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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Breastfeeding your adopted child possible?

Is it possible to breastfeed your adopted child if you haven't been pregnant or had a baby. Apparently so. I've set up my google account to email me all news on anything related to breastfeeding. Honestly, most of the stuff I get isn't interesting enough for me to spend the time making a post about it, but this story about An Adoptive Mother's Decision to Breastfeed really touched me.

"We found out that we would need to adopt, I shortly after learned that I could still breastfeed. "

How is this possible I wondered? If the adoptive mother wasn't pregnant, could stimulating her breast alone be enough to make her produce milk? A few months prior to the baby being born, the woman in this story (along with her gynecologist) did research and in preparation for her adoptive son's birth, she began taking a lactation inducing prescription called Domperidone, along with lots of pumping and herbal supplements, and sure enough she slowly but surely started producing milk! Once baby Lucas was born, he had no issues with latching and through some simultaneous supplementation using the Medela Supplemental Nursing System the mother was able to breastfeed her adopted son!

How incredible is that!? And what an amazing way for the mother and baby to establish a really strong bond! I've always said one of the sad / hardest things I'd have to sacrifice if I adopted a child would be not being able to breastfeed that baby, but now, after reading this article, I feel that wouldn't be an issue at all. I really hope this story inspires more gynecologists to encourage women who cannot conceive, and plan to adopt, to consider breastfeeding their adopted children.

The story also makes me wonder, is it possible then for a mother who wanted to breastfeed but couldn't, to try again, say 3 months after her baby was born? I wonder if a woman who breastfed in the past, would be able to start up a milk supply years after it dried up, maybe without the lactation drugs, just with pumping because her body already had an established milk supply at one point? The concept that a woman who never even carried a child could breastfeed opens so many other possibilities. In the past you could only get breast milk from a women who was currently lactating because she had had a baby. Not any more.

In my freshman year of high school, I first learned that in the olden days, the wealthy had "wet nurses" to breastfeed their children. My English teacher explained the role of wet nurses while we read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Juliet's nurse spoke of how she raised Juliet and how as a baby she would suckle at her breast. At the time, I thought it was totally bizarre that any mother (wealthy or not) would chose to have someone else nurse their child. If a mother couldn't breastfeed back in the day, it made sense to find someone else who could feed the baby, but this wasn't the case. Women chose to have a wet nurse breastfeed their child as a status symbol to show their wealth. At any rate, I couldn't help but think of the term "wet nurse" when I read about this woman nursing her adopted child.

I wonder if in the future, the role for wet nurses will make a come back or if a high demand for breast milk will create jobs for women to simply make breast milk (without the need for these women to have been pregnant or while nursing their own baby)? How might this change the formula market? Can you imagine a factory of women whose job is to go to "work" and sit down and pump? Instead of a barn of cows, there will be a cubicle farm of women pumping every few hours, all that milk being pooled together and then bottled and sold to the public. Or what about a missionary group? I could see a group of dedicated women (years after having babies and being pregnant) re-establishing their milk supply to travel to countries where maybe a natural disaster hit and breast milk is needed for these starving babies who may have lost their parents. I'd probably sign up. Once you get that milk going, as long as there is a demand your body will keep on producing. I'd love to go from country to country, spending time as a wet nurse for starving, sick or dying babies. Ugh! The idea just kills me...in a good way! Like, I love the potential of what these could mean! Maybe those nuns who run orphanages could take this drug, pump, and feed these babies who need more holding time anyway? One of the downsides to breastfeeding, for me, was the idea that either you could do it or you couldn't, and that window of opportunity was very narrow. Now there is no time barrier and there isn't even the stipulation that you had to recently be pregnant and/ or be currently breastfeeding.

On a personal note, if I couldn't breastfeed (after pumping, supplementation and taking lactation drugs) I would prefer to use a wet nurse or surrogate mother's milk over cow or soy milk based formula. I don't think I'd be comfortable with my baby actually nursing on another woman's breast, but if it's in a bottle I'd prefer my human baby to get human milk over any alternative. Can't wait to see how this breastfeeding breakthrough will impact our and our children's future!

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