Adoptive ( or non birth ) breastfeeding…. true statement. Did I have any idea this was a real thing prior to adoption? Not at all. In short, our bodies are amazing beings and can create milk and nutrients without actually giving birth. So to all my adoptive moms and same sex moms, here is my journey on how I relactated and am now fully able to feed my adopted angel.
As I said, I had no clue that it was even possible to breastfeed a child I had not birthed. In fact, I had even commented to my husband as we drove to the hospital after our “ She’s here!” phone call how different it would be to not have to pump and worry about breastfeeding. Although breastfeeding is wonderful and healthy and an amazing bonding experience, it is a HUGE responsibility and more work than you might think. But I digress. Breastfeeding wasn’t on the radar until day 4 or 5 with our 6 week premature baby that couldn’t handle formula and needed breastmilk. The nurses asked if it was to give her donor milk and I said of course, and that I wished I was able to feed her myself. That is when the one NICU nurse said “ Of course you can feed her, all you need is a breast” ( cue the line from Meet the Focker’s about milking anything with a teet) She got very excited that I was even interested and ran off to get the lactation specialist and that is where my journey began.
The nurse brought a pump to the room I was staying in and gave me the rundown. Some women can just pump and after a few days it comes in. For others, it takes more time and the assistance of herbs such as fenungreek and milk thistle. Lastly, there are some that take some medication to assist in relactating as well. After doing a lot of research, I found out that many people start the protocol way before they are even matched so they can be ready to go for their baby – those people are rockstars!
I began to follow their directions and pumped every 3 hours for 20 minutes. Yes, this means that even when my newborn was sleeping in the middle of the night, I had my alarm set for 2 AM to get up and pump and for 5 AM as well. Basically, you have to simulate breastfeeding for your body to respond. I wanted to be as natural as possible and did just pumping for 3 weeks. When nothing changed, I ordered Domperidone from the internet as my lactations consultant had advised. As a note, Dom is not sold in the US anymore and is actually a medicine for your stomach that has the side effect of lactation. I feel as though if I post the site to get it here that it may be illegal, but I am sure anyone that needs it can use the google search bar. As a warning…. It will come in an envelope that seems sketchy, but it is beautiful all the same.
I continued pumping every 3 hours ( that is 8 times a day for 20 minutes ) and taking 2 dom 3 times a day. Within 3 or 4 days I could feel the tissue changing and some familiar sensations as I had with feeding my own bio children. Day 5/6 after taking down I got mist on my flanges!!! That is such a random thing to be excited about right? I am fairly certain I cried though…. It was finally happening. So I used a sterile swab they had given me and put it in her mouth and she had her first “mommy milk”.
I continued on and within a few more days I was able to get drops in the bottom of my bottle. This was exciting, but also tiring, I am not going to lie. I wondered how much longer did I need to do this until I had real milk coming in? I couldn’t fathom that these drops would eventually turn into anything more. So I would pump and use a tiny syringe to get my 1 or 2 drops out and feed them to my baby girl.
The following week (week 5) it went from drops to 1 ML per pump to 2 ML per pump and more. I decided to start saving it in a bottle so I could give her an official whole bottle of my milk. It took me 5 days, but that week ( the 4th of July week ), I gave her her first full bottle of my milk.
From then on it kept increasing until I would get 1 oz in the AM and ½ oz the other pumps. Then 2 oz in the AM and 1 oz for others. About 8 weeks in we went to FL on a trip and pumping was too much to do all the time, so I let her begin to feed off of me. She was a natural! Her eating what she could made my supply sky-rocket to 3 or 4 oz in the AM and 2 or more ounces all the other times. By this point I upped my dom to 3 pills 3 times a day and let her feed whenever she wanted. By the time I had to go back to work at 3 months she no longer needed formula. Yes, I went from nothing to a full supply of milk in 3 months.
We are now at 7 months and I have 500 oz of frozen breastmilk in our freezer. She eats like a champ! I go and visit her at childcare during the day and feed her over lunch and at night – that along with pumping keeps my supply up.
I feel so happy that the nurse and consultants helped me on this journey and that I was able to make my baby girl a chunky monkey. Adoption is new to us and the added benefit of being able to bond while feeding her is immeasurable. The community of women I have found online going through relactation for a variety of reasons has been rewarding and inspiring and I never would have guessed there were so many. Some amazing groups if you are on this journey are: Adoptive Breastfeeding and La leche League – Inducing Lactation.
Do I cry when I spill a bottle? Yes! You have no idea! Am I exhausted making myself wake up to pump if she sleeps in to make sure my supply doesn’t go down? Yes! But the fact that I am able to feed my beautiful baby girl makes it all worth it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Some notes for those of you that might be thinking about this:
- Most insurance agencies WILL cover your breast pump cost. They require different paperwork or prescriptions from the babies doctor, but mine was fully reimbursed.
- Lactation consultants as some hospitals should be able to help you, but not all are educated on it. If you can’t find one immediately, don’t get discouraged and keep looking.
- When they begin to feed off of you it will still hurt some… it is not all magic and rainbows and takes some time for your breasts to get adjusted. It is still worth it J
- If you are taking dom, fenungreek can actually decrease your supply so be careful.
- Even drops are healthy for your baby, every little bit helps.
- Eating certain foods good for breastfeeding in general, such as oatmeal & moringa help boost your supply. Check out my protein balls that double as great lactation balls.
- Lastly, I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be.
( This post partially written while pumping. Us mom’s are multi-taskers)