Making the decision to breastfeed an adopted baby may seem daunting—but it is possible to do. If you're about to become the new mother of an adopted infant, learn why breastfeeding is important for your baby and what you can do to make it possible, even though you aren't the biological mother. 

Why is breastfeeding so important?

The health benefits of breastfeeding are so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that mothers breastfeed until their infants are at least 12 months old. The World Health Organization actually encourages mothers to nurse until the child is two years old or older. 

Not only does a nursing mother's milk provide all of the nutrients a newborn needs for the first few months of life, it's more easily digested than formula. It also helps your baby's immune system to develop—you'll pass on your own body's immune factors and antibodies to your baby through your milk. This natural protection can help keep your baby from developing allergies, ear infections, diarrhea, and even certain types of cancer. The risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is also reduced by more than 30% in infants that are breastfed.

Can you breastfeed if you weren't ever pregnant?

The good news is that you can probably still nurse your baby, even though you weren't pregnant and aren't the biological mother. The bad news is that it may take some time and a lot of patience to coax your body into lactating. If you know in advance when you're going to be adopting, like with many private adoptions, it's best to start the process early. That way, when the baby comes, you'll have a head start that can make the process of actually nursing much easier to begin.

How can get your body to start lactating?

The suckling motion of a newborn is what helps trigger milk production. When your nipples are stimulated by the infant's suckling, it triggers changes in the regulation of your pituitary gland and increases the production of prolactin. Prolactin controls your milk production. One of the best ways that you can simulate the suckling motions of an infant is through the regular use of a breast pump. There are hand-controlled breast pumps, battery-operated pumps, and electrical models (which are generally the most powerful). Breast pumps can be purchased, but it's often possible to rent one of the higher-priced models through a medical supply company for about $50 a month

What if you can't produce enough milk to feed the baby?

Keep in mind that how much milk you are able to supply your infant may vary greatly from any other woman's supply. That's something that would be true even if you had been pregnant. Factors like genetics, your percentage of body fat, and environmental stress are all factors that can influence how much milk you produce. Even if you aren't able to provide enough milk to completely feed your baby, you can supplement formula with your own milk, and your child can still receive many of the same benefits as a child that's nursing only.