Tips on breastfeeding an adopted baby.
I am no expert on the topic of breastfeeding an adopted baby and I don’t have a particular list of resources to help. What I do have is experience in breastfeeding two adopted babies. When Chuck and I began the adoption process back in 2001, we knew that we would love for me to be able to breastfeed an adopted baby. Why? For the simple reason that we believe it is the healthiest option for babies and that it would help with their attachment. Chuck and I didn’t set out to adopt a baby. We were interested in providing a home for a child who needed one and agreed to take a child up to age seven (the age of our oldest child at the time). Imagine our shock when we ended up with a four-week-old baby! I was 33 weeks pregnant with Jubilee when Mordecai joined our family. I decided to wait until our baby was born before I attempted breastfeeding for a couple of reasons:
1) I did not want to bring on premature labor (I have successfully breastfed through pregnancies, but that is a different situation from starting at 33 weeks).
2) We decided it would be easier for Mordecai to breastfeed if there were an abundance of milk to “reward” him for his effort.
Mordecai and Jubilee, seven years old
Deciding to wait until Jubilee was born did not mean I wasn’t busy preparing to breastfeed.
There are two things I did to help ensure success while breastfeeding an adopted baby:
1) I was the only person who fed Mordecai his bottles. I wanted to make a very strong association between Mama and food.
2) I carried Mordecai in a sling as much as possible so he would become very “attached” to me.
By the time Jubilee was born (and Mordecai was 2.5 months old) his suck was still disorganized. He often times still struggled to bottle feed (an issue he didn’t outgrow until he was nearly a year old). I waited for a few days until my milk had come in then attempted to breastfeed Mordecai. Our first feeding was a dismal failure. Mordecai had no interest in my breast and the session ended in tears. As I bottle fed him the solution suddenly came to me. I waited until Mordecai was just waking from his next nap and rooting around for his bottle, still half asleep. I took advantage of his sleepy state and stuck my nipple in his mouth. Since I was engorged from Jubilee’s birth my milk began to flow immediately. Mordecai then gulped and sucked in reflex to the gush of milk. After a few days of this, he caught on and within weeks I was able to phase out the bottles and completely breastfeed both babies. In the end, I breastfed both babies until past their first birthdays.
Avi 3.5 months and Tucker 3 days old
Three years later we were in almost exactly the same situation. Avi joined our family when I was six months pregnant with Tucker. We followed the exact same steps: I gave Avi all of her bottles and carried her in a sling much of the day. Avi was 3.5 months old when Tucker was born and took to breastfeeding better than he did in the beginning! She had no issues whatsoever, though it was quite painful for me in the beginning. Let me assure you, a three-month-old and newborn suck very differently.
Avi and Tucker, happy, healthy breastfed toddlers.
In the end, Avi and Tucker both breastfed for 15 months, self-weaning when they got too busy to want to stop and nurse. I can honestly say, that breastfeeding my two adopted babies was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Breastfeeding a new baby is hard enough without adding a two or three-month-old baby as well. The babies and I both shed some tears in the process, but it was so very worthwhile to all of us.
I loved breastfeeding my kids–and I always wish I could help women who give up too early or think they have to quit when a teething baby takes a sudden chomp. That happened to me and I yelped and the baby did get the message . . . it was as though he’d realized “Oops! Better not do that again.”
Anybody who has trouble: remember Lalecheleage.org or call any experienced mom.
Baby Avi looks like she is going to punch Baby Tucker. So cute.
You are totally blessed to have been able to do this, twice! I absolutely LOVED breastfeeding my adopted daughter (and would do it again in a heartbeat)! I wish we could have nursed for longer. And yes, it is hard work, but oh so worth it!
Another thing to add: using an SNS with expressed milk can really help with nursing an adopted baby, especially if the adoptive mom isn’t currently fully lactating.
Amazing story! What a blessing. Thanks for sharing!
You are truly amazing. I’m currently breastfeeding my 23 month old biological child while pregnant with our second and it is very challenging some days. I think it’s brave and courageous to adopt and even more so to breastfeed, especially while while pregnant and raising other children. Thank you for sharing your story. Your children are beautiful.
Thanks for sharing your story. Breastfeeding my adopted babies was incredibly difficult, but I’m so glad I did it.
About Mordecai’s disorganized suck–did it eventually right itself without intervention, or did you do anything about it? We have a baby, born three months premature (not adopted), with a very disorganized suck. I breastfed my first no problem and assumed that it wouldn’t be an issue with the second, even with her prematurity, but there’s just something wrong with her sucking or swallowing that nurses, lactation consultants, early intervention, and I haven’t figured out yet. I finally gave up nursing at at five months and now pump exclusively (I was already having to pump and supplement with high calorie fortifier because she wasn’t growing). She doesn’t need the high calorie fortifier anymore, but she still is lousy even drinking a bottle (we’ve tried different nipples and some are much better than others, but none are great). She expects food just to land in her belly, of that I’m sure, but obviously the root of a port into her stomach is not want we want (and thankfully, there’s no need of it). She’s growing well now, but it’s because I spend 30-50 hours a week feeding her and pumping. She’s seven months now and is absolutely perfect and charming except for the frustration of getting her to eat.
You have such an amazing beautiful success story in nursing your adopted kids …when they are grown and realize that you gave them the same start in life that their biologically-born siblings got, they will be so grateful!
Thank you, Delia 🙂
That’s awesome! 🙂 My adopted kids were far too old to breastfeed, but I sure missed that “instant comfort” for a cranky toddler!
What an amazing testament to your love for your adopted babies. I have always wondered how mom’s can adopt when they have young children of their own-like wouldn’t the love be different? But this shows that you can love them all the same. They were part of the family all the way, even fed from the same breasts. I applaud you for loving these children, and thank you for sharing your story!
Thank you. My babies have been my babies, no matter where they have come from. I didn’t worry about *me* bonding with them, I was more concerned about the other way around. When you get up in the night, change diapers, walk with a baby through fevers, etc, they are yours…
As a breastfeeding mother, I say, you are AWESOME! What a journey and the dedication you and your family had to do your best and provide for all of your children the best way you knew/felt how. I love that you breastfed not only your own children through birth, but also those you have received into your life! 🙂
Thank you! It was very difficult, but I am so glad I persevered and was able to breastfeed them.
Beautiful kids! Thanks for linking up with Adoption Talk!
I love that you are sharing this. Sadly I’ve seen a lot of judgement toward adoptive breastfeeding which is such a tragedy. Either that or I’ve seen people have no idea it is even possible. Thank you for sharing your experience!
We adopted our children quite a bit older so this wasn’t something I thought about. But I know it’s such a great way to foster attachment between mother and child. I am so glad you decided to share about this, I don’t read a lot about it in the adoption community.
Thank you for sharing your story!