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Breast Feeding

Breastfeeding an Adoptive Child



Can I breastfeed my adoptive child? I was wondering if age 46 is too late to consider breastfeeding an adoptive child. I have never breast fed but have heard that it is better for the child emotionally and nutritionally!


Inducing lactation is a time consuming effort that requires full commitment. It usually takes four to six weeks for the breast to begin producing milk. During pregnancy the increasing hormone levels stimulate the growth of milk ducts and alveoli of the breast. Without these increasing levels of hormones, more sucking, pumping or expressing of milk is needed in order to produce breast milk. You will need to stimulate your breast to produce milk. The most effective method (besides a baby) is full-size automatic electric breast pump. (These can usually be rented from a hospital or medical supply company in your area). You can begin pumping for ten minutes a few times per day, and gradually increase until you are pumping every two and half hours. It is important to remember that it will take time before you begin to collect even a few drops of milk, so don`t give up after just a few days. The majority of women are able to produce some breast milk, but very few women are able to totally breast feed an adopted child. The amount of milk your body produces after the baby has arrived will depend on many factors. These include:
  1. The Baby: is the baby willing and able to nurse effectively? Interest, age, temperament and previous feeding will all impact this.
  2. Frequency and effectiveness of stimulation: the baby`s suck, the method of breast stimulation, and frequency of breast stimulation. The more effective (the better the baby sucks, and the more he sucks at the breast the more milk your body will produce)
  3. Response to breast stimulation: the way your body responds to the breast stimulation, this is unique to each woman
  4. How long you nursed or pumped: induced milk builds very slowly, and will often reach a plateau, and increase later. Both your age and the fact that you have not breastfed, do not impact your likelihood that you will be able to produce a full milk.

    If you decide to breast feed your adopted child, you should talk with a lactation consultant about your situation, as well as your child`s health care provider. You may also want to see if there is a La Leche League group in your community. Good luck to you.

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Response by:

Tina   Weitkamp, RNC, MSN Tina Weitkamp, RNC, MSN
Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati