Nursing my six adopted babies has been the most rewarding, wonderful experience of my life! I have been a lifelong breastfeeding enthusiast and believer in the natural approach to bearing and raising children. After nine years of unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy, my husband and I finally started our family through adoption.
Our first two children, Stephen Michael and Allan Kimball, were, for various reasons, nursed only for a few months and primarily for comfort. Although this fell short of what I had hoped for, namely a long-term nursing relationship and some sort of milk supply, it was very beneficial and I am thankful for it. Although I suspect that I did produce at least a tiny bit of milk for them, the main benefits were emotional. It helped both of us to establish a strong mother/child bond. It was also very gratifying that, if they were not feeling well for one reason or another, they wanted the comfort of my breast, rather than a bottle. After all those years of infertility, it was nice to feel like there was something important that I could do for a child that no one else could!
Our third child, Thomas Ryan, who had spent the first half hour of life with both lungs collapsed, was the first that I was able to establish a long-term nursing relationship and a milk supply with. Because of the likelihood that he was brain-damaged, I was especially determined that he would be nurtured at the breast and have at least some amount of breastmilk to help his brain develop optimally. Thomas amazed the doctors and nurses who had taken care of him while he was so sick, as well as those whose job was to screen him for signs of developmental problems (which they found none of!). Thomas nursed for a long time. Besides the benefits of nurturing and breast milk, nursing was extremely useful in calming the very extreme tantrums that he had as a toddler. I could either hold him or put him in his room and have him scream and kick for a very long time, or nurse him for 30 seconds and have him calm right down. Thomas is now nine and in the fourth grade. We have seen very little sign of possible brain damage. He does have mood swings and has a lot of difficulty with reading, which may or may not have to do with his difficult beginning. Physically, he is extremely strong and agile and excels at any sport he tries. He started competing in power tumbling at the age of five.
Our fourth child, Julia Mazel, came to us as a nine pound, antisocial six month old. She'd been born at term, but with a diaphragmatic hernia. This is a hole in the diaphragm, through which the abdominal organs herniate into the chest. The condition is 100% fatal without surgery, and many children still die of despite having the surgery. Her early life had been hellish. She had spent her first four months in the hospital, having three surgical procedures and being fed through a gastrostomy tube in her side. Her birth parents did not bond with her and, from what we were told about the situation, avoided her, rather than giving her the love and care that she needed. Despite the extreme number of calories that were pumped in through her gastrostomy, she grew very little. At four months, she was very pale, weighed only 7 pounds and was afraid of nearly everyone. If someone tried to speak to her, she would turn her head away from them and, if anyone touched her, she would stiffen up. When she was placed in foster care with a foster mother who held and played with her and fed her solid foods in addition to the formula that was still being pumped through her gastrostomy, she started improving. For the next ten weeks, she did much better than she had in the hospital. She had gained two and a half pounds in that time. Although she was still very small and thin, it was a big improvement, which I am very thankful to the foster mother for. Unfortunately, being, at long last, placed with us for adoption meant having to leave her foster mother, which was another tragedy for her.
Since the story of how I eventually got Julia breastfeeding is posted on the La Leche League website, for which I have provided a link below, I will not relate that here, except to say that Julia nursed from the time she was almost a year old, until she was just over two. The benefits to her, both physiologically and emotionally, were very definite. She is now nearly 8, taller than her older brother, Thomas, and doing well.
Our fifth and sixth children, Joseph Alexander and Joanna "D", came to us at the ages of two weeks and two days. Both were healthy and normal. Although they both had trouble with nipple confusion (which I will write more about later) they nursed for 24 and 20 months respectively and were very healthy and happy. When Joanna weaned, I had been nursing someone, at least occasionally, for eight straight years. I am still missing it a lot!
Text Copyright © 2005 Darrillyn Starr. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited