This post is written to the audience of people who actually intend to do this, but I welcome anyone who is interested in the information to read!
I have shared with many people that we plan to breastfeed our adopted baby. Many questions have been asked, so I’m going to update this post as I go along as to how I was able to induce lactation.
Part One: Gathering Information/Making the Decision
How did I ever hear about adoptive breastfeeding? When I was 16 years old, I read a fictional book by Bud MacFarland. It was the 3rd of his Triology, and it was entitled “House of Gold”. In that book, there was the end of the world, a newborn baby whose mother had died, and an infertile woman who survived. The infertile woman took the child to her breast for comfort only, and fed the baby at her breast through a straw. She eventually found she was producing milk!
Flash forward many years. I’m realizing that we are infertile. Breastfeeding is probably the one thing I would miss most if we adopted…but, was it possible? Was that just a fictional book, or was this a real thing? Folks, it’s a real thing (Yay!). That amazing bond PLUS all the benefits for the little one’s immune system…I was all over it!
Enter many choices. There are so many different ways to induce lactation! I could wait until the baby was born and just use a special device called a Lact-Aid (which is a pouch that holds the milk around your neck with a tube that inserts into baby’s mouth while suckling at the breast). This would allow baby to be fed at breast with either donor milk or formula and the baby’s sucking itself naturally stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete prolactin and bring some milk to the breasts. However, it takes time for the breasts to develop to prepare though, so I didn’t choose this route.
There are many different protocols to begin before knowing baby would be here, at match, and even at placement! The book “Breastfeeding Without Birthing” offers a great look at so many different ways. I chose Newman Goldfarb’s protocol: prepare the breasts by elevating estrogen, progesterone and prolactin before baby arrives (as would occur in pregnancy), then stop the hormones to mimic birth, then pump.
The most difficult decision was “when do I start?”, I believe this is the million dollar question all adoptive breastfeeding mamas ask before getting ready. I felt my heart being pressed to start very soon…only one month after we started the adoption process! The risk of starting too early was having to pump for a indefinite time with no baby…but I was willing to take that risk, believing I would just develop a freezer “stash” and could always donate if I needed to. So, I was blessed to find a lactation consultant in my area who was also an APRN! And she knew about lactation induction!! What a miracle in itself! So I began the Newman Goldfarb Protocol* (see below for resource)
Part Two: Prep Work and Pumping
July 12th I began the hormones (Microgestin 1.5/30) in addition to an anti-nausea medication that increases prolactin: domperidone** (see below for where I purchased) and it was 12 weeks before we got “the call”. I’d started out with the regular protocol, but ended up stopping the hormones a bit earlier (it’s recommended to be on for at least 4 months), which put me onto a modified accelerated protocol.
After I stopped the hormones I started pumping every 3 hours during the day, starting at 4am. The first 2 days I saw only drops of a colostrum-like milk (I don’t say it was colostrum because I have been told you need a placenta for colostrum, but whatever was produced certainly looked like colostrum! It was thick, clear/yellow/sticky and difficult to pump)
By the end of day 3, I was able to collect some drops while pumping and had about 1/4 tsp!!
I was shocked to already have a small freezer stash by the end of 2 weeks! I was so thrilled at how my body was responding so fast! I then started pumping every 2 hrs at home, 3 at work and 4 at night.
I still took the domperidone, and since pumping have included: fenugreek & blessed thistle, mother’s milk tea, goat’s rue, brewer’s yeast, drinking lots of water and eating foods like oatmeal, carrots, sweet potato and greens.
I thanked God for every drop of milk, even in the beginning stages where there wasn’t much milk produced. I got up to 8oz/day by the end of 3 weeks.
But then we got the devastating news. Our birthmother had changed her mind. This was the risk we had taken. Since then I have chosen to continue pumping. I had more choices again at that point: do I limit my pumping and keep my supply at 8oz/day? Or do I keep pumping multiple times to bring my supply up, then slowly wean down the pumping when I’ve made a full supply to be ready for baby? I chose the latter option. My next pump schedule looked like this:
0100, 0500, 0900, 1200, 1500, 1800, 2100
I was up to 13oz by the end of one month! And my new goal was to have a full supply for when we were matched again with (hopefully) the little one that God had intended for us…it seemed possible!!
The lowdown of how my supply built:
6 weeks – 16oz/day
7 weeks – 20oz/day
8 weeks – 22oz/day
9 weeks – 25oz/day
After much research, it seemed that 25oz/day was an average, sufficient supply for a baby from age 1 month to 24 months. I was happy with this number, and soooo excited that I could then start decreasing my pump sessions! I dropped a session every couple of days and after 14 weeks of pumping I was down to 3-4x/day while maintaining 23-25oz/day! I would have weaned to more like 1-3x/day, but engorgement is too uncomfortable. Then I decided I would start dropping supplements. I dropped the Goat’s Rue and the Blessed Thistle. I had long since remembered to take my daily Mother’s Milk Tea. I’d only been taking Fenugreek & Brewer’s Yeast, along with the Domperidone. I was initially taking 80mg/day per the protocol, and took and extra 20mg (100mg total) to help boost my supply when I started pumping. I dropped 10mg here and there, making sure to monitor my supply for a few days and went down to 60mg/day at the 14 week mark, which I have maintained.
Part Three: Reaping the Rewards of Labor
So, there I was, pumping along…having such a hard time with the grief of loss initially, but then feeling better about things as I watched myself meet and even exceed my goals! But 24oz/day starts to add up! My deep freezer was getting very full! I figured I could build up a freezer stash of 6 months worth of milk, in case we were matched with twins, at least I could provide 50% of their milk myself at the breast, and supplement the rest. However, I was informed that there was a baby in need of breastmilk! Her parents were badly injured in a car accident and she was being cared for by a friend. A selfish thought that I need to save the milk for my baby(ies) first took told of me…but then I truly felt a nudge from above that this was what I was meant to do…and even perhaps why I had to go through a failed match while waiting for my baby. I donated about 500 oz of milk (first picture, above) and felt so happy to be able to give to a baby in need while waiting for mine! This message made it all worthwhile:
“Just wanted to update you that both the mom and dad are in rehab now in recovery. The baby is getting the milk you donated every day in daycare and doing well! 🙂 All thanks to you. Thank you so much.”
My arms may be empty, but my heart is full ❤
Special Thanks: To my amazing husband, who supported me so much throughout this process! You are so amazing and I couldn’t have done it without you! From your words of encouragement on days where I didn’t feel I could do it anymore, to washing bottles and keeping my water bottle full. I love you so much. Also a bundle of thanks to Mary Kilburg, who gave me a world of resources and introduced me into the Adoptive Breastfeeding group! And to all my friends who have cheered me on and given me so many tips!
Hope you can find this helpful, as I really relied on blogs of others who have done this before when I got started. One important thing to remember though: Breastfeeding without birthing is not so much about the milk as it is about that bond. There are supplemental nursing systems (I have a Lact-Aid) to feed at the breast, even if you have no milk! The baby suckling will bring in the milk, and even if you only have drops, each drop is full of antibodies!
Good luck to anyone who would like to do this. Though it isn’t for the faint of heart, especially when you are pumping after a failed adoption. Some day I will look back with my baby in my arms, my own body nurturing them and providing them with a form of nutrient that was created especially for them…from me (their Mommy!!), and it will have been so worth it.
*Newman-Goldfarb Protocols on Lactation Induction: http://www.asklenore.com
**Domperidone – an anti-nausea medication (similar to Reglan, but does not cross the blood-brain barrier) that increases Prolactin, I purchased from Thailand at http://www.clickremedy.com
***There is a facebook group for those who are inducing lactation, called “adoptive breastfeeding” (you need to be approved prior to being allowed in, be sure to check your messages “other” folder for an information request from and admin)
****I also highly recommend the book “Breastfeeding Without Birthing”. For those of you local to me, it is available at the Canterbury, CT Public Library for loan (ask and you shall receive!)
*****For those local to me: The lactation consultant who is following me is Andrea Dameron, I highly recommend her! And she’s an APRN, so she can prescribe the hormones, should you choose to go that route.
******The Lact-Aid supplemental nursing system at the breast: http://www.lact-aid.com/
My pump – Medela Pump In Style Advanced. Keep cycling the “let down” mode multiple times throughout pumping.
Hands-free pumping bra…ESSENTIAL!!!! You can make your own by taking an old sports bra and cutting slits into it.
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 OF OUR STORY!!