Is Breastfeeding Your Adopted Baby a Lie?

Dawn Davenport

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controversy over adoptive breastfeeding

We have been having some interesting discussions about adoptive breastfeeding in our online support group. Many adoptive moms want to breastfeed their new baby for the health and bonding benefits, but some birth moms find it offensive.

One birth mother called adoptive breastfeeding “child abuse” because the protocol for inducing lactation often requires an off label use of the drug domperidone, which she thinks may pass through the breast milk. (Creating a Family has extensive resources on the protocol, the controversy over domperidone, and the American Academy of Pediatrics position on Adoptive Breastfeeding.) Other birth mothers feel that it diminishes their role as the biological mother, and in the words of one first mom: “it is a lie.”

In light of this discussion, I thought you might find interesting this excerpt from an interview between Dr. Marcy Axness, an adoption therapist and adult adoptee, and Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child, and a mother by birth and adoption.

Before we get to the interview, don’t forget to enter the celebration raffle for the Creating a Family 1 Million Listener Celebration to win one of 4 Amazon Gift cards ($500, $250, $100, $100). 

Marcy Axness:      This brings up a subject that I find I have some feelings about, which is adoptive mothers breastfeeding. I think it’s fine for a mother to want that, as long as she’s alert to whether her baby wants it as well, and to follow his lead.

Nancy Verrier:      Yes. There are some babies who will look right in the eye of their adoptive mom, and they will have a lot of eye contact, and there are some babies who will not look at their adoptive mom. They’ll turn their face away every single time. So I think it probably would be the same thing with breastfeeding—some would and some would not.

MA:    It’s funny, I’m passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding, both for the bonding aspects as well as the biochemical ones, such as the immunological and amino acid components of breast-milk. But coming from my adoptee perspective, I feel like the bottle is more honest. Less invasive of that primary relationship that you mentioned, that the baby may feel she needs to protect. And there is still plenty of closeness and comfort and eye contact that can be done while bottle-feeding.

NV:    Well, that’s true. This also relates to the issue of accepting that this baby did have another mother, another primary bond that needs to be respected and honored. I’m working with some adoptive parents who are trying very hard not be so possessive and who can talk about the birth mother with their child, and can empathize with that loss. And they get so much more out of their kids, I mean their kids will open right up and talk and talk and talk. But then there are certain ages where they will not acknowledge that there’s anything different at all.

MA:    Like what ages?

NV:    Oh, like adolescence. If they’ve had therapy previous to that time, they sometimes can say something, but if parents all of a sudden realize that their kids are incorrigible or something and try to get them into therapy, the kids think this has nothing to do with adoption. 

MA:    A talk I gave recently was entitled “Affirming the Adoptee’s Reality,” and I spoke about how important it is to begin to lay this foundation early, of empathizing with this baby—”I know I’m not the mom you expected”—because otherwise it can become hard to get through the defenses they can build up. For myself, even by age seven or eight, when my mother sat me down to give me the “You’re Adopted” talk, and she started talking about how much she and my father loved me very much and so on, I just felt like, “yuck.” That door inside me had slammed shut.

NV:    Yes, you have to acknowledge that from the beginning. And I can tell adoptive parents that we—and I can say “we,” which helps a lot—we don’t have the right energy for these kids. They do not feel comfortable with us. They do not feel mirrored by us. We cannot mirror them, we cannot. Because we don’t look like them, we don’t act like them, there’s nothing about us that makes them feel as if they’re being reflected. And we have to know that, and have to realize that this baby is missing something essential that’s part of one’s self-esteem. Because how does a baby gain self-esteem? Part of it is through how the mother treats the baby, but part of it is in that mirroring, the good self reflected back: “I’m okay.” It’s like the Ugly Duckling—why did the Ugly Duckling think he was ugly? Because he wasn’t like anyone else in the family. He was a swan living in a family of ducks.

Thoughts? What are the upside and downside of adoptive breastfeeding? Is it perpetuating a lie or is it beneficial to both the baby and the adoptive mom?

Other excerpts from an interview between Dr. Marcy Axness and Nancy Verrier:

Creating a Family resources on adoptive breastfeeding you might enjoy:

30/09/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 34 Comments



34 Responses to Is Breastfeeding Your Adopted Baby a Lie?

  1. Anonymous IF says:

    Dawn-I read your recommended article entitled “The Cult of Breastfeeding”. I found it very informative, but one line in particular stood out for me…

    “I want moms to breastfeed, but I don’t think it is necessary or healthy to beat yourself up if you can’t or don’t.”

    While I find this sentiment a wonderfully affirming one, I think a point needs to be made in light of the discussion that the issue of adoptive mothers breastfeeding the children who become theirs before adoption. My point is this: this discussion (and the blog post that it gave birth to) isn’t so much about the adoptive mothers beating up on themselves for being unable or unwilling to breastfeed their children, it’s about birthmothers beating up on adoptive mothers for WANTING to breastfeed their children.

    While I have not been privy to the actual discussion on your FB page ( I left the group a while ago because I was disgusted with the way that Family Preservation enthusiasts were able to make hateful statements about adoption and adoptive parents without being challenged on their behaviour), I can’t say I am surprised by this latest attack on adoptive parenting. In the eyes of some of our more childish members of the universal adoption community, an adoptive parent will never be as good or healthy for a child as their biological parents. It’s not only breastfeeding that is elevated to almost a cult status, but the “sacred genetic bond” that exists between a child and the woman who gives them birth is also mythologized as well in the minds of those who just cannot accept the reality of the bond that can and is built between those who become parent and child through adoption. It seems like these individuals are determined to selfishly hoard any and all means of bonding for themselves, never for one moment thinking how that might sabotage any potential connection that could exist between an adoptive parent and her child-perhaps they do so because they are secretly rooting for the relationship to fail, so that they as biological parents will always appear to be superior by comparison. If we are to believe the teachings of these “experts” (who I believe have an obvious anti adoption agenda) -it’s wrong for PAP’s to be in the picture while the expectant mother is pregnant, it’s wrong for PAP’s to be in the delivery room, it’s wrong for adoptive parents to insist on privacy while bonding with their child that would keep the birthparents at a distance for a time, and now it is a “lie” for an adoptive mother to want to breastfeed or to attempt to do so. I have a question for these experts-at what point is it okay for me as a PAP/AP to claim a child who comes to me through adoption as MY CHILD.? Yes, he/she will always be the child of his/her bio parents, but through adoption, he/she will also be MINE. I will not spend the rest of my life or my child’s life apologizing for the fact that I “am not the mother he/she expected”, just because my child’s birthmother’s fragile ego might be injured. If I am chosen by an expectant parent to be a mother (not a babysitter, a MOTHER) to “our” child, I will expect that she will be mature enough to accept that she has chosen me for this job and responsibility (a responsibility and job that she herself chose to pass on to someone else, no matter how much she loves her child), and as such I am entitled to use whatever tools are at my disposal to ensure that the bond between my child and myself is made strong and permanent. And that includes such “sacred” rituals as breastfeeding-she will not have a monopoly on that. And if she were any kind of a “real mother”, she would not begrudge her child something that would contribute to the stability of this newly forming relationship- a relationship that she herself set in motion when she chose adoption for her child. Only a selfish, petty person who seriously needed to grow up (or at the very least get over herself) would do that.
    As well, the comment from the expert about how adoptive parents don’t have the “right energy” for their children, and are incapable of mirroring them in any way made me (pardon the image) throw up in my mouth a little. Ultimate illustration of the deification of biological parents, and how any other kind of family configuration is seen as being inferior to a point of being blasphemous. This bullying of AP’s by childish and self centered birthmothers HAS.TO.STOP!!!!
    P.S. The last time I commented on an issue like this, one such birthmother took my comment and made up a blog post about it on her blog, and ended it by questioning my ability to be a parent and calling me “an entitled b*****). While I hope this will not happen this time, I know that such a reaction will prove the points I have tried to make here better than this single comment ever could. Thank you

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Anonymous IF, you’re right–The Cult of Breastfeeding was not specifically written to address the current topic of this blog.

    • Anon AP says:

      Ah yes, birthmothers and THEIR fragile egos. mmm-hmmm…

      Note to Dawn: I leave it to your judgment to post this or not. Might be a snark too far.

      • Anonymous IF says:

        Anon AP-I don’t mind your snarky response to my comment. I have a tendency to get snarky when I see articles and comments that I believe seek to diminish the legitimacy or “reality” of adoptive parent-adoptive child relationships, too, so that is just fine.
        I wonder if you have read the comments of Dell, Justin S, and Robyn on this article, though. They expressed comments that are almost a carbon copy of what I said in my comment. Perhaps they expressed themselves better-they definitely were able to express the same views in a more succinct way. I admire them for that.
        In making your comment, I hope that you are not trying to say that you disagree with our outrage at the views expressed in this article. As an AP who has found a way to work around the breastfeeding issue in your own experience (formula feeding your child while still maintaining skin to skin contact), I sense that you agree that some reasonable facsimile of contact between parent and child through adoption is necessary. The idea of “reason” is something that these offended birthparents sadly lack (once again IMO) when it comes to their objection to AP’s attempting to bond with their child in this way. So often, when I read articles like this that uphold the whims and wishes of the birthparents as something sacred when it comes to dictating the ongoing relationship between the AP’s and their children, it makes me angry and eager to defend the adoptive parent-adoptive child relationship with all that I have. I am a believer in open adoption, but I draw the line at birthmothers who seek through their objections to any and all methods of bonding that might be undertaken by the adoptive parents to cross the line into co-parenting. AP’s need to have some way of bonding with their children through adoption, and birthmothers should not have the last word on which ones they might choose to use in building this new and lasting relationship. AP’s are so often told not to interfere with the relationships between bparents and their children, to see these relationships as being something that is solely between these two other parties. Yet Bmoms are allowed and encouraged to put their 2 cents worth into when and how AP’s might establish their parental relationship with their child. Double standard much?
        So often when I read articles by these two adoption experts, I feel like I have fallen into that Aesop’s fable about the Man, His Son, and the Donkey. Not sure if you are familiar with it, but please Google it if you are not familiar with it. To summarize-a man and his son are trying to take their donkey into town, and they keep encountering people who criticize them for how they are travelling, until they find it impossible to keep moving forward at all. These two experts and their advice seek (IMO) to put all bonding efforts between AP’s and their children at a standstill, in favour of preserving a bond between a child and someone who will not be (by choice) their primary care giver. This cannot be healthy, for adopted children or anyone else. For me, it’s not about the food, it’s about the opportunity to bond, and I resent any birthparent or so called adoption expert who seeks to make me feel bad about wanting to do this with and for my future child. As an IF person who can only become a parent through adoption, I look to sites like this for advice and support in how to be the best (adoptive) parent I can be, and it is discouraging to hear that those who think that there is no such thing as a good “adoptive parent” are given so much free reign to tear down adoptive parenting as being less legitimate than biological parenting.
        P.S. I admire your willingness to admit that you formula fed your child while shirtless. If I were you, I would be nervous that this group of birthmothers who oppose adoption would make that their next talking point of opposition-“how dare you do this-who do you think you are, that child’s REAL mother?” I can just hear them now…….

        • AnonAP says:

          My response was a reaction to a few things. You started out, for example, by taking a swipe at the CAF FB group, which really has nothing to do with this article and is pretty much just venting to vent. It just sent the tone for me of someone who was in a mood to yell at the world because they felt someone had hurt them. And then, the people who hurt you were birthparents bullying APs. I guess I just don’t see APs as particularly in need of protection or terribly victimized. Let’s say a birth parent gets angry about the idea of an adoptive mother breastfeeding. Let’s say the birth parent even yells about it or goes onto FB and expresses significant displeasure. And…? Does it affect in any way the adoptive mother’s capacity to breastfeed? Does it affect her ability to close out of FB and ignore other people and do her thing with her family? Is there anything at all that the birth parent can do once the TPR is signed and revocation period has ended to actually prevent this from happening, even if it is clearly something they really, really have a problem with? Nope. Not at all. The only outlet available is talking and venting and expressing disappointment. Which, if there is a personal relationship in place, could result in the adoptive parents functionally cutting the birth parent out of any relationship. The risk of personal hurt is all accrued by the birth parent in any case of disagreement in approach with the adoptive parent because the adoptive parent has all of the legal and custodial power. So any hurt you feel is really a matter of just hurt feelings that someone disagrees and is expressing anger in your general vicinity. That’s it. It’s a classic “I thumb my nose at thee” situation. It can cause a bruised ego. It can cause one to re-evaluate an approach to interaction with the birth parents of your children and to interactions with your children, but the adoptive parents are the ones fully in control of how that plays out. So, angry, upset, hurt birth parents and/or adoptees in no way threaten your relationship with your child or the status of your family.

          People can rant about me snuggling shirtless if they want. It would take a really, really cogent argument to make me reconsider my actions in the future. I haven’t heard one yet. On the other hand, listening to people talk with upset and anger about the imbalance in power and eggshells upon which many birthparents feel they have to walk to maintain any relationship with their child sincerely do affect how I interact with my child and my child’s birthmother and family. I learn from that because it is very, very important, and the hurt is part of the message.

          Anyway, that’s why I made the snarky comment suggesting the fragile ego may not be on the birth parents’ side. Be confident enough in your relationship with your child to listen to other view points and evaluate them. To understand that hurt comes from somewhere, even if you don’t understand why. And be confident enough in your relationship that you know another person’s frustration doesn’t stop you from being a parent. Have the grace to listen, the self-confidence to do an honest evaluation, and the understanding to know that it doesn’t work to ask people not to be hurt.

          • Justin S says:

            Dear AnonAP,

            I can appreciate your point of view, urging parents to ignore hurtful words as they do not constitute physical or legal damage, but I cannot agree with it as it ignores the larger context.

            Would you ask a Jew to ignore a swastika painted on a wall near his home, since this is just a drawn symbol, and therefore nothing to get riled up about? Would you urge an African-American to ignore a web site post saying we should put the N$#*^@s in their place? How about a homosexual ignoring someone shouting at his face that his orientation is sinful and he should burn in hell? Of course you would not, since all of these examples take part in a general cultural-historical trend of hate and discrimination that should be opposed.

            Parents and families who do not have a genetic relationship with their children, whether through adoption or through third-party conceptions, encounter tremendous and consistent negative bias, in which genetically-related families are seen as superior. It appears on TV shows (such as Once Upon a Time), in children’s books (such as Harry Potter’s horrible foster family or Cindarella’s step-mother), or general public comments (such as “have you tried finding your real parents?”). Birth parents’ hate groups, such as Family Preservation, simply take a part in that general trend of hate.

            Bullying should be opposed. Especially when it is done in the context of hate culture. And especially when such comments are posted at a website that should be dedicated to the support of the victims of this type of hate.

          • Anon AP says:

            Wow…honestly, Justin S., I’m just more than a little astonished that you would put some people commenting on websites that APs overstep anywhere NEAR on par with images that reference the continuing impact of the Holocaust, slavery, systematic racism and xenophobia and anti-Semitism, denial of basic human right to life and liberty, lynching, gas chambers, etc. My point, entirely and completely is that there is a huge difference between people in power oppressing and controlling the terms of an interaction and people with little to no functional power to affect a relationship speaking vehemently. A swastika, for example, reinforces and is stated support for a genocide so extreme we gave it a special name so we never, ever forget. The racial hate term you referenced is not a thing of the past, but is consistently used today to “put people in their places” and to reinforce historic lines of racial discrimination in this country. You really think that has the same weight as someone saying, “I think APs shouldn’t breastfeed because I think it’s a lie.” Really? How – in any way, I’ll wait – do statements like that oppress, intimidate, restrict, damage, undermine the actions of APs? It doesn’t. It hurts feelings. If you think these things are on par with each other, then my recommendation then is to read a few books on the history of oppression and its continued role in today’s society. Do not try to tell me that the feelings of dismay someone has to having a disagreement over breastfeeding come anywhere close to the feelings of rage, fear, and impotence that someone experiencing a brush with true hate speech feels.

            I will stand against hate. I will also stand against people making ridiculous comparisons.

    • Anonymous IF says:

      I forgot to mention one other “forbidden” activity that has been deemed “wrong” for AP’s in the eyes of these experts: It is “wrong” for AP’s to amend their child’s birth certificate to have themselves named as parents upon it. When anyone operating out of even a modicum of common sense would understand that as a child’s LEGAL parents, AP’s need to be listed on this identifying document in order to be able to claim any relationship with their child at all. An adoption decree just won’t cut it in most circles. Perhaps birthmothers and others who are so opposed to adoption could dedicate themselves to having adoption decrees be made a proxy legal document that could stand in place of a birth certificate for their adopted children, so that AP’s could have their own legitimate document to present for examination when such identification is called for. Yeah, I won’t hold my breath waiting for that…..

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you for speaking out! I experienced the same bullying. It’s terrible, and unfortunate, because I like the “Creating a Family” website, and “Complete Book Of International Adoption” books resources. But the administrators on the “Creating a Family” Facebook group do not do a good job removing unsupportive comments. I will be leaving the group for more supportive communities.

        Know you’re not alone, and you are correct. And thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. I had seen the bullying before, in passing, but it felt terrible to experience when I finally participated in the group and asked a question.

        Bullying should not be permitted.

        You’re an awesome and brave person! Thank you for speaking out! 🙂

        • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

          I’m sorry to hear that you felt unsupported in our online community. I seem to recall that you posted some great questions and got some helpful responses that ranged widely based upon the various commenters’ experiences. That’s the beauty of online support groups – you get such a depth and breadth of experiences and cultures.

  2. Anon AP says:

    So it’s probably best if I start with my basic assumptions, etc.
    – Evidence is clear that breastmilk is really beneficial for preemies at risk of NEC, and it does give greater control over diet in some cases for very food sensitive infants cheaper than the high-cost hypoallergenic formula.
    – I haven’t seen evidence I believe to show that breastmilk is significantly better than formula for raising a healthy child
    – I believe that many mothers who breastfeed find it to be a really warm, comfortable, and touching experience. And others find it very hard to maintain and painful and challenging.
    – I think we as a culture add waaaaaay too much emotional hoo-hah to breastfeeding. It’s feeding a child. We’re mammals. We have the capacity to feed our children with mammary glands. It’s biology, not a spiritual thing. (That might sound harsh, but I’m in an eyeroll mood)

    So, for adoptive breastfeeding I think that (a) it is nutritionally unnecessary and (b) if a mom wants to do it, they are doing it because it makes them feel good and they might believe it is better for their kid. They do need to consider what their kid might think as they get older, and they need to be clear with themselves that nursing does not a biological mother make. The adoption process is not a pregnancy, and adoptive nursing is a different. But…with regards to adoptees’ and birthmothers’ feelings, I think those are important, but I do think that it gets into that whole “too much emotional weight on breastfeeding” thing. If people are turned off because it doesn’t acknowledge that the adoptive mom is not the biological mom, OK. If turned off because someone it involves close contact with boobies or because someone “should” use formula…well…it’s food. If it comes from one source or another, it’s food. If someone were ordering breastmilk from a bank where they are unsure of its origin (see the recent article on Mosaic.com), then would that be OK? If so, I have a hard time seeing that someone reducing their own costs and maintaining control of sourcing is a big problem. Since just pumping doesn’t stimulate milk production like suckling does, direct application of baby to nipple helps with milk production, so it may well happen. It’s food.

    Honestly, my kid wanted to nurse. Big. Time. She knew exactly what those body parts were for and was MAD when she snagged one in a sleepy middle of night moment and it didn’t do anything useful. Bottles and formula worked for her, but this was biology and reflex in action. It doesn’t take away from her birthmother that she had that reaction. It’s not a betrayal of her birthmother or an indication that she is any less connected to her birthmother that she had the reaction, and I’m not a bad person for snuggling with her shirtless.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      As is so often the case AnonAP, I find myself agreeing with you. The only thing I would add is that if I were facing this decision, I would do my own research on the drug used to induce lactation so that I am totally comfortable with any possible impact on me or my baby. Creating a Family has done some of the research for you on our Adoptive Breastfeeding page.

  3. Dell says:

    I’ve listened to all of your podcasts and love them. This article was offensive to adoptive moms. Without posting a huge reply, the fact IS that the adoptive mom is the child’s primary mom going forward (even if adoption I a open)and if that mom can nurse her baby, the birth mother should be nothing but happy for that baby and mother. To say it is a lie is selfish and is putting the birth mothers feelings as a priority above the baby’s attachment. Furthermore, not every birth mother is a sacred womb of love for their child, many birth mothers leave their babies on the street, who are then picked up by social services. So this article is full of huge generalizations and implying that honouring a birth mother is more important then trying to find any way to help a tiny baby attach to its mother & feel nurtured and comforted at the most primal level. Let’s get our priorities straight. The kids feelings come first.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Dell, the only point I want to make is that from my experience I dispute the adjective “many” to refer to birth mothers abandoning their babies on the street. Yes, there are some, but even the moms who end up losing their parental rights via the foster care system, usually deeply care for their kids.

      • marilynn says:

        Dawn good for you for defending mothers who loose their kids to the system and good for you for disputing that “many” mom’s leave their kids in the street. It’s the really unusual mother who does and it usually makes big news if someone finds a dumped newborn

    • Justin S says:

      i agree with you one hundred percent, Dell. This article was offensive, as it implied that the motherhood of an adoptive mother toward her child is not an actual motherhood, and therefore honest, but rather a lie (i.e., poor substitute). If we continue the logic of this type of thinking, we can say, for example, that adoptive dads should not teach their sons to throw baseball, since that would be a lie (it is a “real father”-son activity), or that an adoptive parent should not wipe a tear on their child’s first day in school, since that emotion should be reserved only for “real and honest parents”, and so on.
      Since the adoptive mother is THE MOTHER of her adoptive child (not substitute, not second in line, not “the mother you were not expecting”), she can and should do with her child anything a good biological mother can do, including breastfeeding.
      Frankly, I feel that intrusions and criticisms by birth parents over the parenting of adoptive parents is uncalled for and offensive. Once the adoption is done, once the parental rights have been transferred, birth parents should respect the role of the adoptive parents, without any nonsense such as the one in this article.

      • Anonymous IF says:

        Justin-your comment is 100% spot on! Bravo!! Not to worry, though-I’m sure the birthmothers who have a problem with us “lesser” AP’s would happily let us change 100% of our children’s diapers and deal with 100% of their public temper tantrums, pay for 100% of their expenses throughout their growing up years, deal with 100% of their teenage mood swings and basically take on all of the responsibilities that they themselves do not want to undertake. Ironically, though, the job of breastfeeding was often passed on to other women in times long before our own. Wealthy women who felt that such duties were “beneath them” would outsource the responsibility of breastfeeding to other women in their communities who would serve as “wet nurses”. So it has been done in the past, and is (IMO) perfectly okay for AP’s to practice now and in the future!

      • Anonymous IF says:

        Justin
        Thank you for the term “birthmother hate groups”. I have been looking for a term to describe these groups ever since I first encountered them, and this is one of the most accurate terms I have come across yet. Although, I might go for “anti-adoption” hate group or even “fertilist hate groups”, because as we can see in the discussion on here, it is not only birthmothers who are getting drunk on the “Kool-Aid” that these oppressive groups are spewing out onto all of us via the world wide web. And yes, they are oppressive groups, because to use the criteria outlined by Anon AP, these groups seek to foster a sense of rage, fear, and impotence/helplessness in those of us who have no other route to parenthood other than these alternate means. These emotions, and much more, were certainly sparked in me the first time I encountered them in my efforts to become more educated about adoption. True, they may not have the devastating effects that the other hate groups who were mentioned in a previous post, but that is because in the larger world these groups and their views are weighed as part of the bigger picture, where (ideally) the best interests of children are taken into account first and foremost-I often wonder what people who work in CPS, who have seen the worst of the worst that biological parents are capable of in the damage that they cause to their children think about the views expressed by those who prescribe to the “Family Preservation” gospel-that would be an interesting blog post…but I digress.
        I have spent many years studying socially oppressive groups, and I see many, many obvious ways in which these anti adoption hate groups fit the definition to a T. I won’t go into detail about the many parallels, but I will highlight one example: the commonly held belief in these groups that those who are infertile should either accept a childless existence or else do the “right thing” by becoming foster parents for a temporary time while a child’s “real parents” gather support and get their acts together is very similar to the belief among homophobic hate groups that if those in the gay or lesbian community wish to get legally married , they should get married to someone of the opposite sex. If they persist in pursuing their “unnatural urges” and partnering with someone of the same sex, they should be content with civil unions and be forever grateful that the heterosexual community threw them a bone by allowing them that much. I’m sure that other examples could be brought up as well, but I will leave that to others who have been brushed up against the biased views of these hate groups and are still licking their very real wounds, both in the larger online world and here on this site (in articles such as this one) and its satellite sites.
        It is about more than “hurt feelings” It is about standing up for a group that has suffered from being oppressed for far too long. And I am NOT talking about the birthparents.

        • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

          AnonymousIF, I live in the world of online adoption and infertility groups, and I honestly don’t see the #s that apparently you see. I’m not saying that there aren’t anti-adoption folks out there, but not in the #s you seem to believe exist. I also try to see where they are coming from. Often many people are less anti-adoption rather than wanting to see reforms to the system or wanting to point out the abuses that do exist. In the adoption world, it seems to me that birth parents are the member of the adoption triad that have the least power post adoption and are more likely to be the ones taken advantage of. I think it helps all of us to hear their side of the “story” even if at times they come off too strident or too one-sided.

          • Anonymous IF says:

            It’s not so much the number of groups that are out there, but the nature of the rhetoric and inflammatory language that these individuals choose to use. I have read many blogs and other writings by those who do not agree 100% with adoption, and what stands out for me is how some choose to use language that remains respectful to IF couples and adoptive parents, while others choose to speak about us in ways that are disgusting and hateful. Unfortunately, the hateful ones have poisoned how I see the ones that are better balanced, because these hate-fuelled and filled ones dismiss these ones as being written by people who are in denial of the “truth”-as if there is only one truth. I have a great deal of respect for those who are able to express their need for reform in adoption, ART and 3rd party reproduction without turning it into an opportunity to express their loathing of those of us who have no other option to become parents except for ART, adoption, and 3rd party reproduction. For the most part, CAF is a place where that is allowed to happen, but when these other hate groups are given a platform to sound off against those of us who live under a different, but yet still very real stigma that we did nothing to earn or bring upon ourselves, I think it is grossly inappropriate and should be not be tolerated.
            And I’m afraid I will have to disagree with you on your view that of the three “points” of the adoption triad, birthparents are at the greatest disadvantage. I might be out in left field about this, but I find it very hard to see how a person or persons who are able to do by accident what some of us have to practically sweat blood in order to do ( conceive a child) , and then who possesses 100% of the choices concerning whether that child will be brought to term and then who will or will not get to parent that child-because not only is an expectant mother who is considering adoption deciding whether or not she will be a parent, she is ultimately deciding whether a PAP or a pair of PAP’s will get to become parents AT ALL-is in a position of weakness in this picture. But that’s just me.

          • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

            AnonymousIF, what I’ve learned from listening to birth parents talk is that they often feel that they have little actual choice. They are in a crisis mode when they are trying to decide what to do with their pregnancy and ultimately with their child. The real issue is after the adoption. They have virtually no rights. The adoptive parents can decide if they will have contact, how often they will be provided information, if they will even be allowed to ask questions. All I’m saying is that it isn’t one-sided. It’s complicated.

          • Anonymous IF says:

            Sorry-I hit enter before I was finished

            I am perfectly willing to listen to people who wish to see reforms happen in all alternate paths to parenthood, but I don’t think I am wrong to believe that I am not required to listen to or take seriously those whose ideas of reform involve the further stigmatization of those of us who are IF. If they only expressed their hatred towards IF itself, it would not be a problem-I hate IF, too-it has hurt so many people and brought many a good potential parent’s life at a standstill, but these hate groups do not limit themselves to condemning only IF-they condemn those who have IF, by twisting our natural desire to become parents into something ugly and unnatural, and making it seem that there is something inherently wrong with any kind of family that we could create through an alternate means. Or that anything that we might do to build this family would be a “lie” or at the very least a poor imitation. If a person’s idea of adoption reform or ART reform begins and ends with the notion that “all IF couples should roll over and play dead and accept that they were never ever meant to be parents, and that even if they try to “live a lie”, it can never work because they can never be real parents in the way biological parents can, or that as an IF person I have any kind of obligation to help these people to keep their ties to their children intact instead of trying to become a parent at all-I don’t see why I should give those people and their views the time of day (even if they are expressed in a place like this). Unfortunately for me, I have been exposed to these views both here and elsewhere, and it is a bell that I cannot unring, no matter how many respectful reform blogs and blog postings I am able to read. Not all adoptive families are successful-but some are. Not all birth families are successful-but some are. This is a truth that I see much more easily understood in the offline world-online, not so much. I know some people say to ignore it, but I am not a person who can easily ignore a group in power (birthparents) ganging up on a group that has been disempowered due to circumstances beyond their control
            (IF couples/PAP’s/AP”s). OK, Post adoption, birthparents lose some of their power, but pre-adoption-please-all of the power is in their hands. If they want to have any influence in the post adoption sphere of their child’s life (assuming of course that THEY have chosen that there WILL be a post adoption period in their child’s life), they need to take responsibility for the choices that they made and treat the new family that they have chosen for their child with a little bit of decency. This cannot happen if the birthparents devote themselves to micromanaging their child’s care from afar through “Monday morning quarterbacking” their way into the newly forming relationship between the adoptive parents and their new child. All this will do is diminish any lasting bond that might be formed for these adoptive parents and the children they have been given permission to raise as theirs.

          • Anoymous IF says:

            One final point-there is an enormous difference between expressing an opinion that says “I hate adoption” and one that says “I hate those who build their families through adoption. I believe that those who must build their families through alternate means are inherently inferior to those who become parents through more “natural” means, and they must be reminded of this at all times in order to keep them in their place”. Groups who hold the first belief are usually calling for reform and are able to do it in a respectful manner to all parties involved (in that they don’t want to see anyone be treated like second class citizens in any and all outcomes), while those who are holders of the second set of beliefs fulfil the definition of a hate group.

        • Justin S says:

          Thank you, Anonymous IF. It feels good to receive support, and to find someone whom I agree with whole heartedly and feel kinship.
          We in the alternative-family-making family receive much criticism and hate for who we are and what we do. The worst is to know that our children, once they are old enough to google, will encounter these biases about their families and their origins.
          The belief that non-genetically connected parent-child dyads are inferior, morally wrong or just a lie (as is presented in this article), answers to the definition of a hate-ideology. Hate and bullying should be opposed, whether they come from a place of hurt or from any other place, whether they are able to bring horrific results or just wish to be mean spirited.

        • Anon AP says:

          OK, this is the last time I’ll comment because I doubt I’ll have anything new to add after this. Basically, we fundamentally disagree. I still don’t see it. I get that there are people who don’t believe adoption is a good thing. I also see that there are people who are rude and dismissive to people with IF. Been told that Darwin says I am an evolutionary mistake more than once (weird but true…people must think it makes them sound smart). Thing is, none of those people affect my family or my ability to be a parent. We did what thousands have done before and signed up with an agency, did the home study, did the book, waited, were granted temporary custody of an infant, went before a judge and became a legally-tied up family. We were judged and vetted and assessed and and and and. There is no fundamental right to parenthood. Adoptive parenting is not like biological parenting, and there are extra hoops for good reason. Our families are built differently and operate differently in some ways, but we are equally valid as families. Under all that structure though, other people’s anger didn’t in any way impede or influence our capacity to build a family or maintain it. But, remember, other peoples’ biases against homosexual couples absolutely impedes their ability to become a legal family, to adopt, to be seen as fit, etc. Once again, I do not put IF or AP families’ being subject to snotty comments and some folks’ disdain as on par with couples subject to systemic bias against their families and their lives. No AP or IF person I know of is at risk of Matthew Shephard’s fate because of their status as adoptive or IF people. Such comparisons undermine the risk to life and limb, not to mention employment and other bias, that people who are gay or non-gender-conforming or queer or trans experience.

          I get that people are rude, and I get that people use inflammatory language, but this gives them no power over me. It’s an echo chamber, and one I might listen in on from time to time to learn, but it doesn’t change the validity or safety of my family. I believe there are people who hate adoption. That doesn’t mean we can put it on par with hate speech. Hate speech is rooted in systems that reinforce it. I have a legal document that says my daughter will be treated “as if born to me” under the law. Yes, adoptive families get some obnoxious incidents and challenges when compared to biological families. We sometimes have to prove ourselves as families. But that isn’t coming from the people who hate adoption or from birth parents. It’s coming from bullshit attitudes and parochialism in our society. So socially, yes, we adoptive families face certain challenges. Not life threatening ones for the most part, though some transracial adoptive families have run into it out of racism and true hate speech. Not angry birth parents or people who hate adoption.

          I also want to challenge you on your implication that birth parents have rights post TPR. mmm…very limited if at all. The law sees me and my spouse as the parents of my child. Period. My daughter’s birth parents have exactly one way to affect the relationship – by requesting mediation if they felt we were not living up to our post placement agreement. The post placement agreement we freely signed. No coercion; this was what we chose to do to enter into parenthood. So, let’s say the birth parents requested mediation, and let’s say we had done x, y, or z because it was, in our judgment, in the best interest of the child. OK…and if the judge agrees with them? we are held to the terms of the PPA. If the judge agrees with us, they have exhausted their recourse. There is one case in NE where the child was returned because the state has no mechanism for recognizing open adoption. That’s it. Yeah, it sucks all around for that family, but it is hardly a death knell for the validity of adoption and the rights of adoptive parents. People yelling on blogs don’t affect my rights. They don’t suddenly give my daughter’s birth mother a whole heap of new rights. She had rights over her fetus for 9 months and her child until she signed the TPR and until the revocation period ended. After that, it’s over except for the PPA. We have full parental custody of our child until she turns 18. 18 years vs. 9 months. A lifetime to consider how to do this parenting right vs. decision-making while in crisis mode, and if in a closed adoption, maybe a letter or contact when the child is an adult. Even in an open adoption the APs drive the interactions and control the visits and access and decisions. We all know that there are cases where agencies do not do adequate counseling to expectant parents considering adoption. I do know there are weaknesses in the counseling provided to prospective adoptive parents too. Personally I think most of that comes from people treating adoption like a for-profit business instead of a social service rather than from raging anti-adoption individuals or groups. Aaaaanyway, I think we APs are doing OK on balance. We can learn from people who dislike adoption. We can also stop listening if they annoy us. That’s part of our privilege. They can shout, and we can choose to listen or not.

          • Anonymous IF says:

            Anon AP
            We are going to have to agree to disagree. I do not have the time nor the energy to withstand not only the biased views of anti-adoption hate groups, but also adoptive parents who make excuses for them and their views for whatever reason. I believe that respect in any kind of adoption has to be a two way street, and I stand by my belief that the views expressed in this article are the antithesis of respect for those who have or who will build their families through adoption. Becoming a parent through adoption is nothing to be ashamed of or to apologize for to anyone. Adoptive parents gain certain rights and privileges through adopting their children, and one of those is to parent their children in a way that works for them. If that way includes breastfeeding, so be it. Birthparents should not seek to interfere with these rightful processes in any way.

  4. Cara Johnson-Blystone says:

    We have the “Breast is Best” message constantly in our faces. There is so much pressure to do it. I’ve watched friends struggle with producing enough milk with their own bio children. Out of respect for all Mother’s, work with your doctors and do what you feel is best. No judgements.

  5. Robyn C says:

    Wow. This is all such … I’ll be nice and use the word “nonsense.”

    I’m not a fan of breastfeeding, in general. I’m not against it, but I think the pendulum is swinging too far and breast v. bottle is just another Mommy War that cannot be won.

    What I think is nonsense is the idea that adoptive parents cannot mirror their children. My son is Black and White. I’m White. He doesn’t *look* like me at all. But, when he was a toddler, I had people tell me, “He has your smile.” And he did. He smiled the way I do. And, now that he’s 9? He acts just like his (adoptive) father. So do not tell me that adoptive parents and children cannot mirror one another, because that is pure and utter nonsense.

    I also think it’s nonsense to say that bottle feeding is “more honest.” I love formula. It’s awesome. But I reject the idea that bottle feeding preserves the primary relationship between a baby and his/her birthmother. I honestly don’t think all babies have primary relationships with their birthmothers. It depends on the baby. My son didn’t know his birthmother when she held him (versus anyone else), but my daughter certainly seemed to know hers as a newborn.

    Breastfeed if you actively *want* to breastfeed. Don’t buy the marketing and don’t choose a feeding method based on guilt or other people’s desires. I would give that advice to any new mom.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Robyn, I thought Verrier’s point about mirroring was pretty far out there as well. I’m not even sure I really understood it. I think we know enough from the nature vs. nurture research to know that they both play a huge role. I’m not sure why we need to diminish the nurture role in order to honor the nature role.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Also Robyn, you might enjoy this article I wrote on The Cult of Breastfeeding.

  6. L.H. says:

    My dream situation would be to have an OPEN adoption and the birthmother would want to continue to pump her breastmilk for the baby and I would do adoptive breastfeeding using birthmom’s milk. She is still providing the amazing benefits of breastmilk for her child and I am able to create attachment and bonding with my son or daughter. It is a team effort that would require much love and support from all sides of the Triad!

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