Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thoughts on breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is something I've been thinking a lot about and can't decide what to do. I thought I decided I would not do it, but now am starting to change my mind. Here are the thoughts swirling around.

1. I am of the mind that breastfeed is what newborns and new moms do. My older sister was only weaned because I came along and my mom breastfeed me until I was 18 months. This is despite the fact that all other people my age were apparently formula fed as babies. All babies I remember being around growing up were breastfed, at least for a while. In fact, I was so used to seeing people breastfeed, I was surprised when I became an adult and started paying attention to parent-type articles in the news that breastfeeding was controversial or something that people thought they had to convince someone to do. I mean, in my world everyone did it. Sure, maybe some people had a more difficult time than others and stopped earlier, but it was the default method of feeding newborns and young babies.

So, yes, I want to breastfeed. The thought of not being able to breastfeed reminds me of all the other things I am not able to do (have a baby with my genes, feel a baby move inside me, give birth, etc.). This is one more thing that separates me from all the other mothers out there. Learning that it may be possible to induce lactation and breastfeed an adopted infant makes me think this can be a way to get back all that I am missing.

2. Inducing lactation is unpredictable. Some people can do it with no problem. Some people never seem to get much milk. There are protocols out there that supposedly help to increase milk supply, but having battled infertility and hormonal treatments for several years now--and all the various herbs, supplements, medicines, protocols and everything that goes along with that--I am ready to be done with hormones and herbal supplements. Especially ones that can have side effects, unknown long-term repercussions, and are not approved for the use to which they are being put. I did that with fertility drugs and don't want to do that again.

3. I tend to get frustrated easily. Having a newborn is already a stressful time. Why do I want to add to that stress by trying something that might now work? Especially given how unpredictable it is?

4. Added to the frustration is the lack of control that is involved in adoption. When I read about general breastfeeding advice, everything says that if there is some reason the baby can't breastfeed right away or there is trouble in the beginning, the important thing is to not give the baby a bottle, but use another method of feeding. Or use special nipples. In general do whatever you can to avoid having the baby become familiar with bottle feeding and get the baby on your breast as quickly and often as possible. I tend to laugh at that when I think about how that advice interacts with adoption. I will likely have zero influence on anything that happens to the baby for the first few days. I don't know how this particular hospital thinks about adoption. Some are supportive, but some are not. Maybe if the nurse is supportive of adoption they might think about me. I am going to be spending those first few days stressing over whether the birthmother changes her mind, not what type of nipple the bottle has.

5. If this was a conversation I was having with a real person, rather than in my head, this is probably the point when someone would tell me that breastfeeding an adopted infant is totally do-able. These obstacles can be overcome. They would bring up all the success stories. I don't doubt the success stories. But I do find it odd that when reading advice about breastfeeding aimed toward adoptive parents, it has a tone that is positive and something that comes naturally and is totally possible no matter what. But breastfeeding advice aimed at pregnant women has the tone of the need to persevere and how to overcome all the difficulties you will encounter and how it is totally common to find it not easy to do at all. Do they not think that we read both of these sets of advice? I mean, if people who are pregnant and have bodies with all the right hormones and start nursing right away and have the ability to dictate to hospitals how a baby should be fed have so many difficulties, isn't it even more difficult with all the added obstacles of adoption?


  1. I was totally going to breastfeed my adopted son-as we knew from the minute she was pregnant that the baby would be ours. I started the reglan protocol when she was 4 months pregnant. He was born at 29 wks-totally unexpected. I started the 2nd phase that included more reglan, herbs & pumping every 2 hours. He was in the NICU for 6wks 4days. The stress of it all was too much for me, however I am convinced had he went full term, I would have been able to exclusively breastfeed. My body was responding very well to the protocol.

  2. First up, my apologies for not commenting much recently. Blogger has been endevouring to cause as much frustration as they can in the comment world...

    Breastfeeding... I imagine that it's a tough decision for you. I don't want to discourage you from trying, because I do know of women in your situation that it worked and it was a great benefit to both mom and baby. I took the drugs to help with lactation after Ginny was born, and sadly my experience was not one of the big success stories. The drugs did a number on me, and didn't do much to help with my poor milk production.

  3. I have no advice for trying to work out breastfeeding and adoption, but I will say that my daughter switched from breast to bottle and back again very easily for the first few weeks, until she got frustrated that I wasn't fast enough. Then we stuck with bottles. :)

  4. I did have a very hard time with breastfeeding and eventually gave it up, not because of lack of supply but because of difficulties with the actual act of breastfeeding twins. I think if you were really sure you wanted to do it, you should go for it, but if you're in doubt, then don't be persuaded against your wishes. It is a very hard thing to do, and having a newborn is very stressful. But I have given some thought to eventually having another child, either through pregnancy or adoption, and although I am sure I'd want to try to breastfeed if I carried the child, I'm not sure I'd want to put myself through lactation induction. I read an adoption blog in which the writer is successfully breastfeeding her adopted son, if you want to check it out.

  5. Hey Missy! While I understand your feeling done with supplements, etc . . . I feel as if (to be honest with you about the difficulty of breastfeeding in general, let alone the complications you bring up--which as others have said, an be worked through, but it's an additional obstacle, obviously . . .

    Basically, given the other points here, like that you are frustrated easily, that you want to breastfeed, and that inducing lactation IS unpredictable, I honestly recommend that you consider Reglan and/or Domperidone--from my understanding, it is the difference between possible exclusive breastfeeding (as Rae feels she might have been able to do), and having much less milk than you need, needing to supplement a lot, and basically beinf frustrated and the other issues you bring up having a bigger impact.

    I wasn't sure whether to say this--if you were in a different frame of mind, I would have said: "Yeah, you can do it! Whatever your plan is, I support it!" and while those are still TOTALLY my sentiments, you also asked for honesty about the difficulties and I think you should reconsider (even a TEMPORARY) dose of some type of artificial prolactin which would occur naturally if you had a pregnancy. Using these supplements to BRING IN a full milk supply at the beginning would reduce your frustration (in terms of reducing how much pumping you need to do, and increasing how much milk the baby is getting, making the stress you are under seem more worth it). Once you are exclusively or partially nursing in whatever way is comfortable to you, you might be able to wean off the supplements and your baby will be able to keep your milk in fully without needing any other help.

    But yeah whatever you decide I am totally behind you and very excited that you want to breastfeed. I think it is so cool that adoptive Moms can "build" their babies post-birth by breastfeeding--transferring your own fats, stem cells . . . in a way, breastfeeding makes an adopted baby a physical part of you . . . it's so cool that adoptive Moms are realizing more and more that breastfeeding is a real and awesome option for them and doesn't have to be something they don't get to experience.

    Anyway, my thoughts, take them or leave them! ;-)

  6. Hi - here's my experience with adoprtive breastfeeding (the short version). Took Reglan with 1st son for 2wks (dr wouldn't let me have it any longer b/c of high incidences of side effects), small response, but went on to nurse him for about 5-6months with use of SNS, not sure how much I ever produced, but it was minimal.

    With 2nd son, did birth control/domperidone protocol for over a year. Have been nursing him now for almost 17months, only stopping the domperidone in the last couple of months. I never developed enough of a supply to nurse without the SNS though it was certainly more this time than the 1st time. But nursing isn't just about breastmilk. I wouldn't trade either experience for the world.

    That said, it was also important to us that baby E (2nd son) get breastmilk, so we used donor milk. Check out the Human Milk for Human Babies (HM4HB) facebook page for your state, if you're interested. Baby E has had no formula thanks to our donors and what I produce since he was 3months old.

    The longer version of my bf experience with both boys is on my blog, if you're interested. Feel free to email me with any questions!

    COngrats on your baby-to-be!!!!!!!!!


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