The Adoptive Breastfeeding Resource Website



Milk Production:


The primary method of inducing milk production in a woman who has not given birth is to have the baby positioned and sucking well at the breast. Adoptive mothers often need to pay especially close attention to the positioning and latch of the baby. Bottle nipples, which most of our adopted babies have had before we get them, do not require the baby to take an active part in getting them into his mouth. Nor do they require the same type of sucking that nursing at the breast does. Some are worse than others. In general, the smaller, more pointed, bottle nipples are the worst for a baby whose adoptive mother want to nurse him. They, in effect, "confuse" the baby about what he needs to do for food. Nursing can, of course, still be done, although it may take a bit more patience and creativity, but it is much easier to prevent the problems they cause.

There are things that can be done to help avoid nipple confusion. Prospective adoptive mothers are often counseled to arrange to be present at the baby's birth and start nursing immediately thereafter, if possible. This is often not physically possible. Even in cases where it is, my feeling is that the wishes of the prospective birth mother should be considered first. If she expresses a desire to have the adoptive mother there and nursing immediately, which is occasionally the case, that is what should be done. However, it is generally better to allow her to to have that time to herself and the baby. Remember that she cannot, and should not have to, make a final decision until after the baby is born. As difficult as that may be for a hopeful adoptive mother to have to think about, it is only right.

So, in most cases, our babies will be fed in some manner before their adoptive mothers have a chance to nurse them. Sometimes adoptive parents do not even learn about their babies until after they are born. In that case, there is nothing that can be done to avoid the baby being fed with whatever bottle nipple the hospital nursery is using. If, however, the situation is such that the potential adoptive mother can make requests about how the baby will be fed until she takes custody of him, there are a few things that would be helpful.

The type of nipple that is used can make a difference. The best choices are either orthodontically shaped nipples or Avent bottles and nipples. Feeding the baby with a feeding tube attached to a finger is another option. So is cup feeding, which is often used in third-world countries, to help avoid nipple confusion in babies who are temporarily unable to breastfeed. However, my concern with cup feeding is that it does not meet the baby's sucking needs. This is very important to the well-being of a baby. A baby being cup-fed could be given a pacifier too, but it should be an orthodontically shaped pacifier or an Avent pacifier.

Whatever method is used, the baby's lips should be tickled and he should be encouraged to open his mouth and take the bottle nipple, finger or pacifier into it, rather than it being inserted into his mouth. This may help preserve the "rooting" reflexes that babies are born with, which are there to help them find the breast and start nursing.

If however, you don't have the option of making requests about how you want the baby to be fed, don't worry! Most of us do not have that option. Some babies will still latch on and suck just fine. Few have so much trouble that you cannot overcome it with a little patience and creativity. It is often helpful to consult a La Leche League leader or certified lactation consultant, especially if you are a first-time mother.

My most challenging child to get latched on was my fifth baby, Joseph. He came to me after 15 days on the little pointed bottle nipples that most hospital nurseries use and a little pointed pacifier. He wanted to nurse, but when I touched his lips, he would pucker up like he was waiting for those pointed things to be inserted into it.

One benefit to challenges is that they make us more resourceful! After weeks of trial and error and sore nipples, I finally figured out a way to get Joseph latched on. I would line up his upper lip with the spot on my areola that it should be on in order for him to be latched on properly. Then, I would try to get him to open up as wide as he would (which wasn't very wide). Then, I would quickly flip my nipple, with the Lact-Aid tube, as far into his mouth as I could and then immediately push down on his chin and pull his lower lip out, if necessary, to get him suck more of the breast in. Since this took more effort, and was more likely to cause soreness if I couldn't get his chin down and lip out before he started sucking hard, I didn't do alot of switching from breast to breast. I usually tried to have him nurse from both breasts at a feeding, but if I was having an especially hard time getting him latched on, or was only half-awake, like in the middle of the night, once I got him well latched on to one side, I would usually just leave him there.

Text Copyright 2007 Darrillyn Starr.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited