Breastfeeding My Adopted Baby

by Jimmy & Jessica

Breastfeeding my adopted baby

When my husband and I decided we were ready for kids, I knew from the beginning I would want to breastfeed. I was a breastfed baby, and I had always heard about the health benefits. I had talked about it with my mom and made up my mind I wanted to do this for my baby one day.

I struggled with fertility, and when my husband and I decided to start the adoption process, I didn’t give breastfeeding another thought—I just assumed we would need to use formula. But after we connected with our daughter’s birth mom and I was researching everything under the sun about adoption, I came across an article about breastfeeding your adopted baby. I was shocked. I had no idea this was possible! I thought, I wonder if I could do it?

Immediately, I started searching and found a local lactation consultant who had experience with helping adoptive moms breastfeed. My appointment was scheduled for the day before we would leave for Louisiana to be at our daughter’s delivery, because her birth mom had a c-section scheduled. I met with Kate Cropp in Brentwood, TN, and she was very sweet and supportive. Going in, I really only knew about the health benefits. But she explained how important nursing is for bonding with your baby as well. She recommended two steps to get started. First was getting a hospital grade pump and starting to pump right away. Next was using a combination of medications and herbal supplements to help with milk production. We went to Vanderbilt to rent the pump and headed to Louisiana.

I was pleasantly surprised that the hospital where our daughter was born had some fantastic lactation consultants as well. They were also very knowledgeable and encouraging to me as a breastfeeding adoptive mom. One of them reminded me to give myself grace and be realistic with my expectations and that anything I could do was helpful. She introduced me to the Medela Supplemental Nursing System. This is basically a bottle you wear like a necklace with tubes through which your baby can get formula or donated breast milk while nursing. This works to get your baby used to nursing while you increase your milk supply.

So, with lots of support and tools, I was able to breastfeed my adopted daughter! I was able to supply as much as a third of what she was drinking and continued nursing her to 12 months. It was so special to be able to provide for her in this way and I discovered nursing is in fact much more than just about the health benefits; it really does have a significant effect on bonding with your baby as well.

Along with what I was able to supply, we were also blessed to receive donated breast milk from some special mommas—some friends, and some through the Facebook page “Human Milk for Human Babies,” which my lactation consultant also introduced me to. I had never heard of such a thing! This can also be helpful if you decide not to breastfeed, but want to provide your baby with breast milk.

If nursing your adopted baby is something you would like to try, I recommend meeting with a lactation consultant as soon as you start the adoption process. I would also like to mention that renting the pump was a little pricey. After a couple of months, I went ahead and bought one for a great deal at a consignment sale and I felt it was sufficient for what I needed. I do think the hospital grade one helped in the beginning, though. The medications and supplements are also an added expense, so be sure to think about how this will fit into your budget. If I were to do it over again, I would have started pumping sooner and more often to get my body producing more milk earlier.

Breastfeeding my daughter was incredibly rewarding and I look forward to the opportunity to do it again for the next baby we adopt.