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
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.