If you are in the first stages of becoming an adoptive mom you may still be in the later stages of coming to terms with your infertility (maybe not but I was when we first got started). Adoption is a very special and personal choice to make to grow your family and sometimes nature helps make that choice for you. No matter how you came to the decision that adoption was/is going to be the way your family is created, it is a beautiful gift paradoxically fraught with loss.
Adoption can mean for some people a final goodbye to certain idea’s that you may have once taken for granted; like the excitement of planning an announcement, or the first kick in your tummy, or this primal amazing idea of your body nourishing your baby’s – the ultimate motherly task of nursing. Breastfeeding has always been something that I looked forward to as a mother. I really felt that it was such an amazing connection between mother and child that no other person could have – something that really solidified that mother-child bond. After we knew that I was not going to grow a baby within me, my belief that breastfeeding was off the table for me and my future child was heartbreaking to say the least. I may have cried over that more than the loss of other ideas in my mind. Maybe it has been the most difficult idea to let go because of our desire to adopt an infant and envisioning that I wouldn’t be able to meet that psychological and primal desire to nurse the child that I held in my arms and loved so deeply.
Thanks to my inability to let things go, I learned through research that adoptive mothers can nurse their adoptive infants or toddlers for comfort and attachment and also induce lactation to produce nutrient and immunologically rich milk! Even drops of my breastmilk would be immensely beneficial to our long dreamed of baby. I was elated!
Though I have felt like my body has let me down for not being able to have a baby and serve its most basic primal duty, that fact that it can still do this other miraculous task has been healing for me. Even if a low supply proves an issue, and this is not uncommon for breastfeeding mothers by birth or adoption, there are amazing products for supplementing at the breast to increase lactation and ensure the breastfeeding relationship is established and maintained. What is most important to remember is that breastfeeding is about so much more than just nourishment, it is also about building a relationship, providing connection and comfort.
I am learning that inducing lactation is not easy, there are lots of protocols to choose from and lots of pros and cons to wade through with each one. The protocol that I have chosen with my doctor includes a 9 month birth-control regime with the addition of another drug which happens to stimulate the pituitary gland to increase protactin levels in your body. After letting my body prepare itself for the same length of time it takes to create a baby, I will stop the birth control and start pumping as much as a new mother and her infant would be feeding, to further signal my body to keep increasing milk production. Best case scenario is that by the time I am ready to pump, my husband and I will be matched with an infant and can have him or her to do the the work by breastfeeding, as babies are far better at expressing milk than breast pumps.
I must confess that once we made the decision to induce lactation, I was worried about what my doctor would think when I walked into his office looking for a very specific combination of drugs that for my file are medically unnecessary. After all, I’m infertile, why would I need a nine month prescription for birth control? The other drug is generally prescribed for gastric issues, none of which I have ever required. So I armed myself with a huge print out of the protocol and handed it to my doctor as soon as I walked in, and he barely batted an eye before preparing my prescriptions with his only stipulation being that I take a monthly EKG to make 100% sure that we were on top of any potential issues. My pharmacist recognized the combination of drugs and asked me if I was inducing lactation and was so excited for our journey and even requested that I come in and keep him up to date on our progress. All my fears with my professional team were debunked, and I was so relieved.
My main concern or worry now is the reaction of our friends and family to our decision to induce lactation given how little it is known that any woman can breastfeed without birthing. Of interest, women breastfeeding children that are not biologically related to them is an age old practice around the world where communities of women help to raise one another’s children. Some may be familiar with the term wet nurses, where lactating mothers have breastfeed children in need for various reasons. Our plan is to slowly introduce the idea to friends and family so that hopefully by the time we have a baby in our arms (and latched onto my breast) the people who are around us will be informed and supportive of this important relationship I will be establishing with our son/daughter. After all, like any new nursing mother, we will need to the support of our close family and friends. Baby steps though right?
If you are interested in finding out more about our journey to become adoptive parents or are interested in learning more about inducing lactation for adoptive nursing, feel free to subscribe to my blog www.babygallawayadoption.wordpress.com. Adopt4Life also has links on their website for information on adoptive breastfeeding at http://www.adopt4life.com/breastfeeding-1. The valuable resources include links to the Jack Newman Clinic, the book ‘Breastfeeding without Birthing’, the Ask Lenore website for details on the Newman-Goldfarb Protocols for Induced Lactation, and a closed Facebook group named Adoptive Breastfeeding.