Breast-feeding An Adopted Infant

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breast-feeding an adopted infant

A small number of adoptive mothers choose to nurse their infants, and it is possible to induce lactation in a woman who has never borne children or never been pregnant. Even if an adoptive mother produces a tiny amount of milk or no milk at all, the tactile closeness to her infant is a very positive experience for many mothers.

The baby's sucking at the breast will further stimulate the production of milk. In some cases, the adoptive mother may have breast-fed biological or adopted children previously. She will need to "relactate" for her new baby.

If the adopting mother knows weeks or months ahead of time that the baby will be arriving, she may opt to use a breast pump to begin stimulating the breasts to induce a milk supply.

Breast milk may be supplemented by bottle-feeding or by special devices designed for adoptive mothers who are nursing. If the bottle is used, mothers may use larger than usual nipple holes on the bottle, because the baby will quickly receive what she or he needs yet will still have a natural desire to suck and can then be breast-fed.

Devices that stimulate nursing are commercially available. Such devices include an external bag of formula that is placed atop the mother's nipple while the child nurses. The baby can simultaneously nurse at the breast and the supplemental device or the device may be slipped into the infant's mouth after nursing has begun.

Breast fullness or a change in the menstrual cycle (for example, a reduced menstrual flow) are indications the body is undergoing hormonal changes in the endocrine system as the adoptive mother begins (or increases) her production of breast milk; however, these changes are not always present in an adoptive mother who is nursing.

Experts say newborn infants are the best candidates for nursing; however, adoptive mothers may also nurse older infants as well, and adoptive mothers have been successful with infants as old as six to nine months.

It is important for the adoptive mother who nurses to obtain moral support from others. Relatives and friends may not understand the value of the experience to the adoptive mother and may try to discourage her from nursing or find her efforts humorous or bizarre.

As a result, finding other adoptive parents who have successfully nursed can be a major boon to a new mother. The La Leche League may be able to recommend adoptive mothers or support groups who can help. Contact:


La Leche League International, 1460 N. Meachem Rd. Schaumburg, IL 60173-4048 (847) 519-7730

Debra Peterson, Breastfeeding the Adopted Baby (San Antonio, Tex.: Corona Publishing, 1995).

Find more information on breast-feeding an adopted infant

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