Updated August 2018
Want to hear something amazing? Breastfeeding isn’t just for biological moms; adoptive, surrogate, and non-birth lesbian mothers can breastfeed too, if they so desire.
Prepping your body can be a lot of work and a huge personal commitment, but many women feel the payoff is well worth it. Generally speaking, inducing (or re-inducing) lactation involves a personalized combination of hormone therapy, active pharmaceutical agents, nipple stimulation (which can be manual or with a pump), and/or milk removal (either through nursing or pumping). The more time you have to prepare your body the better, although lactation can still be induced quickly in cases where women (and their bodies) don’t have much (or any) “heads up.”
The Newman-Goldfarb Protocols for Induced Lactation, devised by Dr. Jack Newman and PhD and lactation consultant Lenore Goldfarb, combines the use of hormonal oral contraceptives with a pharmaceutical galactagogue (domperidone), and outlines precise daily pumping regimens for women. Taking it a step further, they offer a “regular” timeline for mothers who know their child will arrive within 6 months, and an “accelerated” timeline for women who need to induce lactation quickly, or who wish to re-lactate.
Heads up: Get in touch with your doc. Re-lactation, and especially lactation induction, will be much more effective with the counsel and resources of your physician (among other things, her prescription pad).
While doable, it’s important to know that inducing lactation isn’t for the faint of heart. The regimen is going to look different for every woman, as will the quantity of milk produced, but even those with lower milk supply can still continue to nurse and grow their supply with help from supplemental feeding systems like the Lact-Aid and the Medela Supplemental Nursing System. These products deliver supplemental milk to moms throughout nursing, so moms can continue to enjoy the benefits of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, while also stimulating further milk production.
There are some wonderful online resources available for parents interested reading more about lactation induction or re-lactation. You might want to check out the resources at Sweet Pea Breastfeeding, a website (edited by two lactation consultants and a public health professional) devoted to “breastfeeding without birthing”.
Dr. Jack Newman, a renowned international breastfeeding advocate and expert, also discusses adoptive/surrogate breastfeeding at the International Breastfeeding Centre (the IBC is actually an excellent resource for all things breastfeeding). Lastly, at Breastfeeding Basics, lactation consultant Anne Smith describes in great detail ideal methods for lactation induction and re-lactation.