Adoptive Breastfeeding: What You Need To Know

Adoptive Breastfeeding Part III

I will never forget the look in the pediatrician’s eyes as she walked into our hospital room and saw me breastfeeding our 12-hour-old adopted daughter. She looked uncomfortable. She barely made eye contact with me. Then she asked, “I’m sorry, are you the birth mom or the adoptive mom?”

She was confused.

With a big confident smile I responded, “I’m the adoptive mom… I induced lactation to be able to breastfeed our sweet girl.”

She was shocked, with big eyes and a polite smile, “OH… I didn’t know you could do that and it actually work!”

When I tell people I breastfed our youngest they usually have a similar response to the pediatrician. I usually chuckle a bit and respond with a confident, “I know right? It is amazing!”

Adoptive breastfeeding is AMAZING! The fact that our bodies are able to produce milk for a child you did not carry is just…remarkable. So few adoptive moms (and even those in the medical field…obviously) know about this option, which is why I want to share how I induced lactation.

How I Began

I am attempting to keep to basic information, so I won’t spend too much time on all the details. However, if you are interested in knowing more because you are considering a journey down this path, please reach out! I would love to chat!

When we met our daughter’s birth mom we only had 8 weeks until our little one was due. We were not planning to privately adopt at the time but God had a plan. We were fostering at the time and had not considered a traditional infant adoption. But HELLO… I am so thankful we don’t write our own stories because His are far grander than I could ever dream.

With only 8 weeks to start the process I followed this Accelerated Protocol . This website is a wealth of knowledge on the issue of adoptive breastfeeding if you would like more knowledge on the topic. I took 20 days worth of hormones (a simple birth control pill) along with 20mg of domperidone 4 times a day. After those 20 days I stopped the birth control pill but continued the domperidone and began pumping EVERY TWO HOURS. Yes, you read that right. I pumped every 2 hours by day and every 3 hours by night with a double electric breast pump. Within the first week of pumping I began producing drops. Each drop was carefully stored, because I felt as if that breast milk was GOLD my friends!

By the time our little one arrived I had saved a fair amount of my own breast milk, which was really helpful.

I exclusively breastfeed our daughter the first 2 months of her life. As soon as we got home from the hospital I started taking fenugreek, a natural herb, to boost my milk supply. I ate a lot of oatmeal, stayed hydrated, and baked lactation cookies to continue to help boost my milk supply.

We had issues to overcome in the beginning like a tongue and lip tie that made feeding difficult but that was soon sorted out and she was nursing well and my supply was sufficient.

After 2 months the doctors were concerned our little bundle of joy was not gaining the weight she needed. We tried the Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) on the breast but she did not take well to the tube and honestly it was more work than I could manage.  

We started her on formula around 2.5 months due to the pediatrician encouraging us it was the best thing. Honestly, I wish I had gotten a second opinion. My supply was what she needed but the pediatrician felt my milk was not fatty enough for her. I began to rotate feedings, one on the breast, the next on the bottle. I continued pumping and storing throughout the day after comfort nursing her because my supply was still healthy. I would add it into the formula and continue giving her my breast milk through bottles as well.  

At 6 months my daughter was comfort nursing a couple times a day but I was tired of pumping. I decided to stop pumping. Having induced lactation with such little time to prepare I was very happy I made it 6 months with producing milk.  

I am so thankful we had the privilege of beginning our journey as mother and daughter so close and vulnerable with one another. I can humbly say our connection is deep and strong. I am so thankful we chose the journey of adoptive breastfeeding. Sitting on this side of having breastfed I can confidently report all the hard work was totally worth it!

*Please note I did consult my doctor and lactation consultant before starting this process. My doctor was open-minded to the idea of inducing lactation and comfortable with my plan.*