Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

Information and Tips for Adoptive Nursing

Mother and baby
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Breastfeeding an adopted baby is not always easy but it's definitely possible. The biggest challenge is building a milk supply. If you have been pregnant, had a child or breastfed in the past, you may be able to relactate, or re-stimulate your body to make breast milk. If you have never delivered a child, you can try to induce lactation by stimulating your breasts or using galactagogues to help your body create a milk supply.

Every mom and every situation is different. Some women are able to build and maintain a healthy supply of breast milk while others may struggle to produce just a small amount. It may take weeks to see any results from medications, pumping and breast stimulation. Additionally, the stress from the adoption can get in the way of making milk. That doesn't mean you should get discouraged; it doesn't matter if you can only produce a small amount of breast milk, or even no milk at all, you can still breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is about more than just nutrition. It promotes a strong emotional bond, a healthy sense of security and a feeling of comfort for both you and your child. Plus, even just a little bit of breast milk can provide your child with many health and developmental benefits that can last a lifetime.

Tips For Nursing Your Adopted Child

  • If you know when your child will be arriving, you can start stimulating the production of breast milk ahead of time. Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about medications or herbs that can be used to help you create and maintain your milk supply. Regular pumping and breast stimulation will also be helpful.
  • If your child is a newborn, he may take the breast easily, but an infant who is use to taking a bottle may have more trouble nursing. The longer a child has been bottle fed the harder it may be for him to learn to breastfeed. However, your baby can learn to take the breast even after being bottle fed. Be consistent and try to offer the breast for each feeding.
  • Encourage your child to latch on and nurse as often as possible. The more you put your baby to the breast, the more you are stimulating your body to produce milk.
  • Take your baby to his doctor for regular monitoring to be sure he is getting enough milk, gaining weight consistently and growing at a normal, healthy rate.
  • It is very likely that you will have to give your baby a supplement while you are building your supply or if you are only able to produce a small amount of milk.
  • If you do need to give your child a supplement of donor breast milk or an alternative source of nutrition you can use a nursing supplementer device. A nursing supplementer allows you to provide your baby with the nourishment he needs while he is nursing at your breast. This is a great way to stimulate your breasts and help to increase your milk supply.
  • Use a breast pump and massage your breasts in between feedings to further stimulate your breasts. By increasing the demand for milk you are telling your body to increase the supply.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes enough calories to support the production of breast milk.
  • Getting an older child to breastfeeding may take some time. Begin by building a relationship. As your child starts to trust you more and more, nursing may become more acceptable to him.
  • Join a local La Leche group. Attending La Leche meetings could be especially helpful when you wish to nurse an older adoptive child. It will give your child a chance to see other children breastfeeding while you can benefit from the support, assistance and encouragement that other nursing moms can provide.


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Gribble, KD. Mental Health, Attachment and Breastfeeding: Implications for Adopted Children and Their Mothers. International Breastfeeding Journal. 2006;1(1):5.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition.  Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

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