Breastfeeding An Adopted Baby

Recently, I was asked about an issue related to induced lactation. It brings us to the question of breastfeeding an adopted baby. Many may wonder if it’s possible for an adoptive mother to breastfeed her child. Although it is unlikely for a mother who have not gone through the pregnancy process to stimulate her milk supply enough to fully breastfeed, it is still possible to breastfeed an adopted child. However, the adoptive mother must set expectations at a reasonable level.

Galactagogues are medications and herbal preparations used to increase breast milk production. However, galactagogues alone will not increase breast milk supply. It actually needs doctor prescription for sufficient milk supply. It is not advisable to resolve the problem without any medical health consultation.

Commonly available galactagogues are domperidone (Motilium®) and metoclopramide (Maxolon®, Pramin®). In clinical practice, Domperidone side effects in breastfeeding women have occurred rarely when compared to metoclopramide (Maxolon) which is another galactagogue. Breastfeeding women who take metoclopramide may experience symptoms such as depression and drowsiness. For this reason, domperidone is a preferred galactagogue.

For prescription of drugs, always check with your doctor or pharmacist. Besides the galactagogues, frequent stimulation meaning unrestricted breastfeeding frequency is crucial as it helps to increase prolactin, a hormone involved in the formation and production of milk. If a mother does not breastfeed, prolactin levels typically return to non-pregnant levels by seven days postpartum. For this reason, it is always recommended to breastfeed more than eight times in a 24-hour period in order to avoid the decline of prolactin concentrations before the next feeding. In addition, stimulating both breasts at the same time increases prolactin levels by about 30%. Unrestricted breastfeeding frequency also accelerate breast development and stimulate milk production. Frequent expressing of breast milk also increase production.

Co-sleeping with baby will increase time spent breastfeeding and the frequency of night feeds. Prolactin secretion is enhanced in the night. It is also known as the ‘great sensation hormone’. Many breastfeeding mothers note feeling very relaxed during breastfeeding. Mothers can increase prolactin via baby suckling, breast pump and hand expression. If you are using a breast pump, it is better to set low vacuum pressure to avoid injured capillary.

Spousal support is very important too as it can be quite stressful for mothers who aim to produce enough milk supply. Some help and positivity from the spouse helps the mother to carry on with breastfeeding.

Mothers who want to breastfeed their adopted baby could also use a breastfeeding supplementer. It is a device that allows a baby to feed from the breast and receive extra milk while doing so. Ultimately, mother and baby learn breastfeeding through practice. Practice makes perfect.

Many herbal preparations such as caffeine, hops, fenugreek, fennel seed, blessed thistle and alfalfa have traditionally been used to increase breast milk production but there is little published research to support their effectiveness in increasing milk supply or their safety to mother and infant.

Breastfeeding women who are concerned about their breast milk supply should consult with a lactation consultant or other health care provider. Among the good references to check on drugs are:

•Hale TW. Medications and Mothers’ Milk. 2004. Pharmasoft Publishing. 11th Edition. Texas USA.

•Pharmacy Department, The Royal Women’s Hospital. Drugs and Breastfeeding. 2004 Melbourne, Australia.

•Caswell A, ed: MIMs online. Mims online database 2005 [subscription required].

Written By:

Ms. Wong Hui Juan is a Nutritionist at Petaling Jaya Health District Office, Ministry of Health Malaysia.

Ms. Wong Hui Juan is a confident, self-motivated and all-rounded nutritionist with experience in assessing nutritional needs, subsequently designing and implementing personalized nutrition programmes for clients. Passionate in empowering communities to achieve better nutritional status, especially by inculcating healthy eating habit among young children. Able to communicate complex information on dietary matters in an understandable form to patients. Working freelance as a lactation consultant and nutrition speaker to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.

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