Adoptive parents able to breastfeed

Dr. Sapna Parikh has more on how it's done.
November 20, 2013 3:57:45 PM PST
It's a natural way to strengthen the mother-child bond, but Eyewitness News introduces a modern-day twist to this powerful, nurturing experience that many women don't even know they're capable of.

"I didn't even know that existed! I didn't know you could do that," said Sylvia Rowe.

But it is possible to breast feed a baby even if you didn't give birth.

In 2009 Sylvia Rowe and her husband adopted baby Camille. She was just one month old and Sylvia did whatever she could to breast feed her .

"I wanted it, I wanted to experience that with my baby," adds Rowe.

Adoptive breastfeeding is technically called lactation induction. Most women do it for the health benefits and the emotional bond.

But a typical pregnancy automatically creates hormonal ups and downs that get the body ready to breastfeed.

If you're adopting you basically have to simulate a pregnancy and trick your brain and your body into making milk.

Most women take continuous birth control pills and then suddenly stop to mimic the hormone levels of pregnancy and birth.

And medications (like metoclopramide) help increase the hormone that makes breast milk.

"We try to balance the risk of the medication with the potential for actually relactating or making milk," said Dr. Lori Feldman, Pediatrician at Cooper University Hospital.

As a pediatrician and breastfeeding specialist, Dr. Feldman Winter cautions against unapproved medications and herbal supplements often recommended on the internet and by some doctors.

"You never know the amount of active ingredient you might be getting there can be adverse side effects," she said.

She recommends months of using a really strong breast pump.

"It weighs about 15 pounds and we call it the big mama," said Felina Rakowski-Gallagher.

Felina is founder of the "Upper Breast Side", a breastfeeding resource center in Manhattan.

"There are no bells and whistles it just does the job," she adds.

She guides women through what can be a long process.

"I ended up doing it for 5 months when Camille arrived I was able to breast feed," adds Rowe.

Most adoptive moms don't make enough to fully feed the baby and for some it just doesn't work at all.

But Sylvia says she just wants women to know it's an option.

"It was beautiful it was so- it was a lot of work - it was so worth the effort it was great," adds Rowe.