Adoption can be the most fulfilling experience in a parent's life, and aiming to provide the best for the new baby is your top priority. Moms who prefer to breastfeed may be disheartened by the idea that they won't be able to lactate or nurse their adopted baby, but is that true? Can you breastfeed an adopted baby?
The good news is that it's totally possible to breastfeed your adopted baby. According to La Leche League International (LLLI), whether you've been pregnant or not, your ability to produce milk is not affected — most mothers are able to produce some milk by inducing lactation. LLLI explained that you can induce lactation by stimulating your breasts, because the more stimulation you get, the more your body is signaled to produce milk.
Medela explained on their website that the lactation inducing process starts with pumping and massage, and can go on to taking hormones or supplements that increase milk production. These techniques require patience, however, as it could be about a week until you start seeing drops of milk. Medela noted that once you start lactating, you might see and feel changes in your body, which can include a heavy feeling in your breasts, the darkening of your areolae, and an absence of your period.
According to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Tania Archbold, if you know in advance about the arrival of your baby, you may want to induce lactation with the help of supplementary nursing systems that come in pre-made kits, or by using a Number 5 french feeding tube and a bottle. "Often an adoptive parent will breastfeed with a feeding tube at the breast so they can supplement their baby with donor breast milk or formula to meet their baby's needs if their milk supply isn't adequate," Archbold tells Romper.
She notes that some adoptive parents choose to use medication to induce lactation, and others will just use stimulation alone, which is often enough to kick start lactation. Archbold suggests that along with women who have never been pregnant or who are postmenopausal, women who are transgendered, or men who are transgendered, can also induce lactation. But because everyone's situation is different, some will be able to produce more milk than others.
Archbold says that support and planning are the keys to making breastfeeding work. "Working with an IBCLC to determine your own unique situation and determining a realistic plan and goal as soon as possible will increase the chances of a successful breastfeeding relationship, even if it doesn't involve 100 percent breast milk," she says.
Breastfeeding your adopted baby is completely possible, even if it does require some extra work beforehand. If you're hoping to adopt soon and want to make sure you're lactating, reach out to an IBCLC soon for a consultation and support. With the right tools and techniques, you should be able to experience breastfeeding with your child, regardless of any biological connection.