Breastfeeding An Adopted Older Child
I’d like everyone to meet Jenny!
My daughter joined our family via adoption when she was 10 months old. I had followed the Newman-Goldfarb Protocols for Induced Lactation for the previous 12 months so that I’d be able to breastfeed her. I amazed both my husband and myself when I was able to bring in a significant milk supply by the time we traveled to Ethiopia to pick her up. I knew at 10 months old, there was a chance she would not accept nursing at the breast. In fact, she didn’t. My daughter had been bottle fed since birth and quite possibly had never seen a breast in her life. She regarded mine as if they were alien beings and wanted nothing to do with them. But boy did she love her momma’s milk from a bottle! So for many many months I pumped around the clock and fed her my milk from a bottle, then later in a sippy cup. To make a long story short, just after she turned two years old, and just when I’d about had it with pumping and was considering stopping, my daughter decided to latch to the breast. It took about 3 weeks for us to learn to nurse comfortably and regularly. Now we are nursing pros. Even though my daughter had already been home with us for over a year when she started nursing, it has still been a wonderful part of our bonding and attachment to each other. There is a mutual vulnerability and respect when she nurses. And there’s a one-of-a-kind connection that we both recognize. It’s beautiful.
2. What is your view of breastfeeding in public, and why?
(A quick word about breastfeeding in Italy, which is where I live. People here couldn’t care less where I feed my daughter. I love it! If they see us they look, notice, smile, acknowledge and move on. It’s just considered a natural beautiful thing and not indecent in the least. Living here, it’s become very clear to me how hung up the American society is about breastfeeding in public.)
Breastfeeding in public: As a lactation consultant I have always encouraged moms in this area. I had to put my own courage to the test when my two year old finally started nursing. I chose my “first time” carefully. We went to a park on the military base where I work. Ha! Lucky for me it was deserted. We sat down on a bench in the middle of the playground and I nursed my toddler. We saw only one person the entire time my daughter nursed. I don’t think the person was even close enough to realize what we were doing. Still, it was a bit nerve-wracking and I spent the time furtively looking around, checking for observers. Since then we have nursed at the pool, the park, the food court, restaurants, shopping centers and my office at work. My view is, my daughter deserves this milk, it’s not at all about me and my comfort level. That attitute got me over any public shyness very quickly. When nursing around Americans I do try a little harder to be discreet than when I nurse around Italians or other Europeans. And if I do feel a bit uncomfortable, I just look at my daughter and ignore what’s going on around me. But you know, one thing I’ve noticed is I have NOT gotten any odd looks or comments from anyone, even on base. I know Europe is breastfeeding friendly in general, but who would have imagined a military base could be? How cool.
3. What is your view of sustained breastfeeding, and why?
There is a great fact sheet on Extended Breastfeeding at Kelly Mom. It lists several benefits of sustained breastfeeding to both mother and child. The most impressive benefits in my opinion are the nutritional and immunoprotective. Did you know that a nursing toddler can get about 1/3 of her daily calories from breast milk? Isn’t it interesting that non-nursing toddlers get sick more often and their illnesses last longer than nursing toddlers? I also really like the practice of allowing the child to decide when to wean. So much of nursing my daughter is about her comfort and security. As her mother it comes naturally to provide her as much of that as she needs. So you can guess by now that I am in favor of sustained breastfeeding. Actually, I should say I am in favor of child-led weaning, at whatever age the child is when s/he decides to end nursing. No age limit.
4. What is your view of adoptive breastfeeding, and why?
Adoptive breastfeeding amazes me. Physiologically I think it is literally incredible that a woman who has never even been pregnant is able to bring in a full milk supply in order to nurse an adopted infant or child. It’s also evidence of the immense well of love, adoration, determination, empathy, and respect that a mother has in regard to her children. It comes from the deepest mothering instinct a woman can have – to protect and nourish a vulnerable young one. You know how touching those photos are of a mother dog who adopts and nurses an orphaned kitten? Or the story of the 130 year old giant tortoise in Kenya that adopted the baby hippo in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami (www.owenandmzee.com)? Those stories are so moving because they underscore one of our greatest fears, being alone with noone to love and care for us, and illustrate the mutual joy of adoption. While adoptive breastfeeding is a phenomenon most Americans are surprised to learn of, many many adoptive mothers have discovered the healing and bonding powers of their breastfeeding relationships with their children.
5.Is there anything you find unique about your breastfeeding story with your children?
Each mother and child’s breastfeeding story is personal and unique.
6. Is there anything you wish you did differently?
Nope! My daughter learned to nurse on her own time, when she was ready, and she’ll continue to nurse as long as she wants to. This experience has been incredible for our whole family, even my husband and teenaged stepson. My stepson is learning what breasts are really for, that it’s natural and normal to nurse your baby/child. What a healthy thing for a teenaged boy to learn! Breastfeeding is so special to my daughter that she often wants to share her milk with her other parent, her dad. She’ll point to my other breast while nursing, wanting her dad to nurse too (no,we don’t do that, but we think it’s so sweet of her to offer!). Or, she’ll want her dad or brother to sit right next to her while she nurses so she can put her arm around his neck or play with his hair. There are so many awesome things about my daughter breastfeeding. At the very least this has been a wonderful bonding experience for all of us, we wouldn’t change a thing!
7. Is there anything you would like to add?
I am a wife, mom, nurse and internationally certified lactation consultant. I live and work at a US military base in Italy. My daughter is featured on my public blog at www.mygirlscurls.blogspot.com.
I happened upon Dianoche Designs one day and was intrigued. They make paintings that double as a light at night