3 Interesting Facts About Breastfeeding An Adopted Child

3 Interesting Facts About Breastfeeding An Adopted Child

Few people know that it’s possible for a woman to make milk even if she has never breastfed or even been pregnant before.

This is because there are only two crucial factors necessary to make milk.

These factors are breasts and a pituitary gland which produces the milk making hormone called prolactin.

This process is referred to as induced lactation.

3 Interesting Facts About Breastfeeding An Adopted Child

Prolactin levels can be increased in response to nipple stimulation. Nipple stimulation can come from a child sucking at the breast, by hand expressing or with a breast pump (or any combination of these).

Once milk begins to be produced, the more that gets removed, the more milk the breasts will make.

Here are three interesting facts about breastfeeding an adopted child.

#1: It Can Assist With Bonding Between Mother And Child

Adoption can be a traumatic event for a child. To help reduce the stress involved, the hormones produced during breastfeeding and the skin-to-skin contact that accompanies it can assist in promoting a bond and trust between the mother and child.

How, if and when breastfeeding occurs are very variable amongst different mothers and their adopted children.

Some children actively seek breastfeeding with their new mother. This is not surprising given the fact that in some cultures around the world it’s commonplace for breastfeeding to continue for years.

On the other hand, it’s of course important to never force a child to breastfeed. Some children need quite a bit of time to develop sufficient trust and a close enough bond with their new mother before wishing to breastfeed.

Mothers, whose adopted child ends up breastfeeding after some time, often find that their child becomes a keen breastfeeder who regularly breastfeeds for comfort.

#2: It Can Promote Good Health

Breastfeeding an adopted child means the child has the chance to benefit from the important health promoting qualities of human milk. No matter the age of the child, human milk continues to provide health promoting qualities.

There is also the benefits of breastfeeding for the mother, such as reducing her risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

#3: The Amount Of Milk Made Varies Considerably

The process of inducing lactation takes plenty of patience, education and dedication. There is a large variation in the amount of milk different mothers who induce lactation are able to produce.

Most mothers are able to produce at least a little breastmilk.

It’s important to remember there is more to breastfeeding than just the amount of milk made. The act of breastfeeding can assist in creating a close bond and trust between mother and child. And, even if a child doesn’t breastfeed, holding her close often can foster the same kind of attachment.

So How Can A Woman Induce Lactation?

In Western countries, where adoption is likely to be a planned event, the process of inducing lactation would ideally begin before the child arrives.

A woman could start by using a breast pump 8-12 times per day (every two to three hours). The more stimulation breasts receive, either by pump (or child), the more likely milk will be produced.

BellyBelly has some great articles on expressing filled with many helpful tips, such as Choosing A Breast Pump – 4 Things You Need To Know, 5 Tips To Help You Express Breastmilk Like A Pro, Hand Expressing Your Breastmilk In 4 Easy Steps and Expressing And Storing Breastmilk.

Some women may talk to their doctor about medications which may help stimulate the breasts to further increase milk production.

For example, hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) may help to imitate pregnancy hormones and a galactagogue (a milk stimulating substance) such as domperidone may assist in helping to establish milk production too.

For some women, within a week of starting the process of inducing lactation, they start making drops of milk and may notice their breasts feeling warmer and fuller.

If the adopted child breastfeeds once she comes along, a breastfeeding supplementer device can enable a mother to supplement a child while she breastfeeds.  This way, the child can get the milk she needs while at the same time stimulating the breasts to make more milk.

If trying to induce lactation it can help to have support from those around you. Speaking with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or La Leche League Leader can help.

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Renee Kam IBCLC CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


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