Our Path Toward a Wonderful Nursing Relationship
By C.J. Johnson
My husband and I had three sons and adored them for their uniqueness and for the people they were becoming. Ben was already 17, Davis 8 and Mason was almost 5. We knew our sons were a true treasure, but we longed for a daughter. Because of a complicated fertility situation, we knew we had slim chances of conceiving a daughter on our own. After months of discussion, we chose to adopt a baby girl.
Planting a Seed
I felt a bit nervous after filling out and submitting all the paper work with our adoption agency because it meant we would finally have a daughter of our own within a few months. We wanted to leave our options and hearts wide open in order to find our daughter. When filling out the papers we wrote that we were open to a child of any race as long as she was healthy and the birth mother had not used drugs. The agency told us it would only take three to six months for us to adopt.
Our baby girl could come at any time and I was jittery with anticipation. As I sat pondering the idea, a close friend called to check in with me. She asked if I planned on nursing my baby. I laughed out loud and said, “Oh, sure.” She told me her question was serious and went on to explain that adoptive mothers can nurse. That short phone conversation changed my life in the most miraculous way.
“Encouraged after seeing drops of milk, I contacted a support group in our state.”
Springing to Action
I contacted one of my editors who knew a lot about breastfeeding. She was very encouraging and forwarded me several links to articles about breastfeeding adopted babies. I felt on fire with the idea of giving our baby-to-be the very best nutrition. I knew I had no input on what nutrition she received during her nine months of development and hoped desperately that I could create breast milk to nourish her little body.
After reading the various articles and speaking with a few lactation consultants, I rented a hospital-grade breast pump, talked my doctor into prescribing Reglan for me and began pumping at home. Every three hours I sat in my bathroom and pumped for 15 minutes. I also began taking 12 Fenugreek tablets each day. On the third day, I began pumping clear liquid from my breasts. It was only a few drops at a time, but I felt encouraged. Then I began pumping for 20 minutes each day and turned the power up to high. That was when I faced my first challenge in preparing milk for my baby: my nipples became raw and bloody. In my enthusiasm, I had overdone it.
The lactation consultant I called suggested I wait a few days and start again when I had healed. I explained to her that we were about to have two different families visit and stay in our home during the upcoming two weeks and our household would be very busy. I decided to wait until two weeks later when all the visitors had left and try pumping again. I assumed it would still take months to get our baby and I would have plenty of time to prepare milk for her.
Our first batch of visitors came and went, and then my husband’s family arrived from Seattle for a six-day visit. On the fifth day of their stay, a short month and a half after we had applied for adoption, we received a call from the agency saying that there was a birth mother who was interested in our family. She was flying to our state that very night with her week-old baby and wanted to meet with us. We were told that if the meeting went well we could have our baby in the morning.
We were shocked that we could have a child so suddenly. My first concern was that I wouldn’t have any milk for her. But so many parts of the situation felt right to us so we decided to meet the birth mother.
We liked her right away and she felt comfortable with us. She was a lovely Hispanic woman with petite features and seemed feisty and very bright. We laughed and cried together that night as we asked each other questions about our hopes for the baby and what she needed from the adoptive family. The evening went very well, but she still did not say a word about us adopting the baby. We hugged her for a long time and left wondering if this baby was to be ours.
The next morning our household was still and tense. All the Seattle relatives stayed close to us waiting for the news. Each time the phone rang we hoped it was word that we could get our baby. Finally, near 11 a.m., the agency called to say she was signing the papers and we could come pick up our baby girl.
Witnessing a Miracle
We loved her the instant we saw her. She was a beautiful, healthy baby with thick black hair and dark eyes. On the drive home she held onto my thumbs and stared me in the eye until she fell asleep. I felt like I had known her forever and she was the daughter I had been waiting for.
I had purchased a can of Enfamil Lipil in order to have something for her to eat. I was relieved when I discovered it was exactly what she had been eating during her first week of life. It seemed that nursing wasn’t meant to be. If she was doing well enough on the formula, perhaps I should just accept it.
At her two-week checkup I mentioned to the pediatrician how disappointed I was that I hadn’t been able to nurse her. She said, “Go home and do it then.” I told her I had returned the pump and there wasn’t a way to get the milk ready. She smiled and said, “The baby will be your pump. Go home and nurse her; you will see.”
I did as she said. For three days our baby seemed to enjoy nursing, but then became frustrated when no milk appeared when she nursed. I decided to wait a while and try again. When she was 5 weeks old, she began rooting around on my chest and sucking on her knuckles. I knew she was ready to try again. From that day forward nursing became her favorite past time.
I had always thought nutrition was the primary focus of my desire to nurse; however, seeing how comforted our baby was and how much she enjoyed the physical closeness, I realized it was so much more for her. She became much more calm and smiled more often. She had been held in so many loving arms since her birth it seemed at first she wasn’t sure who her mother was. After a few days of nursing she looked at me with eyes that said, “Oh, so you are my mother.” In turn, I felt so much more attached to her. I was amazed how nursing had strengthened the bond for both of us.
Sharing the Wealth
Within two weeks I was making milk. Encouraged after seeing drops of milk, I contacted a support group in our state. All the women in the group were adoptive mothers who were breastfeeding. They were sold on a drug called Domperidone that could only be purchased in Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand. Although the drug is a stomach medication, it had the amazing side effect of increasing prolactin levels in nursing mothers. After a few weeks of taking it most women reported an increase in their milk.
A short week after taking it I felt an increase in my milk. My breasts were larger and fuller, and our baby loved nursing more than ever. I smiled every time I saw my milk in the corner of her mouth after nursing.
It has only been a few weeks since I began taking Domperidone. Very gradually I am seeing an increase in my milk supply. The baby continues to nurse well each day, and I hope to make more milk for her in the future. If my milk supply never increases beyond what it is today, I know I have enriched both of our lives by taking the time to nurse my baby. She is happy, healthy and feels completely loved.