This month is National Adoption Awareness Month! Growing your family through adoption is a beautiful thing. Adding a child of any age to your family brings so much love. We are celebrating adoption today by answering some commonly asked questions about adoption and breastfeeding.
I’ve had many adoptive parents ask me about inducing lactation for an adopted baby so I thought I would answer a few questions here today. Not everyone can or will want to induce lactation, but if you’re interested, we are dispelling a few misconceptions here.
One of the common misconceptions is that you have to take a lot of hormones or supplements to induce lactation. There are some hormonal and medication-based protocols that women have found success using, but they do require some advance notice of when baby will arrive as they may take a few months to work successfully. It’s best to get a one-on-one consultation to make a personalized plan. If you don’t have advanced notice or prefer not to use hormones or medications, you can still make breast milk for your new baby!
Another misconception is that moms who have never breastfed or used a breast pump before cannot induce lactation. It is true that mothers who have been pregnant or breastfed before might have more or quicker success in bringing in a full milk supply, but many mothers who have never given birth have fully or partially breastfed their babies.
What triggers lactation? As stated above, hormones that naturally occur during gestation like progesterone, prolactin, estrogen can also be given to a mother wishing to start lactation or increase their amount of milk. Other things like supplements that include domperidone or galactagogues can also aid in increasing milk supply for those wishing to breastfeed. But those things aren’t necessary and there are other natural, non-medication related tactics that women can take to produce milk.
Many things that are beneficial for any breastfeeding mother are also beneficial for adoptive mothers wishing to breastfeed. Keeping baby skin to skin will increase hormones that assist in lactation, for example. Also, all breastfeeding mothers need frequent nipple stimulation and removal of milk to encourage and sustain milk production, and adoptive mothers are no different! Even when milk is not yet being produced in quantities larger than drops, continuing to stimulate will help milk to increase.
Re-lactating is related in that it involves helping your body make milk after a time of not breastfeeding. I often get asked on Instagram about re-lactating after not breastfeeding for a few weeks. These moms didn’t have enough help and support and would like to start breastfeeding again. I love helping with this! And finding a lactation consultant or talking to your healthcare provider can be very helpful (Lactation link has plenty IBCLCs to choose from). This usually requires an individual plan but involves lots of skin to skin and increased breast stimulation (through hand expression, suckling, etc.), similar to the needs of a mother attempting to induce lactation.
Have you ever re-lactated after not breastfeeding for some time? Share in the comments. Lots more tutorials and explanations of how to keep a healthy milk supply for any mom in my breastfeeding video classes.
Find more about getting breastfeeding start off right with my top 10 tips!
Thanks for stopping by,
Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC