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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

Tips for Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

I remember when my dear friend Shelby was expecting her first adopted baby. She had breastfed her other children and wanted to nurse this baby too, for both health and bonding. Among her many questions as she walked through the nursing journey was, “Can I breastfeed my adopted baby?” She wanted to do everything she could to prepare for this new little one.

Because so many moms not only don’t have adequate resources and many don’t even realize it’s possible, I wanted to share tips for breastfeeding an adopted baby.

Tips for Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

Breastfeeding an adopted baby IS possible, and it has beautiful and powerful benefits! Just like breastfeeding any baby, it has its challenges, and some mamas experience difficulty. But perhaps even more importantly in the case of adoption, where gaining a new loving family also means loss, breastfeeding is a precious gift that,

…places you and your baby in skin-to-skin contact, which is important both to your baby’s development and the attachments between you and your baby. Some of the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for your baby are better organization of reflexes, stable temperature, and regulated heart rate. Some of the benefits for you include increased milk production, easier breastfeeding, and better oxytocin release.

(Moore, Anderson & Bergman 2009) BreastfeedingUSA



Tips for breastfeeding an adopted baby

While sometimes there is little or no time to prepare, often moms have enough advance opportunity to take steps to induce lactation before their adopted baby arrives. There are several options for inducing lactation, and they follow a varied timetable and resources.

  • Manual Stimulation
  • Pumping
  • Herbal Supplements
  • Hormonal Supplements
  • Baby-wearing and skin-to-skin contact
  • Breastfeeding

Manual stimulation involves massage of the breasts. Medela offers several resources for further tips, but generally adoptive moms begin by combining several minutes of gentle massage with the use of a commercial breast pump, several times daily.

Pumping with a commercial breast pump begins to simulate nursing for the body, and further progresses the preparation for making milk for baby.

While recommendations and claims for effectiveness vary, many adoptive moms choose to use herbal supplements to aid in producing milk. Some herbs recommended as galactagogues, or milk-inducing aids, include Alfalfa, Blessed Thistle, Fennel, Fenugreek, Nettle, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Vitex. Each of these herbs has additional benefits worthy of considering for any nursing mom.

Hormonal supplements are also an option that many adoptive parents choose to help stimulate breastmilk production. Both Reglan and Domperidone are options, but make sure to check side effects, availability, and possible insurance coverage before using any hormonal supplement. And as with all advice, make sure to consult with your health provider for up-to-date advice.

One of the greatest aids to breastfeeding is also one of the best tips for new parents – getting that skin-to-skin contact. It’s best to place baby on the breast as quickly as possible after birth, to help both mama and baby bond and begin the breastfeeding process. (Although I haven’t had the privilege to adopt yet, as a new mom I found I had much more success creating milk to pump when I also had baby there to nurse.)

Breastfeeding itself is the best way to create milk. Even a mama who has no advance notice of baby’s coming can successfully breastfeed. It is important to focus more on the experience and the process, when supplementation may be needed in any circumstance to make sure baby is fully nourished. But continuing to put baby to breast is the best way to help create a supply of milk and a wonderful experience for both baby and mama.


La Leche League has wonderful resources and encouraging stories for adoptive parents wanting to breastfeed. In a Huffington Post article about her own adoptive breastfeeding journey, Allison shares how she prepared using medication before her baby was born, how she used a supplemental feeding system, and how she found the extra work helped her to bond with her baby boy. For her, a new learning curve and investment of both finance and time was worth every connection she made to her son.

Breastfeeding an adopted baby will definitely mean having a deep commitment to any extra work required, and a willingness to be flexible and gentle with yourself in the process.

Do you have any experience breastfeeding an adopted baby?

Angela Sackett is a wife and home-educating mom of five fast-growing, once-breastfed kiddos, as well as a foodie, photographer, and speaker, but before all a daughter of the King. She’s passionate about encouraging women and especially moms, and she writes at Sal et Lux and Dancing With My Father.

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