Want to breastfeed? It is possible to have lactation without pregnancy. Breastfeeding IS possible!
If you are an adoptive mother, whether by choice or due to a family catastrophe, or if you are considering adoption because you cannot have a child of your own, you may wonder if you can still enjoy the loving closeness of breastfeeding your new baby. Foster moms may also wish to breastfeed an infant in their care.
One answer is, “Of Course You Can!” if you have at least one functioning mammary gland, even if you have never had children, are past menopause, or have had a partial or total hysterectomy; you can experience lactation without pregnancy.
Induced Lactation without Pregnancy
There are two general methods to inducing lactation, one is through sheer determination, and determined efforts and the other is by using medical protocols and medications to trick the body into thinking it has been pregnant. Even men’s breasts can be induced to lactate!
How Does It Work?
In either scenario of lactation without pregnancy, the protocols that need to be followed are simply to prepare the mothers breasts for the task of producing milk. Until our modern time, the only methods mothers had to achieve lactation without pregnancy was to put the baby to the breast and hope for the best. In ancient times, women who did not have children, usually maidservants, induced lactation as part of their services to the household.
The process of inducing lactation without pregnancy involves certain protocols that are designed to stimulate the breast tissue to develop milk ducts and the other necessary tissues responsible for milk production. If a woman has never produced milk before the process is much more involved since the tissue has yet to develop. The tissue is usually developed during pregnancy and therefore a woman who has lactated before already has the necessary equipment to produce milk right away.
Medical professionals advise women to begin stimulating their breast via hand compression or a breast pump, preferably medical grade, in advance of the arrival of the adopted baby. However, if the woman is not inducing lactation or inducing relactation via hormones, then the process takes longer and requires more vigilance and dedication when it comes to stimulating the breasts several times per day.
Understanding How Lactation Works
To understand how lactation without pregnancy works we need to understand what is involved in the process of producing breast milk. During pregnancy due to the influence of estrogens, progesterone, prolactin, and other necessary hormones at key times, the body naturally responds and prepares for the arrival of the baby and the subsequent breast-feeding.
When the baby arrives, right after birth, the levels of key hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen, drop and then the level of prolactin increases. This, in turn, prompts the brain to release oxytocin, which is the key hormone for the breasts to begin releasing the milk. In women who have not been pregnant, or who have not been pregnant recently, simply stimulating the nipples over a certain period of time will induce the body to produce prolactin and the brain to produce oxytocin. The time frame and amount of stimulation necessary varies from woman to woman and even from session to session.
Steps to Lactation without Pregnancy
Decide how far in advance you want to start the process and if you will be using medications such as domperidone, reglan, birth control, or progesterone and estrogen therapy to induce lactation without pregnancy. If you are, then you need to do so under the care of a trained professional and follow their time lines. (You can read more about that here.) If you want to try without any medications, proceed to step two.
Begin stimulating the breasts via hand compression, breast massage, stimulating the nipple, or a breast pump. Breast pumps can be purchased from most stores that carry other baby supplies, drug stores, hospitals, online, or drug stores. Be prepared to purchase a pricier brand as these work much better. Gradually increase stimulation time, intensity, and frequency, as you are comfortable.
Be patient, lactation without pregnancy takes time. Some women who have lactated before report that it takes about 3 days to a week to relactate. (It usually depends on how long it has been since you stopped nursing.) Women who have never produced milk before report an average time of two-weeks to a few months for changes to occur.
If you seem to be getting no response or results, then try different techniques. You should see a reaction when things begin to work. Breast may increase a full cup size or more. They may also become tender or feel moist after your sessions. You may even feel a slight tingling or tugging sensation.
If you do not experience anything, then perhaps you can try changing the settings on your breast pump, try a pump with massaging action, try hot compresses, or even consider using herbal or food preparations as described below.
When your baby arrives, even if you are not producing milk yet, go ahead and allow your baby to begin to suckle. You might try the use of a lactation aid at first. Remember, the more the baby suckles, the more milk you will produce. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. Enjoy the warm bonding that only breast-feeding can supply.
What About Supplements?
If you need to supplement, it is best to do so with a lactation aid. This increases the likelihood that you will experience a better supply of milk and still provides that closeness. Since the baby is being rewarded for its efforts by your using the supplement device, they are less likely to draw away in favor of the easier to achieve artificial nipple.
The supplement itself should be of good quality. If you were achieving milk before the baby arrived, hopefully, you were storing it up in the freezer. If not, next to your own breast, purchasing milk from a milk bank or certified donor is the next best thing. If those options are not available to you, then ask around to your trusted friends and see if any have an extra supply or have some they are not planning on using. Do check and make sure of their diets and if they are taking any medications or have any illnesses or pathologies which you may not be comfortable exposing your baby to. As a last resort, there is always infant formula you can fall back on.
What About the Use Of Medications?
The idea of using birth control, medications, or other hormones to induce lactation may not sound safe, but just remember that they are only taken to induce the formation of breast tissue and are discontinued before milk production starts. Such is the case with the use of herbal remedies prior to lactating.
However, if you or your supplementary milk suppliers are on any prescription medications or supplements, you may want to consult your doctor, midwife, and lactation specialist before providing that milk to your baby. Not all side effects are known when it comes to infants and there have been past cases of major illnesses in conjunction with unknown side effects of medications in breast milk.
There are three different protocols to inducing lactation or relactating. They are the
- “Regular Protocol,”
- “Accelerated Protocol,”
- “Menopause Protocol,” and the
- “Independent Protocol.”
The first two involve the use of hormonal treatments and/or herbal treatments. The third in involved after menopause or hysterectomies. And the last one involves going it alone. The longer and more stimulation that is applied during a protocol, in general, the more milk that is produced.
Who May Benefit?
When it comes to breastfeeding there are more benefits than just the breast milk alone. In general, if you are going to breast feed to social and psychological reasons between you and your baby, you might as well try to provide them with the beneficial milk, if possible. The milk produced in induced lactation is usually the same quality mothers produce at ten days postpartum.
Adoptive Mothers and Foster Care Moms
If you have had children before, then the entire process will be much easier. However, many mothers are adopting babies. Many of these women have not had children yet. Some women may had hysterectomies, not be able to produce children, may be a surrogate mother, may be caring for a child while the mother is away for an extended period of time, or may have fallen in love with a foster child or orphaned child and decided to adopt them.
For these adoptive mothers, whom have never produced milk or have not produced breast milk in many years, breastfeeding is an essential time of bonding and closeness for them and their baby. Breastfeeding can produce that bond just as biological mothers and babies experience. For them, inducing lactation without pregnancy in order to breastfeed, or even breastfeeding without producing milk, is an essential part of the new relationship.
Wet nurses, that is servants or hired specialists who may or may not have children of their own, have been used throughout the centuries to provide nourishment and social care for babies. These wet nurses, many times, induced lactation without having children of their own. It is not really necessary for women to have carried a child for lactation without pregnancy to be induced and good quality milk supplied.
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