Breastfeeding Your Adopted Baby

by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC

Here's What You'll Find Below:Breastfeeding the baby with whom you were not pregnant
Getting the baby to take the breast
Tips to start producing milk
Will I produce all my baby needs?

You would like to breastfeed your adopted baby, or one born with a surrogate or gestational carrier? Wonderful! Not only is it possible, chances are you will produce a significant amount of milk. It is different, though, than breastfeeding a baby with whom you have been pregnant for many months. With some determination and perseverance, you will enjoy the wonderful bond that breastfeeding brings and both you and baby will benefit from this experience.

Breastfeeding and breastmilk

There are really two issues in breastfeeding the baby with whom you were not pregnant. The first is getting your baby to breastfeed. The other is producing breastmilk. It is important to set your expectations at a reasonable level because only a minority of women will be able to produce all the milk the baby will need.

However, there is more to breastfeeding than breastmilk and many mothers are happy to be able to breastfeed without expecting to produce all the milk the baby will need. It is the special relationship, the special closeness, and the emotional attachment of breastfeeding that many mothers are looking for. As one adopting mother said, "I want to breastfeed. If the baby also gets breastmilk, that's great."

Getting the baby to take the breast

Although many people do not believe that the early introduction of bottles may interfere with breastfeeding, the early introduction of artificial nipples can indeed interfere. The sooner you can get the baby to the breast after he is born, the better. The more you can avoid the baby's getting bottles before you start breastfeeding, the better.

However, babies need flow from the breast in order to stay latched on and continue sucking, especially if they have gotten used to getting flow from a bottle or another method of feeding (cup, finger feeding). So, what can you do?

  1. Speak with the staff at the hospital where the baby will be born and let the head nurse and lactation consultant know you plan to breastfeed the baby. They should be willing to accommodate your desire to have the baby fed by cup or finger feeding, if you cannot have the baby to feed immediately after his birth.

    In fact, more and more frequently, arrangements have been made where you will be present at the birth of the baby and will be able to take the baby immediately to the breast. The earlier you start the better. This is a situation that should be discussed ahead of time with the woman giving birth and if there is a lawyer, speak with him or her as well.

  2. Keeping your new baby skin to skin with you, you naked from the waist up and baby naked except for the diaper, is very important at this time. It helps to establish the necessary exchange of sensory
    information between you and your baby and helps the baby stabilize several physiological and metabolic processes: maintenance of baby's blood sugars, heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and oxygen

    At the same time, close contact between you and the baby results in the germ free baby (at birth) being colonized by the same germs as you. Furthermore, it helps baby to adapt to this new habitat while at the same time encourages him to breastfeed while helping you to make milk.