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Adoptive Breastfeeding

When does milk actually start?

My husband and I are waiting on a march, but I want to get a head start on milk production. Not having any Bio children, and this being our first adoption, I have never breastfeed.
I have been pumping 2xs a day for a week now. Can anyone tell me when I can expect to see any production, from drops to full production? I am starting to feel a difference in my breast. I have no idea what “let-down” feels like or even if there is something else I can do. I am taking fenugreek and drinking lactation inducing teas.
I guess I am looking for a time frame and some advice.


I’m in the same boat as you. I’ve never breast fed nor been pregnant. Have tried breast pumping for a two week time frame to try it out. I only got some clear liquid occasionally. Which you can look up online to learn has nothing to do with breast milk. My advice from my experience, when they say pump eight times a day for twenty minutes or thirty each time, twice a day isn’t going to cut it for enough stimulation. Read the book Breastfeeding without birthing for more advice and other types of stimulation. We can do it! But it’s going to take a l lot of time consuming work just like real breastfeeding is, every two to three hours.

Posted by JasminePA on Nov 29, 2013 at 9:09pm

Yep I would do it every 4-6 hours during the day for about 15 min at a time. In addition to fenugreek, take some blessed thistle. Let down feels like a pins and needles tingly feeling. Are you able to take medication, like reglan or domperidone? That may also help the process.

ETA: Reach out to your local La Leche League group for support and advice.

Posted by Lyds780 on Nov 29, 2013 at 9:34pm

That’s awesome that you’re being so proactive about inducing! Every bit of breast milk is so good for your baby, and being able to put the baby to breast is great for your bonding, as well.

I’m an adoptive mama as well as a student in the last few months of school for lactation. Here are my thoughts:

It’s a good sign your breasts are starting to change. smile

Here’s an established protocol you may want to read/follow:

If you’ve never been pregnant into the second trimester, you may need a stronger galactagogue to get your milk going, such as Domperidone. You can order it from Canada much more cheaply than getting it in the US. Yes, it is a drug, but the side effects are minimal (were non-existent for me, and I’m very sensitive to side effects).

If you’re not yet, I would work with a lactation consultant who is experienced with inducing lactation. She can help you troubleshoot as time goes on and can also help you when you do get your match and start directly breastfeeding.

I am also going to echo what others said in that you need to pump way more often than twice a day if you want to mimic the effects of a baby at breast. If you aren’t going to follow the protocol I posted above, I would say a minimum of eight times a day for 15 minutes per breast should have a much greater effect—that’s the least number of times recommended for a newborn to feed. You may or may not need to get up once at night to pump to convince your body that you are a breastfeeding mama. Breast milk for induced lactation works on a demand/supply basis: you have to provide regular stimulation to tell the cells to make milk, and you have to regularly drain the existing milk in order for your breasts to decide you need more milk.

A lot of women describe the feeling of let-down as a tingling sensation that moves down their breasts. But about 1/3 of women never feel sensations around let-down, even though it’s happening, so don’t judge by that alone.

What kind of pump are you using? Renting a hospital-grade pump, which has greater/more realistic suction, may have a better impact than one you buy. (You can buy a hospital-grade pump, but they’re incredibly expensive.)

As far as how long it will take you to start getting milk really flowing, if it happens at all (for some adoptive mamas who haven’t been pregnant, it doesn’t), it is really just dependent on your particular body and how much energy and time you invest into the process. You may also find that if you keep up with pumping, your milk will come in, or the volume will rise, when you have your actual baby at your breast. Oxytocin that we get from being skin to skin with our babies is one of the primary hormones that drives milk production.

In case you get a baby born call (as we did), you may want to go ahead and read about supplemental nursing systems (SNS), which can help your baby feed at the breast (letting you have that bonding, and stimulating your milk) if your supply isn’t in yet when your baby is born.

Posted by YeahBaby on Nov 30, 2013 at 12:15am

Everyone has great advice.  I’ll just add that to me, let down felt more like a breast cramp, or like someone invisible was squeezing my breast.  At first I thought something was wrong but my sister said it felt the same to her.

Posted by housefrau on Dec 02, 2013 at 9:33pm

If you’ve never breastfed before, you are almost certainly never going to get milk from pumping alone.  In order to create pumpable quantities of milk, you really have to have your prolactin levels elevated beyond what herbs can do.  You’ll either need a baby at the breast (to start the hormone/pheromone feedback loop) or a medication (such as Domperidone) that raises prolactin levels by preventing your body from absorbing the prolactin it naturally makes.

Also, in order to generate milk production even on Domperidone, you need more frequent sessions than twice a day.  Six times a day is a good target, 10-12 is about as much as anyone can hope to do.  Short sessions, especially when you’re dry pumping, are just fine.  5-10 minutes is sufficient, though some people like the 15-minute protocol suggested at the website - about 7 minutes of pumping, followed by about a minute of manual massage and some nipple stimulation, followed by another 5-7 minutes of pumping.  I found that schedule really helpful.

I did the “regular protocol” with my first adopted nursling, and found that after about two weeks of pumping I was getting drops, and after 4 weeks of pumping I was getting about an ounce a day.  That was doing about six 15-minute pumping sessions daily, no night pumping.  Everybody is a little bit different, but I’ve found that my production was a little on the slow side.  I also stuck to pretty low levels of Domperidone (80 mg/day - I think the max safe dose is closer to 120-160 mg/day) and used a Lact-Aid supplementer to supply whatever additional nutrition needs my kids had.

You absolutely can feed an infant on breastmilk using herbs and teas alone, as I mentioned the baby will kick off a hormone cascade and will empty the breast much more efficiently than a pump.  But a pump doesn’t elevate your prolactin levels, so without either a baby at the breast or a medication, you’re not likely to be able to pump milk.

Posted by Thalas'shaya on Dec 03, 2013 at 2:04am

Hi I am a lactation consultant and adoptive mother who brestfed my baby. here is a link that is very usefu

look for

breastfeeding your adoptive baby

I´ve found that being patient and constant help a lot

good luck and enjoy!

Posted by drayn on Dec 06, 2013 at 9:08pm

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