Nursing an Adopted Infant

With a large investment of time and effort, some women can produce some breast milk for an adopted infant, a process called "induced lactation." This involves using a hospital-grade electric pump to pump the breasts every few hours for weeks before the baby arrives. It may also involve taking hormone-stimulating drugs.

Even women who have breast-fed in the past generally do not produce enough milk from these methods to meet a baby's nutritional needs, so supplementing is necessary. Many women produce little or no milk under these circumstances. In such cases, some advocates say nursing with a supplemental system and formula still helps build closeness. ("The production of milk, if it happens, is a pleasant side effect of the goal of a happy nursing relationship," according to La Leche League International.)

Others may feel that going to such lengths to breast-feed gives too much weight to the biological aspects of parenthood and adds tension to the adoption process. Parents who are adopting, especially after a difficult period of infertility, need to remember that millions of people revel in parent-child love, closeness, and bonding without breast-feeding. It doesn't take breast-feeding to make a "real" mother.

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