Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Breastfeed an Adopted Baby

I'm not surprised at this, really, but by far the most frequent question I get about the adoption is "How do you do THAT?!?!" when people find out that I'm nursing my sweet girl. I've been researching this for so long that I've almost forgotten what it feels like to not know this is possible. And as I was recently reminded when talking with some friends of mine, the methods I used are relevant to many other situations, breastfeeding after mastectomy, breastfeeding with low (or just insufficient) milk supply, and breastfeeding after hysterectomy, etc.

This post, unlike so many of mine, has a short version: hormones and plastic baggies.

I'm sure the hormones part makes sense, even if you couldn't immediately name the hormones involved and their biological roles, anyone who's got passing familiarity with the reproductive system knows that its functions are hormonally regulated. There are basically four hormones involved in making a woman lactate, and three of them are available (directly or indirectly) through medicines. For the deathly curious, the three I mentioned are estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin. The only complicated thing about the prolactin is that the drug recommended to increase it in your system (Domperidone) is only available from what's called a compounding pharmacy and the use of it for inducing lactation is considered off-label. That said, it's also considered safe. The other two hormones, obviously, are available via standard birth control pills, though high-progesterone pills are recommended for this purpose. There is so much more detailed information available on this, if you're interested, at Ask Lenore. There is a whole protocol there, which is what I followed, on when and how to take the meds, what to do if you have lots of notice, if you have little to no notice of your adoption, if you can't take the birth control pill, and all the other variations on my situation you can imagine.

As for plastic baggies, that's all part of what is called a Supplemental Nursing System. There are two big providers out there, Medela SNS and Lact-Aid. I use the Lact-Aid system because of reviews I read like this one. Basically, it's easier to use in more situations and holds up better to long-term use, which adoptive nursing certainly calls for. What it does is let baby take formula from a plastic bag via a tube at the breast, so s/he is getting all the breastmilk available, but is also getting his/her nutritional needs met, and because suckling stimulates supply, the formula supplementation actually serves to sustain mom's supply.

That's the basic gist of it, and I hope the information is useful to someone else out there. I wouldn't have known about this if it weren't for a similar post in an online journal, so I'm here to spread the word.

1 comment:

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Oh I hadn't been around in a long time I guess! Congratulations!!!! I knew someone a long time ago who prepared for a baby she was supposed to be adopting and actually got her milk to come in, but then the adoption fell through. :-( She did end up with a family one day though.