My Superpower, or 10 Things You Should Know About Adoptive Breastfeeding

If I had to claim a superpower, I would want something like invisibility, or the ability to read minds. Okay, I confess: I’m midway through Season Three of Heroes on Netflix. Superpowers are SUPER cool and I wish we could have that option, but we don’t.

One time though, I was told by someone I barely know that I DO have a superpower. I thought she was being silly, but after thinking about it, I think she was right. I did something that most people I know didn’t think could be done.

My superpower was the ability to breastfeed my adopted baby.

1. It’s not easy.

Inducing lactation is one of the hardest things I ever did. Medication, herbs, pumping, nursing, pumping, nursing, and drinking lots of water!

2. It’s not sexual.

I simply don’t understand a culture that looks at breastfeeding as a sexual experience! It is intimate, in a mommy-baby relationship way, but definitely not sexual. Even worse are people who look at adoptive nursing as some sort of weird creepy thing. It’s no different than nursing your biological baby, with the added layer of work you have to put in to do it. In almost every other country besides the US, it is not only accepted but in some cultures, expected.

3. It’s not about the milk.

This was the most profound realization I had. The milk is a very welcome benefit, but when it comes to adopting a baby, breastfeeding provides a strong bonding experience. Ask any breastfeeding mother about her nursing relationship with her baby and she will describe something so unique, you know that the only way to have that is to do it.

4. You won’t get lots of milk right away.

I remember a La Leche League leader telling me to “just nurse and you’ll get milk.” Maybe some ladies do, but also maybe not. There’s more to it than “just nurse”. It happens gradually, unlike the 3rd-day-postpartum-hello-b*obs experience I had after giving birth. But the awesome thing is that it did happen!

I confess to wanting a red cape with a big B on it at that point!

5. You may never get a full supply.

A full supply seems to be everyone’s goal, but I refer you back to #3. If you’re nursing for the development of a breastfeeding relationship and bonding with your adopted baby, you need to be satisfied with what you can get. I had a full supply when my son was around 9 months old. He still nursed on demand, and at that point, I had enough that between me and the bits of food he was eating from my plate, he had plenty. I stopped using my SNS when he was around 9 months.

6. You will need to supplement milk.

This doesn’t need to be done away from the nursing experience, however. There are two at-the-breast supplementers available now: The SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) by Medela, and the LactAid Deluxe Nursing Trainer System. I was able to nurse easily and discreetly using an SNS with formula in it. If you have access to a milk bank, or a friend with lots of frozen breastmilk, you may never need to give your baby formula at all.

7. Some people will be offended by what you’re doing.

Have no fear, some people are offended by any woman doing what her breasts were designed for. Nursing your adopted infant or toddler just adds another reason for people to freely share their opinions with you.

8. You will need to take a medication and supplements.

They helped me bring in and keep my milk supply. This is called The Newman Protocol, and it is the sole reason I was able to nurse my son for 14 months. I got very good at taking capsules. You do need to continue to take them for the duration of your nursing experience. Tedious, but worth it.

9. Some foster care and adoptions agencies support adoptive breastfeeding and some don’t.

Use common sense in discussing it (or not) before you have finalized your adoption. We were fortunate to have two *very* supportive social workers. You may not be so lucky. Don’t risk your adoption over it.

10. It is absolutely, positively worth it.

Nursing my adopted son was the hardest, best thing I ever did. I rejoiced over every milky-drooled smile and every milestone he hit as he grew. He’s taller than me now, with a manly voice and a fantastic sense of humor.

And I’d still take that red cape.
READ OUR STORY: ABF: Evolution of a Breastfeeding Mom

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