The monthly theme post for PAIL this month is breastfeeding. Being an adoptive mom, I wanted to be sure and get my perspective and opinion out there for other adoptive moms. Making the decision to nurse is a huge decision, whether you're a biological or adoptive mom. It was a decision that I knew I wanted to make... after almost 5 years of infertility, there were a few things I knew I wanted to do if/when we ever had a baby of our own and breast feeding was at the top of that list. It was something that I honestly never thought I'd get the chance to do... until a miracle happened.
On May 19th of last year, we were asked to adopt a baby girl who was due to be born in July. In addition to all the paper work and preparations, I decided that I wanted to at least try to breast feed. With our years of infertility under my belt, I'd had plenty of time on the internet researching everything and had come across information about adoptive nursing. I made an appointment with a very supportive nurse practitioner who gave me loads of information and a prescription for Domperidone.
I went to the health foods store and stocked up on Fenugreek and Blessed thistle, bought a breast pump and started pumping away. I struggled for five weeks to try and get even the tiniest drop of milk. Finally, on June 21st, I managed to squeeze out a drop from each breast. I was ecstatic!
On June 22nd, my husband and I stood in the delivery room and welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world. She was placed in my arms within minutes of delivering and I took a deep breath and together, we nursed for the first time. She latched like a champ and I sat there in a rocking chair, nursing my daughter. It was a surreal moment.
While in the hospital, we used a Supplemental Nursing System to make sure she was getting something and went home excited and and positive and ready to continue our breastfeeding journey. And then we went to the pediatrician for the first time. She was not supportive, at all, of an adoptive mother breast feeding. She actually said to me, "There is no way you will ever be able to produce enough milk to feed her. You have to put her on formula today." So, not knowing what would happen (in reference to all the adoption goings-on), we felt like we had no choice but to put her on formula. I still nursed her, but she was on formula about half the time.
I know I had milk. She would pull herself off my breast and grin at me and milk would pour out of her mouth. I never had much success in pumping; I think the most I ever got was about an ounce all total. But after a round of jaundice, her pediatrician continued to pressure us to use formula. And we obliged.
Eventually, her latch changed. It became extremely painful to nurse and I decided to try and use a nipple shield. I figured it would be easier on her with going back and forth between bottle and breast. I didn't realize, however, that using the shield would affect my supply and be our demise.
I ran out of Domperidone when she was almost a month old. I figured (and hoped) that since we'd been nursing for a month that I would be okay. I was wrong. My milk completely dried up in a matter of days. It was at that point that I had to make a decision. I had been taking 22 pills a day for over two months and pumping multiple times a day to establish my supply and it wasn't enough. I was exhausted. I loved nursing, but didn't know how much longer I could keep it up. I also had to decide whether or not I thought it was worth it for the baby to have breastmilk laced with medication. So, I quit. A decision I regret every day and she's almost nine months old.
I know that I could have exclusively nursed her if I'd had the support of her pediatrician and if I'd never used the nipple shield. If I had been my own advocate through it all and fought for me and my boobs... but I didn't. My husband and I were so afraid that if we rocked the boat at all with her doctor, that it would be seen as our not following medical advice and they'd take her away from us. So we didn't fight. And I wish we had.
Nursing my daughter was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I felt like it really solidified the bond between us and I think that it helped her really bond with me as her mother. I think for the rest of my life I will feel a little cheated out of the full experience of nursing her... I will always feel that I didn't fight hard enough or try long enough to make it work exclusively. But I will also always feel incredibly blessed that I even had the opportunity to nurse her at all.