It’s time for this year’s Orphan’s Day and conversations about Islamic adoption (kafala). The recent years have witnessed a dramatic change in the people’s mindset regarding kafala, especially following the awareness campaigns started by moms and community groups as Kafala in Egypt.
One of the biggest misconceptions about adopting a child is the inability to breastfeed your adopted baby if you never gave birth before. Many new moms love to breastfeed their adopted babies to create a bond through skin-to-skin contact in addition to the endless health benefits of breastfeeding. We’re trying to help women who are willing to breastfeed their adopted babies and don’t know how to do it.
Naturally, lactation is triggered by a complex interaction between three hormones; estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin during the third trimester of pregnancy. At delivery, levels of estrogen and progesterone fall, allowing prolactin hormone to increase to produce breast milk.
Induced lactation is all about successfully replicating this process. The good news is that induced breastfeeding has nothing to do with fertility or the health status of your ovaries or the uterus, as the hormones responsible for milk production are released from the pituitary gland located in the brain.
How to induce lactation:
- Hormone therapy
- Frequent pumping
- Hand expression
Always remember that this should be done under the supervision of a specialist as it doesn’t work for all cases and might have side effects because of certain medical conditions. It works if you have time before starting to breastfeed as it might take up to six months. Hormone therapy – like supplemental estrogen and progesterone – mimics the effects of pregnancy.
The second step is stopping the hormone therapy two months before breastfeeding and pumping with an electric breast pump. Some lactation consultants also advise taking herbal medications, along with hormone therapy, that helps in increasing milk production. Hormone therapy is not a mandatory step to induce breast milk. You can stick to manual techniques only like pumping.
Pumping encourages the production and release of prolactin. When you first start, pump for five minutes three times a day. Try to pump for 10 minutes every four hours, including at least once during the night. Then, increase the pumping session to 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours. Continue pumping while breastfeeding the baby.
If it’s difficult for you to use a pump, you can follow the hand expression technique instead. Sometimes it’s more efficient than pumping. If you seek the best results, massage your breasts first with your fingertips or a warm towel by working evenly around the breast and stroking gently downward the areola. Watch the video below for the hand expression technique.
- Wash your hands.
- Get a clean container with a wide mouth like a cup.
- Sit leaning slightly forward to help the milk flow.
- Find your sweet spot. It’s the area on your breast where milk flows out the fastest when compressed. Try different finger positions until you find it. If your areola is large, your sweet spot may be inside it. If it’s small, it may be outside it.
- Gently pressure on areas filled with milk. Press fingers toward the chest wall, not toward the nipple. Compress thumb and finger pads together pushing in, not pulling out toward the nipple. Never squeeze the nipples.
- Switch breasts every few minutes.
Bringing the baby to the breast
The bright side is that you can breastfeed your baby. A formula-fed baby would need more time, but might eventually accept the breast if placed skin-to-skin on the mother’s bare chest. There are some techniques that can help like sleeping near your baby and carrying it frequently. Remember that the more your baby suckles, the more breast milk you will have.
The most important technique that you won’t read about in books is believing in yourself. Remember that you already took a great step and not being able to efficiently breastfeed your adopted baby is not the end of the world. Believe in yourself and do it without putting stress on yourself. Your baby needs a happy mother more than he/she needs a lactating one.
Don’t compare yourself to others, breast milk flow differs from one woman to another and is dependable on many factors. Remember that even if you can only induce a little amount, it will benefit your baby.
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Sources used in this article:
- Toddler and infant health – Mayo Clinic
- Breastfeeding without giving birth – La Leche League
- Breastfeeding your adopted baby – Breastfeeding USA
- Relactation and induced lactation – Australia Breastfeeding Association
- Hand expression – Breastfeeding USA