Adoptive Breastfeeding and Induced Lactation

Everyone comes to adoption through their own journey. For Ben and I, we had talked about adopting before getting married and always assumed we would move forward with adoption after having biological children. When we confronted the diagnosis of infertility and concomitantly planned our move to Africa, it made sense to us to put our desire for having biological children on hold for a bit and pursue adoption from Zambia.

Originally, we desired to adopt an infant (“as young as possible”). Thankfully, God had other plans and brought our sweet Nathaniel into our life as well as a desire to take care of special needs children. Through this journey however, I was determined to do as many things as possible for the health and bonding for any potential baby of ours. I had heard of adoptive breastfeeding and induced lactation and decided that I wanted to try it, despite the risks.

To my great delight, I was successful at producing breast milk and pumped a small amount of milk (about 75ml) twice a day for 8 months. After infertility, it was wonderful to feel maternal and nurturing, even if there wasn’t yet a baby of mine to feed. There was, however, a child that did need the extra breast milk.

Meet Isaac:

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An incredibly adorable little boy with Down Syndrome. He was 2 years old but very small when I first met him (about 15 pounds) and had a lot of trouble growing and staying healthy. His mother was still breast feeding but wasn’t able to keep up her supply. It was during this time that I had a stockpile of milk that didn’t have anywhere to go. The mother was so happy for the extra milk and affectionately called me “Amakai Isaac” (Mother to Isaac). I would provide them milk that the mother gave through a bottle. I still see Isaac through my work with special needs children and am so thankful for that time I was able to nurture him with my breast milk.

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The basic idea of induced lactation is that you simulate a pregnancy with estrogen and progesterone and the domperidone (a GI drug) has a known side effect of producing prolactin, all of which mimic the hormones in pregnancy. Although it is possible to induce lactation without the hormones using breast stimulation alone, it is much more difficult and may result in less milk being produced. I followed the regular Newman-Goldfarb protocols listed on the Ask Lenore website (see HERE). She has a lot of great resources and answers to common questions, including more information about domperidone (I bought mine from an international pharmacy HERE and it was shipped to our US address).

If you are interested in learning more, there a number of good resources on the web with much more information than I’ve given here! Here are some of the ones I used:

Websites

Books

Other Resources

  • Lact-Aid – breast supplementation (requires suction)
  • Medela SNS – breast supplementation (free flow)