Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Exclusive Pumping

Angela Soo Hoo gave birth to her eldest sons, Nicolas (11) and Landon (7), and breastfed them without issue. She and her husband, Luke, planned to adopt a third child. For Angela, breastfeeding is beyond the “best” choice for a baby–she feels very passionatelybaby breastfeeding that breastmilk is the optimal food for babies. Since she had been successful nursing her older two children, she felt confident she could induce lactation to breastfeed their third child.

“For me, that’s how to feed a baby and how to be a mom,” says Angela.

Angela and Luke planned to adopt a newborn baby, and Angela began researching induced lactation. She pored over books like Breastfeeding without Birthing by Alyssa Schnell, The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West, and The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Dr. Jack Newman, who co-created the Newman Goldfarb protocol for induced lactation.

Since Angela intended to adopt a newborn, she wasn’t concerned about getting her baby to latch because of past experience, and so she focused her research on building a supply of milk. She found the books so helpful in discussing supplementation and breastfeeding situations that were atypical. When her family got a call regarding a baby who was 2 months old, their plans changed and they brought home baby Daniel, now 5 months old.

Angela says, “He had been fed bottles up until that point, and that was a consistent comfort in his life. I have not been able to get him to latch.” When Daniel came home, Angela didn’t feel like she could take away his familiarity with the bottle. As he grows older, “he has no concept he can get milk from my breast,” she says.

So–she is pumping for him.

When she realized Daniel wouldn’t latch and she’d have to exclusively pump his milk, Angela set a goal to reach a supply that met 50% of Daniel’s nutrition needs. “I wanted to breastfeed, and so that was hard for me,” she says. “I thought, if I can’t get him to latch, I can continue to make milk for him and feed him. And that has been my focus.”

Angela got only 2 days’ notice before adopting Daniel, so she started the accelerated Newman-Goldfarb protocol immediately. She had already spoken with her Ob-Gyn when her family was looking into adoption, and so she had prescriptions for birth control pills and for Domperidome.

Angela took the birth control pills for about 6 weeks, before switching over to herbs (she takes Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek) in addition to the Domperidome. She now maintains a pumping regimen with a hospital grade, double-electric breastpump, with sessions every 3 hours around the clock.

In the beginning, Angela was pumping only drops of breastmilk, which she fed to Daniel with a medicine dropper. After a few weeks, she reached her goal of a 50% supply. “My family threw a party,” she says, noting that this has been something they are all working on together. Luke brings Angela’s pump out to the family room while the couple watches television together in the evenings and carries it back to the bedroom for her middle-of-the-night feedings. While she pumps, he feeds Daniel his nighttime bottles.

Angela is homeschooling her children, and she says exclusive pumping is very challenging and very time consuming. She has tried everything to get Daniel to latch, from finger feeding to nipple shields, and driven to another town to meet with lactation specialists and discuss Daniel’s health concerns, and continues to offer the breast occasionally, but “even though I want to feed him at the breast, he is just not able to do that. He may at some point, but he may not.”

She says, “I believe in breastmilk, and even though the pumping is time consuming, it’s not forever. I keep telling myself it’s not forever, and I want him to have breastmilk more than I want him to have formula.

Angela’s family continued to encourage her, and Angela herself doubted she would reach this milestone, but as she has kept careful track of her production, she realized she was producing a full supply of breastmilk for Daniel. When we spoke on the phone, he had not had formula for over a week.

The Soo Hoo family does a lot of traveling–the nearest compounding pharmacy for Angela’s medication is 40 minutes away, and some of Daniel’s doctors are located out of state–and so Angela purchased a Purely Yours pump in addition to her rental so that she could be more portable and still maintain her supply. She has also purchased multiple sets of flanges to cut back on the amount of dishes she has to wash in between pumping sessions.

“I think I might slowly stop getting up in the night to pump,” Angela says, noting that as her other children started sleeping longer overnight, her body and supply adjusted. “I’m not sure how that will work with my supply in this situation, since I’m not nursing an actual baby…I’m using the pump, which is very different.”

She hopes to maintain pumping milk for Daniel for one year, noting that ordinarily she sees a year as a minimum for breastfeeding rather than an endpoint. “But pumping is so time consuming and so difficult” for the entire family.

The work seems worthwhile to the Soo Hoos, especially when Angela is pumping and looks down at Daniel and, overcome with love for her son, feels the tingle of letdown.

Angela’s advice for families considering induced lactation would be to try as hard as possible to get the baby to breast, because “breastfeeding is so much easier than pumping.” Angela also says she hadn’t researched other situations as carefully and felt less prepared to be exclusively pumping. “I’d tell other families to read about other experiences–we thought, for instance, we’d be getting a newborn, but the plan changed.”

Angela did not know anyone in real life who had induced lactation, and so she felt a lot of encouragement from reading stories of women who had been successful in their efforts to do so. She says, “There were a few stories I would go back to read over and over, just to remind myself that they did actually make milk. This made me believe I could really do it. And I did!”

Did you induce lactation to feed your baby? Leave us a comment to share your experience.

1 comment to Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Exclusive Pumping

  • Chelsea Berry

    Congratulations Angela & Luke. You are pioneering in a very important undertaking. Hats off. Don’t get weary in well-doing!
    Love you, Chelsea

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