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Breastmilk feeding for the Adoptive or LGBTQ Family... "We can do that?"

One of the most rewarding client interactions I’ve had recently as a Lactation provider has been…wait for it... on the phone. With a mom who was adopting a baby girl many states away from her.

I know. You have questions.

How can 1) A Lactation Consultant help an adoptive mom/parent with breastfeeding?

And 2), On the phone??

A while back, I heard of the important work of Amy Twombley, of Hello, Baby Adoption Consulting Services. Amy helps create families. She helps adoptive parents navigate the process and get their baby home.

I immediately thought of the challenging, rewarding and very unique situations I’d encountered in 7 years in Lactation at a busy city hospital, with a Level 3 NICU, and how I could help.

I was reminded of The two Dad family who’d had a surrogate carry their twins, and delivered the babies very prematurely. There was need for breastmilk for these babies, and no one had considered how to navigate mother's milk from the surrogate mom.

I had the pleasure of working with several adoptive families in a hospital setting, and each situation and family plan/need was different. One family opted to have the birth mom pump milk for several weeks and cold ship the milk to them. One family decided they wanted a few days of colostrum given to their baby, and all parties agreed that breastfeeding the baby directly and hand expression of colostrum would be their plan. 

Still another same sex mom couple decided to induce lactation with the non-birthing partner, and both moms breastfed their daughter on her arrival.

There are as many different plans of care as there are different families out there!

But, the one common thread I hear constantly when discussing breastmilk/chestfeeding outside of direct birth is: “I didn’t even know this was possible”.

Education and information isn't really getting out there for most families on their journey.

In discussion with Amy and Hello, Baby, we explored how to offer education to adoptive families.

We agreed that breastmilk/chest feeding isn’t the right path for all. And that's ok.

But what about the family that it IS right for? Or the family who didn’t even know these options existed? The two Dad family that might like to feed their baby breastmilk on their chests, skin to skin? Where can they find breastmilk; what options for milk banks/donor milk is out there? Who can guide them?

What about the adoptive mom who never even thought she could possibly choose to breastfeed due to medical or reproductive challenges? The Trans or nonbinary family that would like to know their breastmilk feeding options?

Those families deserve to know their choices, too.

Back to the adoptive mom at the beginning of our story...

Naomi (name used with her permission) had breastfed her other children, and was expecting to adopt a little girl. She had already begun to pump and to use medications to induce lactation again. She was knowledgeable, capable and informed. 

She called me with some general questions, and I wasn’t sure initially how I could help her.

We quickly realized that despite her excellent planning for bringing in a milk supply, Naomi wasn’t prepared for how to manage at an out of state hospital, where the baby would most likely be placed in a NICU. Would they let her bring her own milk into the hospital? Would they allow her to feed the baby? Indirectly?  How could we include the birth mom respectfully in this process? 

It was here I knew where I could fit in and help. Because of my extensive hospital and NICU experience, I was able to coach her in communications with the baby's medical caregivers and birth mom, and plan how to keep pumping as she traveled, and while she was in hotel room while she was out of state. We discussed her plan for skin to skin, and early NICU feeding expectations. I was a sounding board for small and big things… how to get baby to latch after she’d been bottle fed, how to store the milk she’d been pumping, how to maximize her pumping routine. What pacifiers would be best? How to locate donor milk?

We coined the term, “ breastfeeding coach”, because that’s what I ended up being; coaching her, guiding her, finding those small and not so small challenges along the way, and tackling them… on the phone.

A few small challenges, and many triumphs later, Naomi is home with her sweet sunshine daughter, happily breastfeeding and living their best lives.

We’ve never met, but I feel like a tiny part of their family. And so grateful to help a new mom meet her feeding goals, because that’s really what MY goal is….to help you meet yours.

If you are planning adoption, surrogacy, are an LGBTQ family, or have a non-traditional plan for birth, please reach out for information or a discussion about how you can make breastmilk or chestfeeding part of your baby’s feeding plan. I think you’ll be surprised at your options.

Happy Feeding!

Lori Atkins, RN, IBCLC

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