When we first found out we were adopting, one of my biggest concerns and disappointments was that I was not going to be able to breastfeed Jackson. I consider myself to be a very healthy person, I won't consume dyes, GMO's and I eat mostly organic, usually grassfed. I despise prescription meds and use homeopathy whenever possible to stay healthy or heal my body. I understand and value the benefits of breast milk and was also aware of all of the crap they put in baby formula, including corn syrup (GMO), So if I wouldn't consume that myself, how would I have our child survive solely on formula the first 6 months of his life? I feverishly started researching donor milk banks and formulas, it was actually kind of depressing to say the least, almost all formulas contained things I wouldn't put in my own body, and the cost of (screened) donor milk was out of our budget.
One day while speaking with fairy godmother (Libby) - I told her how upset I was about not being able to breastfeed, it was nearly a deal breaker, I actually had considered not adopting because of it. She quickly let me know that I could breast feed. I was dumb founded, had no idea.....she said research it, so I did. And what a surprise! Women who have never had babies, or even those that had and dried up or gone through menopause, could bring in a milk supply through a process called induced lactation. You don't have to be fertile, of child bearing age or anything! Imagine the sheer shock and awe that struck over me! I thought to myself as freaking crazy as it sounds, it's absolutely fantastic!!!
After a bunch of research, I was again reconsidering whether I would go through the process of induced lactation. The long, intensive process called for hormones (birth control pills) and after everything that I had been through over the five years of infertility and trying to get my health back in check with my autoimmune disease(s), I decided I couldn't digress by manipulating my hormones (yet) again. The thought process was, I have to be in good health to care for my child, so if I put my body through the ringer to produce milk, but wasn't physically well, then I would be doing our son
and family a disservice. So I was at an impass, torn between feeding him formula and jeopardizing my own well being to breastfeed. And while nutrition was a top priority, I was also most concerned with missing out on nurturing and bonding with our son. So I had many reasons to seriously consider finding a way to make breast feeding happen.
I continued to research and found out that while not as successful, I could still bring in a milk supply with out taking birth control pills. Once I discovered that option, the last hurdle was trying to determine how I would be able to breastfeed at the hospital. I didn't necessarily feel comfortable with sharing my plans with Halie, but there was no way to hide it either. The baby would be considered hers until she signed the papers and I wouldn't have a way to feed him privately anyway, so again I was concerned if it would be worth my months and months of countless hours of preparation if I wasn't going be able to attempt breast feeding in the hospital immediately after he was born, during the most critical time of establishing a bond and good latch. I also has to consider the fact that she
could still change her mind about the adoption and there I would be grieving while lactating. Not an ideal situation.
As with every other aspect of this adoption however, the cards continued to fall perfectly into place and when the opportunity presented itself, the perfect ideal situation, I committed myself to making it happen. A couple months prior to Halie's due date, we were on our way to one of her appointments. During the drive she asked me if I knew I could breastfeed the baby. My jaw nearly hit the floor, as I was a) amazed she knew about this (her pregnancy counselor at school informed her and asked her if she thought I would be the type of person interested) and b) open to the idea of me doing so. We engaged in a bit of dialogue and after getting her approval - I quickly took the steps necessary to begin the process.
Step 1 - was to purchase or buy a hospital grade breast pump. I decided to rent one which approximately $150 for three months versus $1k to purchase, who knew those suckers were so expensive?! (No pun intended) I immediately began pumping very 2-3 hours every day.....and would continue to do so until baby arrived. In addition I purchased and started taking a bunch of supplements that help with milk production. I purchased most of them at whole foods or through my naturopath. Some of the supplements included mothers love, fennul Greek and moringa. The second day I pumped I had a clear liquid drop appear. Apparently our mammary glands store clear fluids to keep them primed and ready for a milk supply. So what I was seeing was not actually milk, but encouraging none the less. I saw a real slow natural progression. First I had a colostrum come in, (not the same as a pregnant women's, but a barren version. ) After that I started to see multiple drops of fluid that was not yet milk, but somewhere in between colostrum and milk. Because I was unable to pump at work, for a multitude of reasons, but primarily choice...I used hand expression during the work day and resumed to pumping in the evenings. I quickly learned that I actually produced more volume doing hand expression than I ever did with the hospital grade pump.
After over a month of the induction process, I was still only producing drops, not even enough to start saving and storing. It was encouraging that my body was doing something that it technically shouldn't be at the time, but it was also discouraging because I was nowhere close to a suitable supply to feed our son.
I was part of an online forum and quickly learned that there was a medication available that the side effects actually helped produced milk. The drug is domperidone and is actually sold over the counter in other countries and used for digestive issues. The side effect increases prolactin levels which is ultimately responsible for milk production. After careful consideration, I decided that I would give it a try, as a last ditched and somewhat desperate measure. I ordered the meds online and they arrived within 2 weeks. Within a week or so of slowly increasing my dosage to get up to an effective level, I started to see a decent increase in supply. I was up to an ounce a day of creating and now storing milk. I couldn't believe that my body was cooperating for once, albeit through some minor manipulation.
I still wasn't producing enough to provide a full supply to Jackson, but also knew that some milk was better than none, and that when I began to bring him to the breast that my supply would eventually increase. Just like with any mother that has given birth, it's a supply and demand cycle, so the more I fed him, the more milk I would produce.
I did have to supplement after a week of exclusively breast feeding, and I chose to use the lact-aid supplemental nursing system (SNS) to do so. This system allowed me to feed him at the breast while simultaneously providing him formula through a small tube that was taped to my breast and he would get formula from while feeding from me. And if your interested, after tons of research, I decided to go with Baby's Only Organic Formula. While it's not perfect, or breast milk, it was the best formula on the market that I could find.
A week after coming home from the hospital all of us became ill. I was sick for over 2 weeks, and hubby and Jackson were sick for over 5 days. It presented challenges for us with feeding. Jackson and I both got frustrated so I resorted to expressing and adding it to his bottles. I began to feel awful about not bf'ing and remembered all the reasons why I chose to breastfeed, and it wasn't 100% for nutrition. So after I felt better and spoke with my doctor, I decided to go back to breast feeding, however I chose to breast feed for 15 minutes and then bottle feed afterward for 15 minutes. Fortunately Jackson didn't have issues with nipple confusion and I keep him on a slow flow nipple, so he doesn't get used to a faster flow and start rejecting the breast. This was the best case scenario for us. While the lactaid is a wonderful invention, it was simply too cumbersome and time consuming for me personally.
Most of my friends and family know that I went through this process and that Jackson is breastfeed. I have received a tremendous amount of support from everyone that I have shared with. I do know however that there are adoptive moms who have been criticized for wanting to and/or successfully breast feeding their adoptive child. I cannot possibly imagine why anyone would have any Issues With such a natural and beautiful exchange between a mother and child...not to mention all the benefits of breastfeeding. Jackson's pediatrician was so super impressed by my attempt and success that I am actually the talk of his office (and proud).
I am sharing my story because I want to spread awareness about adoptive breastfeeding and how induced lactation is possible. It's been happening for many years (look up wet nurses) and I am proud and honored to say that I am still breastfeeding our 2 month old son. It's something I never thought I would be able to do, especially with a child that is not biologically mine. If you know someone who is adopting please be sure to let them know this is an option. I am forever grateful that my dear friend Libby let me know that I could and encouraged me to do so.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me....I would be happy to share more details.
With all of that said, motherhood is amazing, I hope to get back to blogging more regularly now that I feel like I have this mommy hood thing down better.
Happy Valentines Day!!!