By: An Adopt4Life Community Member
When my son was born, my husband and I rushed to the hospital to witness his birth. We were incredibly excited, but unprepared. The baby was two weeks premature and we had only been matched a few days prior. That's the challenge with adoption. There are no prenatal classes and months of preparing for a birth.
The hospital nursery provided formula to feed to the baby, but I was curious about breast milk. Having worked in international development organizations specializing in the health and well-being of children, the importance of breastfeeding was ingrained in me.
Research has shown that even a small amount of breast milk contains a large amount of antibodies that help boost a baby’s immune system. Breastfeeding also proves skin-to-skin contact which is very beneficial to babies. Plus, it helps increase mother and child bonding and attachment
All adopted children have experienced the loss of their birth mother —even if they are placed with adoptive parent as birth. The physiological aspects of breastfeeding can comfort a calm baby in a way that bottles and pacifiers cannot. The physical intimacy can benefit both the child and mother by providing physical and emotional relaxation and reducing stress.
I was referred to the hospital's lactation consultant. She informed me that the hospital only had limited amounts of breast milk available and that it was reserved for very premature babies who have difficulty digesting formula. She referred me to Dr Jack Newman—a renowned breastfeeding expert in the Toronto area.
I eagerly looked Dr Newman up and discovered that he led the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic. The clinic's website offered detailed information and videos on breastfeeding. I sent them an email to request guidance on my situation and to my delight they responded within hours!
I was surprised to find out that it was not necessary to have been pregnant in order to produce breast milk. In fact, many biological mothers have difficulty producing sufficient breast milk to adequately nourish their babies. The key requirements in the Newman protocol were to use an electric breast pump and take a drug called Domperidone which helps to induce lactation.
I visited my family doctor right away to get a prescription for Domperidone and rented a hospital grade breast pump from a local baby gear store. But I wondered how I should feed my baby in the meantime? The clinic recommended using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) that you attach while breastfeeding. It uses a feeding tube to deliver formula to the baby to ensure they're getting adequate nutrition. It also helps to prevent nipple confusion that can result from switching back and forth between breastfeeding and bottles. I decided to buy the SNS and try it.
I was shocked when I started to produce breast milk in just two weeks! But after a couple more weeks I found that when I used the breast pump I could only produce about an ounce of milk at a time, which was not enough to feed my baby. Also, I found the SNS very cumbersome and didn't know how to manage sterilizing it in between nighttime feeds.
I shared my concerns with another lactation consultant. She suggested that when feeding my baby, I could just start by breastfeeding and then offer formula in a bottle to complete the feed. This was a lot easier for me to manage despite not following the official protocol.
I found that breastfeeding comforted and soothed my son in a way nothing else did. He fell asleep a lot faster when he was upset, he calmed down a lot faster than when my husband and I tried to soothe him in different ways. That provided me with a sense of empowerment, relief and calmness. The intimacy of breastfeeding also gave me a special feeling of bonding and closeness to him.
Whether or not to breastfeed is a very personal decision for both biological and adoptive mothers. In my opinion the feelings of both the mother and child need to be respected in making a decision either way.
For more information, you can visit the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic website at: