Tips for Breastfeeding an Adopted Child

1.    After you have established a relationship with the expectant mom that is placing her child with you, talk to her about your desire to breastfeed, what you are doing to establish your breast milk, and why you think it is in the best interest of the child. Talk with your adoption agency, adoption attorney, and social worker and explain that you want to breast feed and why it is best for the child.

2.    Before the birth, speak with the staff at the hospital where the baby will be born and let the head nurse, lactation consultant, and pediatrician know of your plan to breastfeed the baby.  The goal is to be able to start nursing within the first 30 minutes after birth.  This may not be possible, but the earlier you start, the better.  If it is not possible to breastfeed the baby immediately after birth, ask the prospective birth mother to request that he be fed by cup or finger feeding, rather than by bottle.

3.    Some birth mothers will agree to nurse the baby while in the hospital so the baby will receive her colostrum.  For other first moms this would be much too hard.  The same can be said for adoptive parents.  You must all decide whether this is something that would be beneficial for all concerned.  It might also be possible for the birth mother to pump breast milk for a short time after birth. Let sensitivity and kindness be your guide in deciding whether to make this request.

4.    Start early to establish your breast milk supply.  Some protocols recommend starting 6 weeks in advance of the baby’s arrival and others recommend a couple of months in advance. If you do not have this time, there are lactation induction protocols to increase your milk supply in a shorter amount of time.

5.    Use a  high quality electric pump with dual attachments so you can pump both breasts at once.  Your health insurance may cover the cost. You may also rent these hospital grade machines. Set up a schedule of pumping that will gradually increase to 6-8 times per day.

6.    Don’t be discouraged by how much milk you are able to pump before the baby arrives. Pumping is never as good as a baby for building up milk. Pumping helps change the breast and increases the likelihood of success regardless of the amount of breast milk you are able to store.

7.    If child is accustomed to being fed with a bottle, switch to a wide nipple with a slow flow with the bottle before offering your breast. See Top Ten Tips for Breastfeeding a Baby Accustomed to Bottle Feeding.

8.    If a child needs supplemental milk, use a lactation aid rather than bottle, cup, or finger feeding.

9.    Especially at the beginning, focus on skin to skin contact between mother and baby.  Undress the baby, except for diaper, to maximize contact with the mom’s skin.

10.    Have a board certified lactation specialist available to work with you when you are first trying to breastfeed an adopted baby. It is very helpful if this person is knowledgeable about the specific issues a woman may face if she has not been pregnant.  The lactation consultant at the hospital may not have this knowledge, so ask before the birth. Check with the International Lactation Consultant Association or the La Leche League or for someone near you.