When I heard that it was possible to induce lactation I was like 100% that’s what I am doing. I am going to be so dedicated, and I am going to make it happen and I will exclusively breastfeed my baby. I volunteered at my local pregnancy resource center, which led to assisting moms during birth which led to me becoming a Doula in 2011. Through learning all about birth and breastfeeding and all of the benefits of breast milk, I knew that is what is best for babies and Moms and I wanted it for me and my child.
My husband and I had been struggling to start a family on our own and as a result we ended up choosing the path of adoption. This of course meant that if my baby and I were going to have the breastfeeding experience, I would have to induce lactation. I don’t know at what point I became aware of the possibility, maybe reading Dr. Jack Newmans Guide to breastfeeding because I know he dedicates at least a chapter to describing his methods.
When we became “adopt ready” as they call it, I was very hopeful that we would be chosen by a birth mother right away and I wanted to be ready, so I immediately started the process of inducing lactation. I will break it down for you step by step further on in the post but long story short, I did it for 5 months and still no baby in sight. Then we booked a cruise and I just decided that I was not going to pump 3 times a day on my cruise and I didn’t want sore boobs the whole time so I decided to cut it down slowly a few weeks before our trip. So the first time of inducing lactation for me, didn’t end with breastfeeding my baby, but the good thing is that I now knew exactly how to do it when my baby was on their way. I also knew there were health benefits to me, so I knew it wasn’t a waste of time.
Inducing Lactation – Second Time
So this time I waited until we were chosen by birth parents, and as soon as I knew that the birth mother was comfortable with the idea of me breastfeeding, I started inducing. There are so many sites that I found that tell you the different ways of inducing lactation but I am going to tell you exactly what I did and how it worked out.
Week 1 – Chosen by Birth parents
This week I am just getting used to the idea that I will soon be pumping. I ordered some Milk Maid tea from Amazon and I am starting to get myself hydrated and used to drinking lots of water. I already had a double pump (madela) but if you don’t, then I would look into getting one. Also you should see your doctor, tell them what you are planning and ask for a prescription for domperidone. Domperidone is a drug for gastro intestinal issues, but a side affect is that it produces breast milk. You do not have to have gastro-intestinal problems to take domperidone. My doctor prescribed me 10mg pills, 3 pills 3 times a day and the bottle lasted a month. He also gave me a perscription for 10 repeats, so I could just call the pharmacy to get a refill.
Week 2 & 3 – Approval from the birth Mom
I really wanted my birth mothers blessing before I started pumping. I wanted to know that she was ok with the idea of me breastfeeding and if it made her uncomfortable, I was prepared to bottle feed. She said she would be happy if I breast fed and thought it would be a great way for me and baby to bond. I started taking my Domperidone pills 1 a day the first day and then adding 1 more each day until I reached 9 a day.
Day 1 – I pumped once in the morning and once in the evening for 20 mins
Day 2+3- Pumped 3 times a day for 20 mins
Day 4 – Pumped 4 times a day x 15 mins
Day 5-7 – Pumped 6 times a day x 15 mins
I started to notice breast changes in the first week. They grew at least a size, and started to hurt and feel full.
Day 14 – I saw my first drops of milk! There was only one drop on each side and it wasn’t even enough to drop onto the pump attachment but it was milk!!
Week 4 – Kind of a Plateau
All week I was getting just a few drops and the amount wasn’t increasing. This was a little discouraging as I thought I would see the milk increasing right away. Don’t be discouraged though, it will come. I started pumping less, only three times a day for 30 minutes (you might want to get a hobby you can do while pumping. I watched a tv show on the iPad every time I pumped) and after 3 days the milk started increasing. I got more from one side than the other but that will work itself out, don’t worry.
Week 5 – Milk Increasing
The milk has slowly been increasing since the third day of week 4 so I am starting to add a fourth pump in so 8am, 1pm, 5pm and 10pm. I saw a bit of a decrease in milk but that is only because I am spreading it out over more pump times, my body will catch up in a few days. This same thing will happen when your baby has a growth spurt. Your body wont make more milk until it is needed. My baby is due in 3 weeks and I hope to get up to 6 pumps with a good supply by the time she gets here. I have been saving the milk for two days to see how much I get and here it is! (Pic below) it’s about half an ounce!
Week 6 – Start Freezing!
I started freezing my 1 oz for two days of pumping. It doesn’t seem like much but that will actually be enough for one newborn feeding! Their stomach is only the size of a chickpea in the first few days. I also just purchased the smaller supplemental nursing system from Amazon ($45 Canadian) and it should be here next week. This is used to feed baby through a tube while she is latched on. I will fill the supplemental feeding bottle with my thawed breast milk and she will be nourished by it while she is stimulating my breasts to continue to induce lactation. Then eventually I can remove the supplemental nursing system. This avoids nipple confusion and having to pump after feeding her with a bottle (way more work). Plus once babies start getting milk easily through a bottle, they don’t want to work for it at the breast. Once you start getting a little bit of milk in the bottle at each pump session, add one more pump throughout the day and keep adding them after the milk catches up. Keep doing this until baby comes. The more milk you already have when baby is here, the better. And the more milk you have frozen, the less formula you have to supplement.
Week 7 – Getting anxious for Baby
Im getting pretty tired of pumping and I’m feeling like I am ready to feed a baby! It’s a nuecance to plan my day around a pumping schedule too, although it is preparing me for my new life and schedule with a baby. Even though you may be tired of pumping like me, it is very important that you keep up the pumping. If you skip a pump session your milk supply may start to decrease which is the last thing you want. Tell your partner or friends that it is non negotiable and that you must pump according to your schedule. Hang in there it will be worth it when baby comes I promise!
Week 8 – Baby Time!
So we get home from the movies at 9:45 on a Friday night and I sit down for my last pump session of the day. A few minutes into it my phone goes off and I look over and it’s from her birth mother!!! Her water has broken and she has been admitted to the hospital, our baby was on her way! So I screamed for my husband! detached from the pump, we packed the car and off we went!
The hospital was such a challenge for our breastfeeding plan. We had lots of support from all of the staff with inducing lactation, but they always have their own protocols and things they have to follow to take care of baby, and each nurse has her own advice for breastfeeding (often very conflicting). We had a few things going against us, our baby had low blood sugar the first day, which resulted in the doctors and nurses wanting her to eat 1 ounce of formula every three hours. I worried that she would get used to that and I would not be able to keep up (I was not producing this much milk). Trying to get this much milk into her tiny tummy (the size of a chickpea) was so hard. She didn’t want it, she gagged on the bottle, it would take her an hour and a half to drink 1 ounce and then we would have a short rest just to do it all over again in another hour and a half. (they time the feedings from when they start one, to when they start the next one. We tried to ask the nurses why she needed to be fed so much when her stomach was so small, but they have to follow their orders according to low blood sugar.
It was so frustrating every time I fed her I wanted to cry. So I asked the birth mother if she wouldn’t mind if I started breast-feeding (originally the plan was that the birth parents would care for the baby in the hospital, so she didn’t want me breast-feeding then. But then the plan changed and we cared for her in the hospital). I explained the situation and how I thought breast milk would be the best thing for her to get her blood sugars up and she agreed that to start breast-feeding would be best. We also didn’t plan on being in the hospital for so long so I really wanted to get started with breast feeding. So, with birth moms approval I ran back to our room and tried to get her to latch on, she took to the breast like a champ, she latched right on and nursed very well and it was an amazing feeling for me. It was so amazing to begin bonding in this way with her and just to see her eating like she is suppose to without the struggle of the bottle, which we still had to do but now she was getting the benefits of both. My husband confessed to me afterwards that he thought it might be a little weird to watch me breastfeed, but it was actually the most beautiful thing he has ever seen! Hearing that was so encouraging. I couldn’t do any of this if it weren’t for my extremely supportive and encouraging husband!
At every feeding from then on we would breast feed first, on both sides until she started to fuss or came off and then we would do bottle. We tried the supplemental nursing system a few times, and the nurses were great, they gave me the supplies to make it (ours didn’t arrive in time, but it can be made with a Syringe and a feeding tube) I thought that this would be a great way to have my baby stimulate the breasts to make more milk, while getting her formula. but we had so much trouble with the tube coming out and how to hold the syringe part up high and it took both my husband and I and sometimes a nurse to get it working, and I just knew that when I was at home with her alone, I wouldn’t be able to keep that up. It was so frustrating, so we gave up on that and just did nursing and then the bottle.
Week 9 – At home
Once we got home, each feed would begin with nursing her on both sides and then a bottle. This way she would fill up on breastmilk first and drain the breast. It was an amazing experience to get to breastfeed my adopted baby. I never got to carry her in my womb but I got to experience the closeness of nursing her! I also didn’t want her to miss out on the benefits of breastfeeding just because she was adopted.
I never got to exclusively breastfeed her like I had hoped and maybe I could have if I was more disciplined. But I waited so long to have a baby of my own that I wanted to enjoy her as much as possible and not be so focused on making milk.
She breastfed for 3.5 months. Then she started to notice the bottle and I think she realized that that is where most of her milk came from and she started to refuse the breast or only latch on for a few seconds. She slowly weaned herself off and was fully formula fed by 4 months. Shortly after a friend of mine who had a baby only 3 days before our baby was born, offered to donate breast milk to us! So she still got breastmilk here and there, which I was grateful for any amount!
I hope this helps you on your journey to inducing lactation. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments. I never could have dedicated myself to the pumping and the pills and the routine if it weren’t for the encouragement and support from my husband. If you are going to induce lactation, surround yourself with people who support you and believe in what you are trying to accomplish!