How I successfully breastfed my adoptive children


Kerri Smith
Focus on Adoption magazine

When we adopted our children, it was important to me that they not miss out on breastfeeding. There are proven scientific benefits for children who receive breast milk. Despite improvements in formulas and anecdotal experience, human milk is still the best food for human babies.

However, many adoptive parents of newborns either don’t know nursing is possible, or that there are many ways it can be done.

When we were waiting to adopt a child the first time, I researched adoptive nursing to pass the time and feel like we were indeed “expecting.” I contacted doctors and lactation consultants and asked lots of questions. As is usual, the most useful information came from other adoptive parents.

When Cole came to us, I nursed him with a supplementer (you can see a picture at and produced between a third and half of the milk he ate. Formula filled the gap and he got lots of wonderful nutritional and immunological benefits from milk, along with the extremely important closeness and attachment that is part of the nursing relationship.

For our second adoption, Cole’s birthparents told us they knew someone who was considering placing her baby, and they were giving her our information. At that point, Adam’s birthmother was four months’ pregnant. I started preparing just in case.

After lots of calls and prayers, we found out that she was planning to place her baby with us. She came to stay with us a couple of times and we got to know each other really well. She is a registered nurse, so was interested in breastfeeding and knew I nursed Cole. We are very open in our relationship, and we talked a lot about the process of inducing lactation.

I had contacted Dr Jack Newman of Toronto, who is a leading expert on breastfeeding and was developing a protocol to induce lactation. I was one of the first women to do it successfully and gave him lots of feedback! Hundreds of women have done it now.

Breastfeeding involved taking common medications (synthetic hormones found in the birth control pill), then pumping for a few weeks before baby was born. The only drug you take while nursing is motilium (generic name: domperidone) which is widely accepted and prescribed as a way to increase milk production for biological mamas who feel they need a little boost. I felt comfortable taking it, and there are no side effects to babies. It is even prescribed for infants who suffer from reflux.

I have a full milk supply for Adam, and he is still going strong at eight months of age. It’s so wonderful to have this relationship, and to help other women who want to nurse their babies, whether coming to them by adoption, surrogacy, or biologically. Adam’s birthmother and I both breastfed in the hospital, which meant he never lost any weight, got colostrum from his first mother, got used to me, and was very healthy and happy!

I am now a breastfeeding counsellor, training to be a lactation consultant, and I talk to a lot of parents who are interested in nursing their babies. The medical protocol, which I did for Adam, is the best way to make the most amount of milk. However, the simple act of suckling will bring in a partial supply, and many mothers prefer to focus on the bonding aspect, rather than the volume. There are also herbs and supplements we can use.

Preparing ahead often isn’t possible and there are accelerated versions for quick or unexpected placements, or when someone can’t or won’t take medications. But the most important thing is having the baby at the breast, which can be accomplished at almost any age with help and dedication.