Adoptive Breastfeeding - Can You Produce Enough Milk?

Low Milk Supply Oct 13, 2021

Adoptive breastfeeding is not only possible but includes many advantages. Suppose you are adopting a child that has been abused or taken from temporary parents. In that case, nursing can help the adopted child heal, helping them feel content and enhancing the bonding experience.

Some moms who adopt a baby over six months old have found that breastfeeding helps get the little one relaxed and feel wanted and safe.

Moms might need to use an at-the-breast nursing supplementer for some feedings. An SNS will ensure that baby is receiving her breastmilk, the supplement, and at the same time, the mother will be increasing her milk supply.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” - Art Williams.

It might take up to 5 months before being able to produce a full supply of breastmilk. Some moms never develop a full supply, but every little bit of milk counts.

Successful adoptive nursing may be influenced by the occurrence of breastfeeding problems, such as a bad latch, bad positioning, and/or not feeding or pumping enough.

Adoptive nursing allows Mom the opportunity to enjoy the physical closeness, skin-to-skin contact, and mother-infant connection, same as if it was her biological child.

Unconditional love of the mother, mother and child, adoption, adoptive breastfeeding
Photo by Isaac Quesada / Unsplash

How Does Relactation Work?

When a baby suckles a mother's breasts, it triggers milk production so that the mother does not depend on pregnancy to breastfeed.

When you stimulate the breast enough, your "milk hormones" (prolactin levels) will go up, encouraging lactation.

Stimulating lactation in mothers who have been pregnant previously is easier. This is because their breasts have already gone through a growth process, in which the ducts and alveoli become lactation-ready.

“Ah, the joy of suckling! She lovingly watched the fishlike motions of the toothless mouth, and she imagined that with her milk there flowed into her little son her deepest thoughts, concepts, and dreams.” - Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere.

What if I Don’t Produce Enough Breastmilk?

It doesn't matter. You can supplement breastmilk with formula or have a baby on the breast with only formula. With a supplemental feeding system, your child will nevertheless benefit from bonding with you and from oral development, which occurs while nursing.

Instead of using a formula, you could always contact a breastmilk bank.

adoptive breastfeeding, holding baby, newborn infant, newborn baby
Photo by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

What is a Supplemental Feeding Device? How Does it Work?

A nursing supplementer consists of a silicone tube attached to a milk reservoir. The reservoir is filled with formula or with breastmilk. The tube is taped to your breast so that the tip of the tube comes out past your nipple. The baby then sucks on the tube and receives the milk in the reservoir. This stimulates the breast, which causes you to produce more milk.

Medela Supplemental Nursing System - Feeding Tube Device

To Induce Lactation for Adoptive Breastfeeding

  • Pumping in between feedings ~ You will need to pump at least six times a day, for ten minutes on each breast (An electric, hospital grade pump is the best to use)
  • Fenugreek, Anise, Fennel, Alfalfa, and many other herbs can help induce lactation.  
  • Staying hydrated is extremely important. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily.
  • Using drugs that increase breastmilk production, such as (metoclopramide) Domperidone. This medication can assist, in developing a more abundant milk supply, faster.
  • Taking hormones such as Oestrogen and Progesterone.

Step by step guide for inducing lactation.

One in a Million, induce lactation, increase milk supply, mother and baby
Photo by Raul Angel / Unsplash

How to Increase Lactation

  • Pump after each feeding.
  • Eat a good, well-balanced diet.
  • Breast massage and nipple stimulation will help. Breast compression during breastfeeding can also help drain the breast, therefore increasing milk production.
  • Remember that a pump can never remove the same amount of milk as a baby. So, always breastfeed your baby, and then afterward, you can express.
  • Always breastfeed skin to skin when possible; this will not only get your milk flowing but will improve the bonding process. Kangaroo mother care is recommended.
  • Stay away from using a pacifier. Pacifier use takes attention away from the breast. A pacifier could get in the way of your infant's ability to latch on. This could lead to many breastfeeding problems.
  • Try waking your baby at least twice at night to breastfeed.
  • Increase your milk supply with lactogenic foods and/or galactagogues.
  • Wearing and nursing your little one in a sling will promote bonding and your milk supply.

“While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby.” - Amy Spangler.

What About Nipple Confusion?

If your baby is accustomed to drinking out of a bottle, they might not want to breastfeed.

Finger feeding is something that some adoptive Moms have found works to prevent the frustration of breast refusal in the beginning. The baby will continue to consume breastmilk while slowly being weaned onto the breast.

How to Get Baby to Accept the Breast

  • The earlier Mom starts adoptive breastfeeding, the better. If possible, be there immediately after birth; begin nursing the same day.
  • Using a Lactation Aid (Lact-aid) / supplemental feeding device can encourage the baby onto the breast.
  • Many mothers have successfully started breastfeeding their adopted babies at six months, so it is possible.

”when people say that breast-feeding is ‘free,’ I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing.” - Hanna Rosin.

Breastfeeding the Adopted Baby While You Are Already Breastfeeding Another Child.

Some mothers that are still nursing their babies adopt a child and wonder whether the milk will be substantial enough for a newborn.

Although you will not be producing colostrum for your adopted baby, breastmilk is still superior to formula. Breastmilk contains immune protection, growth factors, gut protection and is much easier for a baby to digest.

With adoptive nursing, you must get as much support as possible. Try talking to other adoptive breastfeeding moms.

A mother who would like her adopted child to receive all the benefits of breast milk but is incapable of nursing might want to consider a milk bank.

Header image by Rodrigo Pereira on Unsplash


Tracy Behr

A homeschooling mother of two, breastfeeding helper, and lover of all things natural!

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