If you’re in the process of adopting a baby or you’ve recently become the proud parents of an adopted child, you may be looking at breastfeeding them rather than bottle feeding.
Inducing lactation is a method which allows a parent to feed their child their own breast milk, despite it not being their own biological child and not having gone through the stages of pregnancy.
What is The Purpose of Inducing Lactation?
For moms who have recently given birth, inducing lactation is usually standard practice. However, if you haven’t carried your child throughout pregnancy, you may be wondering if such a concept is naturally possible for you.
Health experts and professional bodies continually talk about the health benefits of breastfeeding, as opposed to offering formula milk, particularly during the first 6 months of a babies life. So, it’s little wonder that all parents want to give their baby the best conceivable start.
However, for a parent who hasn’t naturally delivered a baby, inducing lactation offers many other benefits besides that of health, including:
- The chance to develop an early bond with your baby during feeding times.
- A way of encouraging your baby to recognize the scent of you as their mother.
- The opportunity to play the wonderful role of your baby’s natural mother.
How Easily Can You Induce Lactation?
If you haven’t been through pregnancy, inducing lactation, unfortunately, doesn’t happen instantly. However, this doesn’t always make it impossible, it often just means that a little patience and perseverance is required. In some cases, you may need to resort to more complex measures, to induce lactation, such as taking hormones under the supervision of a medical professional.
In any case, it’s possible to try a few different methods of inducing breastmilk, these methods primarily involve either some form of stimulus, hormone therapy, or the use of a specialty feeding device.
Seek the Guidance & Support of a Health Professional
A professional lactation consultant, doctor or midwife will provide you with up to date guidance on inducing lactation and will be able to put together a personalized plan for your specific circumstances. They may also talk to you about taking certain medications and may recommend a course of hormones to help induce the process.
Using Hormones to Induce Lactation
As mentioned, health professionals may recommend taking a course of hormonal birth control pills to induce lactation without pregnancy.
This method essentially works by mimicking the same hormonal cycles associated with pregnancy. These same pregnancy hormones, which trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant, then encourage the production of milk in the breasts.
This method works best when the pill has been taken over the duration of a couple of cycles as it gives the body a better chance to get used to thinking it’s pregnant. Then, when you do stop taking this pill, your body naturally assumes that you’ve given birth, and when coupled alongside the act of breastfeeding, is more likely to begin the process of lactation.
How to Induce Lactation by Using A Breast Pump
Perhaps one of the more simplistic ways to induce breastmilk without pregnancy is by using a regular breast pump. By stimulating your breasts, mimicking the suckling of a baby, your body may begin to respond to the perceived “demand” for breast milk.
You can easily stimulate your breasts by giving them a gentle massage for 5 to 10 minutes, followed by the use of a hospital-grade electric breast pump for a further 5 to 10 minutes.
Using the breast pump method can take a couple of weeks before you begin to see any visible results. Even when you do begin to see signs of a milk supply, it may only be a small amount to start with. However, this should be considered a victory and with time it is possible for you to build your milk supply from only a few drops to a substantial amount.
Inducing Lactation by Breastfeeding
If you aren’t keen on the idea of using a breast pump to stimulate the production of breastmilk, you can try breastfeeding itself, which works in pretty much the same way. You can attempt this as soon as you have your baby in your arms.
Though you may have to resort to other methods of feeding during this time to ensure your baby gets their feed, putting your baby straight to your breast as soon as you can is crucial here.
Several lactation experts widely encourage the possibility of asking a close family member or friend if they would be willing to allow you to try stimulating breastfeeding with their baby.
They claim this not only encourages your milk supply to come in but also allows you to gain first-hand experience of positioning when feeding. It also promotes the additional stimulation of hormones through such cozy cuddling sessions.
Specialty Feeding Devices
Another method involves the use of a Speciality Feeding Device. One such example is the Supplemental Nursing System (SNS), which allows you to feed your baby right from the breast.
This system enables you to feed breast milk you have expressed, donor milk or formula via a silicone tube positioned at the nipple. This provides both mother and baby with bonding time and the stimulation of the nipple may also induce lactation, which over time may help you increase your milk supply.
Improving Lactation with Supplements
There are several medications and herbs known as galactagogues that are widely reported to help support and increase milk supply. Most of these can be purchased quite readily and accessed at local health food stores, or online, usually over the counter without the need for a prescription. Examples here include:
- Goat’s Rue
- Blessed Thistle
Although none of these herbs are reported to induce the lactation process itself, many breastfeeding mothers report that it has benefited their milk supply.
Inducing Lactation Requires Patience & Persistence
Finally, alongside the practical and physical element of inducing lactation, the mental and emotional side is also a powerful tool that is often overlooked. During this process, both patience and perseverance are essential components for success.
As previously stated, the process of inducing lactation won’t happen overnight. For some, it may happen over a couple of weeks or months of working on any or all of the techniques mentioned. Being prepared for a little wait and keeping morale high, you give yourself an improved chance at success.
Unfortunately, in some cases inducing lactation may not succeed, but you should not give up until you have exhausted all potential avenues. In any case, you should seek the help and support of a healthcare professional who will be able to help guide you on your breastfeeding journey.