Debunking Common Myths about Adoptive Breastfeeding
By Alyssa Schnel
Adoptive breastfeeding is an idea that is exciting to some people and intimidating—or even disturbing—to others. Some of the negativity around adoptive breastfeeding is based on popular misinformation. Myths, if you will.
I have spent the last dozen years researching adoptive breastfeeding. I have worked with hundreds of adoptive families and I am an adoptive parent myself who nursed her baby. I hope to debunk some of the myths I have commonly come across when it comes to adoptive breastfeeding in the hopes that it will feel more positive and accessible for more families.
Myth 1: An adoptive parent needs to take medications in order to make milk.
Fact: An adoptive parent can bring in milk without taking medications.
Some parents take pharmaceutical medications in order to help them bring in milk. Some parents will take herbs or homeopathic remedies to help them bring in milk. Others will use only physical techniques for bringing in milk. In fact, it is only the physical techniques of breast emptying that necessary for bringing in milk. Adding in medications, however, does tend to result in significantly more milk production for most adoptive parents.
Myth 2: An adoptive parent needs ovaries in order to make milk.
Fact: It is not necessary to have ovaries in order to produce milk.
The hormones for milk production are released from the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. If you have a brain, mammary tissue, and a nipple, then you have the equipment for lactation.
Myth 3: An adoptive parent needs to pump in order to bring in milk.
Fact: It is not necessary to pump in order to bring in and grow milk production.
It is necessary to empty the breasts in order to make milk, which can be any combination of hand expression, pumping, and nursing. Some parents will use all three of these techniques, some will use two, and some only one. If pumping is not a fit for a particular parent, then they can bring in milk with hand expression and/or nursing.
Myth 4: A certain amount of lead time before baby arrives is necessary in order to breastfeed.
Fact: It is not necessary to have any lead time before baby arrives in order to begin the process of making milk.
When there is a lead time, there are some additional options available and it is more likely the parent will be making a substantial amount of milk when baby arrives. Fortunately, there is so much more to breastfeeding than making milk. In fact, breastfeeding does not even require any milk production at all (see next myth).
Myth 5: An adoptive parent must bring in a certain amount of milk in order to successfully breastfeed.
Fact: It is not necessary to bring in a full milk supply or even a partial milk supply to successfully nurse a baby.
It is not even necessary to bring in any milk to successfully nurse a baby. Some parents will bottle-feed baby for nutrition and nurse for comfort and connection. Other parents will exclusively feed at breast with little or no milk production by using an at-breast supplementer.
Myth 6: The composition of milk that adoptive parents produce is not healthy for babies.
Fact: Research shows that the milk produced by an adoptive parent is comparable to the milk produced by a birthing parent.
Even if the parent is using medications to help bring in milk, their milk will not contain any artificial hormones, because the only time artificial hormones are used is to prepare the breasts for lactation and not once the adoptive mother is making milk.
Well, that is a lot of what adoptive breastfeeding isn’t! If you would like to learn more about what it is, and how specifically it can be done please join me for our upcoming free webinar for adoptive parents and parents-to-be on Wednesday August 30 7:00pm Central/8:00pm Eastern. Sign up here for From Zero to Breastfeeding: Inducing Lactation or Relactation in 3 Steps or Less: https://sweetpeabreastfeeding.17hats.com/p#/lcf/bhkckhnhdpwpxkpdkgngtpxksfbgbgvw
Alyssa has been helping parents and babies with breastfeeding for the past 16 years and she has been accredited as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2009. Her private practice, Sweet Pea Breastfeeding Support, provides individual lactation consultations either in person or by phone or videoconference for parents throughout the United States and beyond. Alyssa is also the co-host of the Breastfeeding Outside the Box podcast geared towards families breastfeeding in extraordinary situations. Alyssa enjoys working with all parents and babies, but she has an extra special place in her heart for helping non-birthing parents to breastfeed their babies. She is the author of Breastfeeding Without Birthing: A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers Through Adoption, Surrogacy, and Other Special Circumstances. Alyssa is the proud mother of three breastfed children, two by birth and one by adoption. Learn more at www.SweetPeaBreastfeeding.com