Breastfeeding is not just for biological moms. With the right support and some basic equipment, adoptive moms are discovering that breastfeeding is a viable - and beneficial - way to get babies off to a healthy start.
It's not as simple as putting a baby to the breast, says Dr. Anne Eglash, medical director, at the UW Health Lactation Clinic. A woman's hormones need stimulation before the body knows to produce milk. "The breast has to develop, like a tree in the spring," says Eglash. "When a woman becomes pregnant, hormones tell the breast to develop. As the breast ripens through pregnancy, the hormones of the placenta tell the body to get ready, get set."
If a woman has given birth - or had a miscarriage or an abortion - she has an easier time lactating. Breastfeeding is obviously more challenging for a woman who has never been pregnant, and adoptive mothers shouldn't expect to have a full milk supply, but it can work. "The goal should be to put the baby to the breast and nurse," says Eglash.
When Janet Parker and her partner, Walt Novash, decided to adopt a newborn, they found a La Leche League book, Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby and Relactation. "I actually didn't realize it was possible to breastfeed an adopted child, but when I learned about it I thought I would give it a try," says Parker, who is breastfeeding her adopted daughter, Masha, 7 months.
"When I'm breastfeeding in public I like to tell people, because otherwise they might wonder what I'm doing if they know that my baby was adopted," says Parker. "Like so many good parenting and baby-care strategies, this has always been common in traditional societies and in other parts of the world. It's been sort of forgotten about in our society."
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continuing for one year or longer, stating that breastfed infants have lower rates of respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal problems, allergies, obesity and more. Considering these health benefits - and the bonding that comes with the physical contact - it's only natural that some women are willing to undertake some rigorous preparation to nurse babies they didn't give birth to.
As Masha's birth approached, Eglash suggested frequent use of a breast pump. Once Masha came home, Parker used a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS), a bottle with tubes that can be placed next to the nipple. When Masha sucked, she got milk from the bottle (either donated breast milk or formula) along with the milk that Parker produced, and the suckling stimulated milk production. Eglash says some women benefit from birth control pills (which essentially simulate pregnancy but need to be stopped at least a month before breastfeeding) and drugs that increase milk supply. Other women use herbs, like fenugreek.
Monica Vohmann, a family medicine and obstetrics physician at Group Health Cooperative, had already breastfed her biological daughter when she and her husband adopted their son Jaden when he was 10 days old. "He was very interested in breastfeeding from the get-go," says Vohmann. "Around month three, he was still wanting to nurse on me all the time, so I decided to just do it." She dedicated a 10-day vacation to relactation, latching Jaden onto her breast every three hours. The combination of the SNS, pumping, Chinese herbs and a couple months of taking Domperidone (an anti-nausea drug sometimes used "off-label" to stimulate milk production) worked.
Vohmann nursed Jaden for 15 months. "It was very nice when Jaden was three or four and he would come home from preschool and say, 'Was I in your belly?' I'd have to say, 'No, you weren't in my belly, but I breastfed you; you were at my breast all the time.' That physical connection, I think, meant something to him."
Eglash says it's fairly rare in her practice for women to inquire about adoptive breastfeeding. "Most of my patients who adopt would never consider it. I think they don't see it as part of adoption. One thing that makes it really challenging is that they don't know when they will get the baby."
"It was very challenging," says Lia Gima, a full-time mom and home-school educator in Milwaukee. She and her partner, Barbara Basaj, began considering adoptive breastfeeding about a year before they adopted. (Their children are now 9.) Gima's mother, a lactation consultant, started them both on herbs and supplements, and both women began pumping and filling their freezer with milk as the birthmother's due date approached. On the morning the biological mother went into labor, the couple discovered they were adopting twins.
Gima says it was tricky keeping enough milk in the house for two babies and coordinating nursing with the SNS tube. But it was worth the struggle.
"Breastfeeding and co-sleeping really helped with attachment, which can be tough for adoptive families, as children who have experienced trauma often have trouble receiving the love their parents have to give," says Gima.
Despite the fact that their twins began life in NICU incubators, they are now "amazingly strong and healthy," says Gima. "I credit the breast milk."
"I feel probably the same as any mother who breastfeeds," says Parker, baby Masha cooing at her breast. "Having those times every day of calm and close time with my baby is really special. All those benefits are equally important for a child who is adopted."comments powered by Disqus
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.