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Yes, it's possible to breastfeed when you adopt or use a surrogate

Creator of Beyond Infertility, an online magazine and community support site for families who have gone through infertility. Also founder of The Adoption Consultancy.

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and the outpouring of support for breastfeeding has been invigorating to see. Many celebrity moms have promoted awareness and education about breastfeeding with their photos and messages on social media and in magazines.

By far my favorite celebrity that helped raise breastfeeding awareness this month is Jaime King of Hart of Dixie fame. In case you don’t know, King is a former infertility sufferer. She went through eight years of pain with undiagnosed endometriosis and PCOS. In nearly five years of trying to conceive, she went through:

  • Five miscarriages
  • Five IVF cycles
  • 26 IUIs
  • Preeclampsia
  • 26 hours of labor

At the end of it all, she had her beautiful son James Knight. As an ex-infertility sufferer, I connect with King’s story completely. I went through my own form of torture trying to have my two beautiful children. Many do not realize that, after the ordeal of infertility, it is difficult to trust your body again. Even women who were successful at having children after infertility often still expect their bodies to "fail." With the emotions and hormones running high after birth, any difficulty breastfeeding makes it easy for women to think their body is failing again.

Many moms who go through the pain and struggle of infertility end up using adoption or surrogacy as their method to build their family. Due to lack of breastfeeding education, those moms don’t realize they have options to breastfeed their children. Given the many breastfeeding myths floating around, I want to clarify one thing: you can often breastfeed even if you adopt or use surrogacy.

How is this possible? There are three options adoptive and surrogacy moms have to get breast milk and have the bonding experience of breastfeeding:

  • By using certain herbs and pumping, you can induce lactation even if your body did not birth a child. This is usually performed with doctor supervision, but there are also many guides online, including Breastfeeding Without Birthing.
  • To induce lactation, you need plenty of prep time. Some moms do not have that time, such as with a last-minute adoption placement. If this is the case, you can also produce small amounts of breast milk and use milk from the surrogate mom, birth mom, breast milk banks, or formula to supplement the supply.
  • Regardless of if you’re producing enough milk to satisfy all of the baby’s needs, if you’re supplementing with another source or even if you’re using all formula, if it’s important to you and your child to have the breastfeeding bonding experience, you can feed the baby with a supplemental nursing system.

No mother who wants to breastfeed should be denied the opportunity. Whether it’s trying to breastfeed in public, struggling to breastfeed after infertility, or finding ways to breastfeed when you adopted or used a surrogate, there are options. Doing research on methods will help make breastfeeding easier, and finding a network of support will make you feel less alone during the journey.

To see more of this conversation, check out: http://www.beyondinfertility.com/media/.

Photo credit: KIYOKO FUKUDA/a.collectionRF/Getty Images
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