Making the choice to adopt is the first choice in a series of MANY decision making opportunities to come on the road to parenthood.   As my husband and I get closer and closer to welcoming a precious child into our home, we have been pondering the choice of breastfeeding. I know this is a very personal choice for women, and not all women feel the same, but for me, I have always desired to breastfeed my children. The health benefits, the bonding, the cost savings on formula…it has never been a question for me.  It was part of the loss I felt when we realized we would not be able to have biological children, and I have learned that so many women experiencing infertility experience this as well.

To my joyful surprise, I recently found out that breastfeeding can be an option for adoptive parents who want to choose this method for nourishing their babies. The next question then is, how in the world is this possible?  So, when another adopting mom and I got together and discussed all the preparations we were going through to bring a new little one into our home, breastfeeding inevitably came up.   We merged all of our research, experience, and thoughts together and this is what we found:
1.       It’s possible, not a guarantee for any woman, but definitely possible! YAH! The first step for any woman thinking about breastfeeding their adoptive child is to call your obstetrician/gynecologist. Let them know of your plans, discuss options, impacts on you and the baby, and any risks and benefits. Each new mother’s situation is different and no steps should be taken towards inducing lactation without discussing it first with your health care provider.
2.       There are different ways to go about inducing lactation. My friend and I found this especially refreshing because it gives moms with all different comfort levels with medication the option to choose what works best for them.   
                *   Pumping – this can involve pumping your breasts several times a day (some sources say every two hours) so that your body is tricked into lactation. Starting at least 4-6 weeks in advance, but even earlier if you can is recommended (Chicago Tribune). If you are nervous about investing money into a breast pump without knowing if it will actually yield results, ask your friends if they have a breast pump they are not using any longer (make sure to sterilize it), or check out or your local consignment store. My friend got a breast pump at a consignment store for less than $20, sterilized it and could not be happier!
                * Lact-Aid or Supplemental Nutrition System – This is a system that allows you to feed your baby formula (or donated breast milk) through a tiny straw next to your nipple.  The tiny straw falls right next to your nipple and is small enough for your baby to suck on, as well as your nipple at the same time. This can stimulate lactation, while feeding your baby. Even if lactation never stimulates, you will still have the opportunity to simulate breastfeeding your baby and gain the bonding benefit.  The device is usually under $100 and has yielded many positive results.  (Medela Supplemental Nutrition System). 
                *Holding your baby to your breast – This sounds hard to believe, and is such a powerful example of the beauty of motherhood. Studies have found that by placing your baby on your breast, or near your breast stimulates hormones and in some cases induces, or assists in the induction of lactation. (Our Adopt).  
                *   Herbs – There are many herbs that promote lactation and can be used alone, or in conjunction with the above mentioned methods. A few that I have found to be helpful are: Fenugreek, Milk Thistle and Goats Rue.  You can even find a lactation stimulation tea at many of your local natural food stores that are made with a combination of these and other herbs.
                *  Drugs – Call your obstetrician/gynecologist and ask him or her if you can be put on drugs for lactation induction. There are side effects to each of these drugs so be sure to ask your doctor about the side effects to you and your baby.  The most common drug I have found to be taken for lactation induction is “Reglan” an anti nausea drug.
3.       If you have trouble getting your milk to come in and nothing you do stimulates lactation, there are other options for feeding your baby breast milk.  
                *   Human Milk Bank – There are nine states that have Human Milk Banks in the US. The cost of purchasing this breast milk can be pricey, and many banks are experiencing a shortage right now, but it is an option for a mother who wants to give her baby breast milk, or even supplementing with it between formula feedings. (Human Milk Banks)
                *   Another option I became aware of is to ask your loving, open-minded, generous and recently pregnant friends if they would not mind sharing their breast milk with you. When I learned about the breast milk bank, it opened my eyes to this option (that honestly seemed a little strange to me at first). I soon found that many women adopting little ones do this, and that I am blessed to have a generous, lactating best friend who is happy and excited to provide her breast milk for my baby. I was nervous asking her, but she did not even blink an eye at it. So if you          have someone like this in your life, and you feel comfortable asking, you may be surprised at the quick, selfless answer you will get. Many of our loved ones around us feel helpless as we go through infertility. Giving them the opportunity to help in this way, may be exactly what they have been waiting for.
 Have fun enjoying your unique “pregnancy” as you await and prepare for your sweet baby!