Induced Lactation and Adoptive Breastfeeding
Adoptive parents often want to know if there is anything they can do to induce lactation and nurse their new baby. To help you on your parenting journey, here is a look at what you can do to activate lactation and start producing breast milk for your child.
How to Induce Lactation
Since breast milk is recommended as the best food for babies, many families who plan to adopt are interested in whether they will have this option with their new addition. The answer is: Yes. Breastfeeding an adopted baby through induced lactation is possible, but it takes plenty of planning, introspection, and support.
When you haven’t given birth, building up breast milk supply involves “tricking” your body with cues that tell it to produce milk. It’s important to understand that every woman’s body is different. Some adoptive moms will be able to build a full milk supply, and others may not make enough to completely sustain their baby without supplementation.
Remember: any amount of breast milk is of great value to a baby. The focus of adoptive breastfeeding and induced lactation should be the relationship and bond it helps mother and baby build. It’s also important to remember that breast milk supply tends to increase with regular nursing or pumping, so don’t be discouraged if your breast milk supply is low at first.
For adoptive parents who want to know what they can do to start producing breast milk even though they weren’t pregnant, here are some tips to help induce lactation and increase breast milk supply:
Work with a Lactation Professional. Reach out to your doctor, midwife, or a lactation consultant if you plan on inducing lactation. They can help you build a personalized plan based on your goals, connect you to resources, and provide important expert guidance. For some women, your healthcare provider may discuss the option of taking hormones that imitate the hormone levels of pregnancy.
These medications are stopped after a short while, tricking the body into sensing that a baby has been born (and thus producing breast milk). They may also recommend that you take certain galactagogues (lactation enhancements) to potentially help stimulate milk production. Consulting with a lactation professional is a great place to start for women who want to know how to induce lactation outside of pregnancy.
Stimulation and Expression. Starting about two months before the date when baby is expected to join your family is ideal for stimulating milk production if time permits. By introducing a routine of stimulus and expression for your breasts, you can help begin milk production and induce lactation naturally. Gently massage your breasts by hand for a few minutes, then use a hospital-grade (multi-user) double electric breast pump for about 10 minutes more.
Do this after waking, before going to sleep, and several times throughout the day for your body to begin reacting to the implied “demand” for breast milk. Drops of milk usually appear, on average, about a month or so after starting this routine, and milk supply typically builds over time.
Specialty-Feeding Devices. Adoptions can be unpredictable. Sometimes parents have plenty of time to prepare. Other families enjoy the arrival of their baby before the milk supply has a chance to develop. Specialty products like the Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) protect the option to breastfeed because it lets you supplement your baby directly at the breast.
The SNS allows expressed breast milk, donor milk, or formula to be fed through a thin silicone feeding tube that is taped to the nipple, providing baby with the sensation of feeding from the breast and sucking stimulation to help build your supply. If you are having trouble activating lactation, specialty feeding devices can simulate the nursing experience.
Track Your Progression. After inducing lactation, tracking your baby's feeding sessions and your pumping sessions with a convenient, easy-to-read printable log can help you stay organized, set realistic breast milk feeding goals, and best understand your breastfeeding journey in an "at-a-glance" way. Logs will also help you maintain regular pumping and nursing habits which, in turn, may help stimulate your breasts for increased lactation.
Creating a Bond With Your Baby
Breastfeeding is not just for biological families. With the proper preparation, expectations, and professional support for successful induced lactation, an adoptive mom can provide her child with the amazing benefits of breast milk and build a strong, nurturing, and loving bond along the way. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t induce lactation or produce enough milk to exclusively meet your baby’s needs. You’re creating a bond with your new addition that will last a lifetime.