As promised, the adoptive breastfeeding post.You'd think this post would be easier to write, since it's the collision of the two things I seem to write about most, adoption and breastfeeding. But it's hard to write about my discomfort with abfing without falling back on hearsay and stereotypes. Fortunately for me, the person who I know in real life who abfs bucks all these horrid stereotypes.
Susie, Manuela and Marta have already done a great job combing over the ethics and how-tos of abfing. I want reiterate that inducing lactation should not be done with a specific child in mind, that the intentions should be discussed with the mother considering placement, if possible. Sometimes the mother doesn't want to know anything, and in that case her wishes should be respected.
Newborn adoption is, in the best cases, a joint effort to give a child the best start possible. The ideal situation would also include the baby getting colostrum, which only the first mother could produce. Also latching as soon as possible after birth, which in accordance with ethical non-coercive adoption practices, could only be done by the first mother. The litmus test would be if the amom would be comfortable with the mom nursing right after birth/in the hospital. Would the right thing for the baby override the increased risk of the mom changing her mind?
It's not the practice of abfing that's coercive or destructive, it's the person employing the practice. My fear is of the stereotype: the mother with her infertility unresolved, seeking make it as much like giving birth as she can, she wants to be there for prenatal appointments, cut the cord in the delivery room, hover around in the hospital, latch the baby on at first opportunity. This is all couched as "good for the baby", since the baby will be hearing and feeling the adoptive mother's presence from day one. All of these practices are intensely coercive. As for the amom being left with a milk supply and no child, cry me a river. You are asking that and more from the first mom when you adopt a newborn. This is why inducing lactation should be done without a specific child in mind, as Susie suggests.
Until I breastfed my own children, I stood firmly in that place of "ick" that many birthmothers and adoptees stand. It's a visceral reaction based not only in the weirdness of a non-related person breastfeeding a child, but also in the cultural discomfort many people feel toward the act of breastfeeding in general. I don't think it's possible to completelyseparate the "ick" of abfing from the "ick" of bfing that keeps so many new mothers inside for fear of the rude comments and sideways glances she would endure out in the real world. Some people don't like nursing, period. A lot of people feel that way before they nurse kids (me included).
I still don't see the point of abfing unless you plan to nurse well into toddlerhood, where the amount of milk you make doesn't matter as much as the comfort you give. The days of drugs and pumping are behind you, and it's my opinion that this is when the much-vaunted bonding comes into play. While there are some lovey-dovey moments during the first year, breastfeeding is still too much of a utilitarian and constant act to really be special.
Stereotypes aside, I believe it's good for adopted kids to be breastfed. I imagine an infertile mother can have much healing in experiencing her body nourish her child, and I imagine an adopted child would benefit both from the nurtition and the close physical relationship breastfeeding fosters.
Plus, it's punk rock.