Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby


By Patricia Abby Berg

rg-adoption-consulting-breastfeedingWhile not often talked about openly, breastfeeding the baby that you have not birthed has been happening since the dawn of time. Historically, the woman who breastfed a child that was not her own was considered a  “wet nurse.” It might have also been a relative who nursed a baby when their mom was not available.

Fun fact! You don’t have to be pregnant, ever have been pregnant, nor have any past experience in breastfeeding to do it. Actually, you don’t even need to have a uterus! Breastfeeding is always an option and it’s important to know you can do it even with a baby that you have not birthed!

Alyssa Schnell’s website, as well as her book, “Breastfeeding Without Birthing,” are great resources that offer support to those who choose to breastfeed without birthing.

Women throughout time have nursed, for many different reasons, babies that were not their own. In some instances, it may be the only option or the healthiest option available. It may be for bonding purposes, or in order to provide the immunological and antibody benefits that breast milk provides. A big part of breastfeeding is also what is perceived as part of becoming a parent. For the parent that has struggled with infertility, the opportunity to breastfeed can be a very healing process.

Just as there are many reasons that women choose to breastfeed a child they have not given birth to, there are also many ways of going about doing so. This ranges from doing nothing more than breast stimulation to pharmacological concoctions. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way.  

It is important that you find someone to support and guide you! Find someone who will explore all the options available to you so that you can choose the path that feels right. It’s a personal journey and experience that once you choose to embark on can leave a lasting and fulfilling impression on you and the child you are breastfeeding.  

For more information on breastfeeding without birthing, reach out to an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. They will talk you through what is important to you and help you create a plan. They will guide you along your path to breastfeeding and help provide appropriate resources and support groups. There is also more great information here.

Patricia Abby Berg is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Patricia feels that her role is to provide families with current research-based information from which they can make informed decisions that are right for them and for their families and to support families so that they can achieve their breastfeeding goals. Check out her website.


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  • Dina July 27, 2018,

    looked into breastfeeding and donor breast milk. As far as inducing the production of breastmilk goes, this can be difficult to time. Even if you have an adoption match, you may not have 4 months lead time or the birthmother may change her mind upon birth. I though this would have been devastating to me, so I chose not to try this route.
    Donor breast milk was my next thought and I even had a friend of a friend offer to donate. I talked to the pediatrician once our son was born. The doctor was concerned with the donor system possibly not being well regulated. At this point, I ran out of energy to figure it out. I’d love to hear more, but I do think the donor system is a question.
    Lastly, while there was a part of me that felt I missed out on something as a new mom, I also felt my husband and I were truly on a level playing field with our son. He could care for him in all the same ways and we were both able to bond successfully with our son.

    • Rebecca Gruenspan July 27, 2018,

      Dina, thank you for sharing. Yes, I was going to mention donor breast milk, but hadn’t done the research. There are a bunch of articles on it and I know there are milk banks in certain areas, which could be a good option as well. I never considered the prep and then potential fall through. Great point. There is so much to think about.

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