing sessions, especially when Matthew would snuggle his fuzzy little head against me and sigh with satisfaction.

Over time, as my milk supply grew, so did my confidence. I used to dread the awkward silence or gaping mouths that met my answer to the innocent question, “So, is he a good eater?” Now I’m more direct, and often bring the topic up myself. “I realize you probably haven’t heard about this before,” I’ll say with a smile, “but I’m breastfeeding Matthew. It’s been hard, but I am so happy with how it is going, and it would help to have your support.”

Today, Matthew is a cheerful and alert baby who loves to take baths, play with his rattle, and be tickled by Daddy. Most of all, he loves to be nursed by his Mommy. Each time the pediatrician tells me how much weight Matthew has gained, my heart swells. I’m thrilled that I’ve achieved one of my first goals as a mother, and I hope that sharing my story gives someone else the confidence to explore this loving option.

Sharon K. Trumpy is a stay-at-home mom of two beautiful boys. She lives with her family in Ohio.

Nursing Know-How
Consider your motivation, your state of mind, and your support network before you decide to try:
  • Explore your options. I followed the Newman-Goldfarb protocol (asklenore.com) to induce lactation, but there are other methods. You’ll probably also use a nursing supplement system, such as Lact-Aid (lact-aid.com) or Medela (medela.com).
  • Contact a lactation expert. Mine was an invaluable source of support and essential to my success. To find a certified lactation consultant in your area, visit iblce.org.
  • Seek out other adoptive breastfeeders. I found a lot of encouragement and empathy on the message boards at asklenore.com and at the Adoptive Breastfeeding Resource Website (fourfriends.com/abrw).
  • Back To Home Page

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    Comments

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I am so glad I heard about this possibility before our son was born and was able to share that experience with him. I nursed our son until he was about 9 months old. I would say "ditto" to the recommendations about finding out who your support people are. I had lots of support from our local lactation consultant and LaLeche League. My husband was behind me 100%. Lack of support from friends and family can be disheartening at times, but don't let it discourage you from preparing and nursing as long as you like. I would also offer this advice to those adoptive moms who are nursing or considering breastfeeding: (1) Remember breastfeeding is another way to nurture your child. Don't worry about volume production. Having a full-supply of milk is not essential. (When I talked with the lactation consultant, we estimated that my son was probably consuming about 1 to 2 ounces of breastmilk at a feeding. My son typically ate 1 to 2 ounces less formula with the supplemental nursing system than when he was fed from a bottle alone.) (2) Talk with your support system ahead of time for recommendations about how to prepare. Also keep in contact for support and encouragement. I didn't want to use medications or herbs. I used a breastpump and "double-pumped"--pumped both breasts at the same time for up to 3 to 5 times a day, working up to about 15 to 20 minutes per session. (Also, don't worry if you aren't able to express milk when you pump, sometimes women who have been pregnant even struggle with milk expression. You can still be producing milk with the pumping and nursing with the SNS.) (3) Using the supplemental nursing system (SNS): I found that formula made from powder often had tiny clumps that would clog the tubing. I never had that problem with formula made from concentrate. (4) Try nursing without the supplementer occasionally. (This is a piece of advice I received from another adoptive mom who nursed. I was put in touch with her by our son's foster parents.) The first visit we made to our son's foster home he was one month old. I had been pumping for about a month to start up a milk supply, but never got one drop of milk expressed. When we arrived, my SNS was buried in our suitcase and it was time for a feeding. So I thought I would try nursing him without the SNS. He nursed like a pro!!! After we brought him home at age 2 months, I was amazed to discover that for middle-of-the night feedings, our son would often refuse a bottle and be satisfied with nursing without the supplementer. (5) Relax and enjoy your baby. He/she will grow so fast and be weaned before you know it. My son weaned himself about 9 to 10 months old. Set reasonable expectations for yourself in regards to nursing (and parenting). I thought I would continue pumping at work (I worked half-time) after our son came home, but it was a hassle and draining me emotionally, so I dropped the pumping away from home and just stuck with nursing at home to stimulate milk production. I was much more relaxed with my new plan. Best of luck to all you nursing moms!

    Posted by: Kathy at 9:47am Jun 27

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