Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Latching An Adopted Newborn

When Pittsburgher Danielle Edwards found out she would be unable to have children biologically, she says she felt totally fine with the idea of adoption. What made her
upset was the idea of losing out on the opportunity to breastfeed.

“Breastfeeding was always something I imagined myself doing,” she says, “It was just part of my vision of myself.”

As she and her husband, Jonathan, planned the domestic adoption of their daughter Eliana, now 3, Danielle began researching induced lactation. She discovered the Newman-Goldfarb protocol for inducing lactation and had endless questions. Danielle met with a lactation consultant at the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh, which she found helpful, but the visit was not covered by insurance because she didn’t yet have a baby and so this resource became cost prohibitive for her as she prepared to breastfeed the baby she’d soon adopt. She knew she’d use the pediatric practice associated with the Breastfeeding Center, Kids Plus Pediatrics, because one of their pediatricians specializes in supporting adoptive families. But what about her questions before her baby arrived? “It felt daunting,” she baby breastfeedingsays.

Danielle found some support from her local La Leche League chapter and enormous support from an online forum, Ask Lenore, but still needed a physician to help her get prescriptions for the medications she’d need to help her body induce lactation. She says, “I felt nervous, but I went to see my gynecologist carrying this 20-page protocol I’d printed from the Internet. As soon as I started explaining how I wanted to induce lactation, my doctor was so excited for me!”

Danielle says her gynecologist (Pittsburgh-based Dr. SharonEdwards children Baer) went above and beyond, communicating with the doctors who’d written the protocol and finding out additional information. To induce lactation, Danielle needed a birth control pill with a high level of progesterone, so Dr. Baer prescribed Yasmin. In addition, Danielle needed a medication that would raise her prolactin level. Many mothers seeking to induce lactation use Domperidome, which is difficult to get in the United States as it is not FDA-approved for this purpose.

The Edwards Family heard from their adoption agency that they would soon be getting a baby…very soon! “Our daughter’s birth mother was already 8 months pregnant when we found out, and she went into labor 2 weeks early.” The Edwards family arrived in California to meet their daughter shortly after she was born, and from the very beginning, “Eliana did everything at the breast,” says Danielle.

She used a Lact-Aid nursing trainer system to provide formula for her daughter at the breast, while keeping up a pumping routine using a rented hospital-grade double electric breastpump. Danielle’s milk came in when her baby was 2 weeks old and Danielle was able to nurse her for a year with supplementation via the Lact-Aid.

the EdwardsIn 2014, the Edwards family had 2.5 months notice when they set out to adopt their son, Lucas, who is now 2 months old. Danielle was able to work with Dr. Baer to take her medications and began pumping in 2-3 hour intervals a month prior to his birth. “I even woke once every night to pump,” she says, until she built a supply that a 2-week old baby would need.

The Edwards family flew to Texas, where they were present for Lucas’ birth and Jonathan was able to cut his umbilical cord. Soon after, Danielle put Lucas to her breast. She says, “It was amazing. He was right on my chest trying to latch.” She was able to stay in the hospital with Lucas until he was discharged and was able to provide a full supply of milk for him.

Once home in the swing of busy life with two children, Danielle says she hasn’t been able to maintain a full supply. “Until last week, I was breastfeeding him with the Lact-Aid and then pumping right afterward. I’d nurse for 30 minutes and then pump for another 30 to build my supply.” The process became too time consuming. She says, “I can do so many things while I’m nursing. I can prepare breakfast and even put my toddler on the potty with the baby at my breast, but I feel attached to the pump. It was just too hard.”

Danielle said she felt like she had a choice: use her time to pump and feed Lucas her milk in bottles, or else put him to breast and supplement her milk. “I chose to keep him at the breast,” she says. This decision has been a hard one for her, because she worked so hard to build up a supply. But in the end, Lucas loves his time at the breast.

“It’s his favorite place,” she says as he nurses to sleep while we talk on the phone. “I can’t imagine giving him bottles.”

Danielle’s advice for other moms considering induced lactation? “Just give it a try. Inducing lactation seems so natural to me, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.” Before having children, Danielle wanted to breastfeed because of the nutritional benefits. But now, having put her babies to her breast, she realizes the bonding aspect of breastfeeding is very valuable.

“When you adopt, you don’t get that time with your baby inside you. This is another way for them to be so close to you. Once I think about that, it takes away the stress of not having a full supply.”

Have you induced lactation to breastfeed without birthing? Leave us a comment to share your experience!

Your Amazing Montgomery Glands

I’m tandem nursing my toddler and my infant. Currently, my toddler has some sort of virus. I’m nursing him more frequently to help hydrate him and sometimes that means popping one kid off the breast and immediately popping another kid on the same breast.

labeled breast glands and ducts

This diagram points out the various glands and features of the nipple. Image Source.

My husband noticed me doing this the other day and was horrified. “It’s like they’re sharing a sippy cup,” he shouted. He thought I should be washing my breast in between each nursling, regardless of illness.

I can tell you right now that such a thing has never, ever occurred to me. I touched base with a lactation consultant to check my level of uncleanliness, and she said two words: Montgomery glands.

Do you know about these? The Montgomery glands are the bumpy bits on your areola. Their job is to secrete a substance that has multiple benefits.

Studies have shown that the secretions help newborns establish hunger and feeding patterns, that the smell of a baby’s mother’s Montgomery gland secretions affect milk transfer and production and early attachment/bonding.

The glands’ oily substance also helps to protect and lubricate the nipple, keeping the skin pliable and helping to keep things comfortable for mom when she’s embarking on a nursing marathon. According to the text Counseling the Nursing Mother, it’s not a good idea to wash the breast because the Montgomery gland secretion is so important. Washing, “may remove this natural lubrication, dry out the breast skin, and reduce the scent” that babies need to stimulate appetite.

The studies also suggested that the secretions can help wake up a sleepy baby during the day and help a baby fall asleep at night. Pretty important stuff for tired families looking to tank up their baby while the sun shines.

So, in the interest of keeping my Montgomery gland secretions, I will happily continue to not wash my breast multiple times per day when my toddler nurses.

What features of the breast anatomy do you find most interesting? Leave us a comment to share!

Are You the Default Parent?

Have you read this great article that’s been circulating, about this idea of a “Default Parent“? It resonates with me so deeply, particularly as I spent last week sitting by the computer waiting for noon to get my preregistration code for a summer camp this summer. Mind you, I was just getting my code. Later this month, I’ll have to sit by the computer at 7am to actually register for the camp.

Default parents sitting around computers waiting for codes–I tried mentioning this to my husband, and he didn’t even know such things existed.

I don’t mind being the default parent. It’s just hard sometimes when my awareness of it bubbles up. Right now my toddler is pretty sick and needs to go to the pediatrician. There’s no way in the world I want my 5-month-old in that waiting room, exposed to all the other germies. So I have to let my husband, the non-default parent, take my toddler to the pediatrician.

It’s hard! I want to be comforting my sick baby, holding his steaming body. But I also am the keeper of the information about him. I know the answers to all the questions about symptoms and shots and the last time each vomit happened.

I’m also the one providing the breastmilk that keeps our young baby alive.

And the one who knows all the information about our older son’s drop-off and what goes in his backpack and what time the schoolbus comes.

I’m the project manager of our family, and I’ve got it all down pat pretty well. The chain falls apart a little bit when all the information that lives up in my brain needs to somehow be communicated to another grownup taking over part of the load. I could write it all down, but what’s the point? How often does my husband need to actually pack up a homework folder before the procedure shifts?

In the end, it’s not that big of a deal if my husband has to text me to ask a question at the pediatrician’s office. It’s hard for him, too, to be the non-default parent. But he’s still the dad, and our boys turn to him for love and comfort, even if they don’t bother to ask him where their Lord Business underpants are. I can scrounge up a bit of coping chocolate for myself while I sit home with my other babies and love them extra hard until their sick brother comes back for a spot on my lap.

Are you the default parent of your kids? Leave a comment to share what incidents raise your awareness of this!

Supporting Breastfeeding at Family Functions

I’ve breastfed babies in lots of public places. I’ve nursed my boys everywhere from a boat in Belize to a bench at the zoo. I often expect to get the stink-eye. Sometimes I sort of dare someone to say something negative to me so I can advocate for mothers’ rights. But I’ve never, ever been hassled for nursing in public.breastfeeding sign

The only time I’ve ever gotten some flack has been at a family function. I think this is true for a lot of women–their families are the harshest critics of their nursing relationship.

We were so excited to hear from Pittsburgh mom Mel, who shared this great sign her aunt displayed in her driveway at Thanksgiving. Both Mel and another relative had very young babies, and the hosts wanted to make sure these new moms got the prime parking spots to avoid lugging babies and gear up the block.

Mel says the hosts made a point to show the new moms their library/office as a quiet place “if any of the babies needed to be away from all the noise and distraction downstairs. They had a comfy chair and a place to do diaper changes, too!”

Mel says her family boasts a lot of elementary teachers, which she thinks helps the extended family be more welcoming to young babies and “more accepting of differences in parenting.”

How great to feel so supported by extended family!

Has your extended family supported your breastfeeding journey? Leave us a comment to share your story!

Have You Tried the Coffee Nap?

I first read about the “coffee nap” during my baby’s first sleep regression. Now, we’re in this funky place where he really only naps for one sleep cycle, so 22 minutes. On the button! It’s frustrating. On my home days with my kids, I’ve also got a two-year-old floating around, so I don’t often . . . → Read More: Have You Tried the Coffee Nap?

Shoveling My Walk with Young Kiddos

I’ve got a small driveway and sidewalk in addition to some porch steps I need to take care of during bad winter weather. Sure, my husband shovels and salts before he heads off to work in the morning, but usually when it snows it keeps on going such that we have to go out . . . → Read More: Shoveling My Walk with Young Kiddos

Breastfeeding When GI Bugs Strike

I dread January not because of the cold temperatures, but because the close, indoor contact with everyone else spreads nasty gastrointestinal illness. Last winter, the first time I tried parenting my two boys solo during my husband’s business trip, my toddler and I were struck with GI bug. And I was pregnant! It was . . . → Read More: Breastfeeding When GI Bugs Strike