Karleen Gribble B Rur Sc PhD:
Myths of Adoptive Breastfeeding
1. Adoptive mothers are only capable of producing a small amount of milk; -False-
Adoptive breastfeeding has been practiced for Millennia both
Hippocrates and Avicenna describe it! The amount of milk produced varies widely! You all have as good a chance as any to produce all the milk your child needs. Exactly who does that depends upon a lot of things- many of which you have a great deal of control. All the books that say this are just perpetuating a myth it is NOT backed up by the research.
2. Once a child is more than a few months old it is not possible to teach
them to breastfeed; -False-
Some older children take to breastfeeding easy. Some older children even pester their mothers to breastfeed. Some older children vehemently reject breastfeeding to start with but with patience and persistence are taught to breastfeed and love it!
3. You need to do a lot of preparation before the adoption;-False-
Pre-adoption the most important preparation you can do is to educate yourself and build a support network. This is essential for breastfeeding to be successful. If you want you can pump, take drugs etc. but you have plenty of time after your child arrives if you decide to wait until then. It is never too late to decide to breastfeed.
4. Having breastfed before gives you an advantage; -True and False-
It can be helpful to have breastfed before but not because you will be better at producing milk. The advantage that having breastfed before gives you is in the confidence of the practical skills of breastfeeding and the breastfeeding support network you are likely to have. If you haven't breastfed before you can make up for this in a large degree by developing a support network and preparing yourself with knowledge about breastfeeding in general and adoptive breastfeeding in particular. Having been pregnant (even just a few weeks) before does give some advantage, you're a step ahead in terms of breast development, but this does not mean that women who have not been pregnant before cannot be successful. Women without ovaries or who are past menopause do not suffer any disadvantage.
5. Hormonal therapy is necessary if you want to produce a significant amount of milk;-False -
There is a lot of hype around, at the moment, about inducing
lactation using hormonal therapy. I'm not convinced that it is all that
wonderful. I think in particular circumstances it can be useful (potentially
if you have never been pregnant it would be worth a try) but if you don't
want to do it don't be concerned that you are disadvantaging yourself- you
are not! There are many ways of going about this- none is perfect. You need to work it out for yourself. Some drugs can be helpful, some herbs can be helpful.
Karleen Gribble B Rur Sc PhD Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Nursing, Family and Community Health, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Aust.