Having had the opportunity to both experience a three year adoptive breastfeeding adventure myself and to be involved in adoptive breastfeeding education since 1976, I have developed the following personal perspective regarding information helpful for those exploring the adoptive breastfeeding process.

Since each adoptive breastfeeding mother’s experience is unique, anyone wishing to participate in this endeavor has several options. By researching and consulting with one’s health care provider and those with adoptive breastfeeding experience, a positive outcome can be expected. Adoptive breastfeeding participants fall into three categories:

1. An adopting Mom with no previous breastfeeding experience.

2. Adopting with either a biological or adoptive breastfeeding history.

3. One planning to tandem nurse.

All can anticipate some degree of success but each needs information to set realistic goals and expectations.

When planning to tandem nurse an adopted infant, a mother may simply follow the practice of using a supplementer with donor milk or formula and let her own milk supply gradually adjust to both children’s needs or she may wish to begin to increase her production in advance of baby’s arrival by expressing several times a day and freezing the milk for use in a supplementer.  Improving her diet and increasing liquid intake will also help. This process will also give her a fair idea of the available milk supply. The cost is minimal; the emotional and nutritional rewards great and the challenges of adding a new member to an established mother/baby dyad can require a great deal of creativity….

For those in category 1 and 2, choices include:

Basic education, nipple preparation and using a supplementer to provide nourishment as the baby suckles. This stimulates their own production. This process is both time and cost effective with an average production of about 1/2 supply.

A second choice for those with time and interest to prepare in advance, is using an electric pump or expresser with the optional use of herbs and the medication domperidone. Begun several months in advance of placement, this process has resulted in milk supplies of up to 3/4’s which requires freezing and storage space. It can be used in a supplementer until the mother’s supply grows to meet the baby’s full need. Costs include pump rental or purchase, storage bags, freezer space and the time needed to add an ever increasing pumping routine. Since 25% of U.S. adoptions go awry, there may also be the emotional stress of having a milk supply and no baby.

For those with more time, money and commitment, The Newman Protocol can also be considered after consultation with one’s health care provider and some research into side effects of the bcp, herbs and medications used on the program. Some women have reported good success of 3/4 to full supplies, others find it has little effect even after repeating the process. Again a milk supply and no baby in sight is a possibility except for those with a surrogate birth planned. The focus on seeing, counting and saving an ever growing milk supply has prevented some from really making the transition to full time breastfeeding and these mothers have spent more time preparing than actually breastfeeding which seems counterproductive as breastfeeding is ever so much more than just making milk. The many subtle experiences of both Mom and babe range from boosting IQ, reading readiness, and speech development, to nutritional superiority and emotional health. Most of these nuances can be achieved no matter how much milk a mother produces so I would encourage anyone exploring this path to look at the total picture and understand how simple it is to add a supplementer and focus on enjoying motherhood…

Ann H. Sutherland – 1/31/03