How 'strange' is adoptive breastfeeding?

An area to discuss relactation and adoptive breastfeeding.
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Re: How 'strange' is adoptive breastfeeding?

Post by Karleen » Sun May 13, 2012 11:50 pm

Penguin wrote: I know that some people view adoptive breastfeeding as strange/ wierd/ gross or whatever, but a lot of people see breastfeeding in general as those things. I guess my question is do you think people in general view adoptive bfing as strange-er than breastfeeding in general?

Coming in late but putting my 2c in anyway. I think that people find adoptive breastfeeding difficult to deal with because we have constructed breastfeeding in our culture as being something that is only between mother and child. An adoptive mother is not the mother who gave birth and many see that it is stepping over a boundary that should not be stepped over for a child to be breastfed by his or her adoptive mother- on these grounds one conference committee was lobbied pretty strongly for my presentation on adoptive breastfeeding to be removed from the program. In some respects I get this. We've talked here before about past adoption practices in Aust (and sadly continuing practices elsewhere) in which children were coerced and/or stolen from vulnerable women. They had so much taken from them and many remain very distressed that they were given drugs to stop them lactating when all they wanted to do was to feed and hold their babies- no wonder they hate the thought of adoptive breastfeeding. There's also the ick factor in play, again, it's about constructing breastfeeding as something that is only between a birth mother and child.

My slant on this all is that it negates what the children need and want and breastfeeding provides stuff that children really need (of course there are things that can be done to compensate where breastfeeding is not possible but there's a gap left)

How about breastfeeding of foster children??? Is that OK? If yes, why? If not, why not?

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Re: How 'strange' is adoptive breastfeeding?

Post by Capricious » Mon May 14, 2012 9:23 am

Karleen wrote: How about breastfeeding of foster children??? Is that OK? If yes, why? If not, why not?
My understanding of breastfeeding foster children is that it is not ok. Technically, the child remains under the guardianship of child safety so it would be a decision made by them and I would not expect it to be sanctioned by a government department, unless maybe there is certain circumstances that have been taken into account. The irony of the government not allowing it is not lost on me though :wink:

Ethically though, I would not be against breastfeeding a foster child- there would be so many benefits! Lots of foster children seem to have low immunity, and as a bonding tool it would be fantastic. The neural pathways that form with that closeness and eye gazing... yep, it would be great. However the reality of the matter would be that lots of kids switch care placements and so it might become more traumatising for both the carers and the child if weaning is abrupt.

Child Safety in my area are very pro breastfeeding. When we applied to become foster carers they were very interested in me studying to become a breastfeeding counsellor- they said that it would be very valuable to have someone who would support birth parents to breastfeed their children during visitation- they recognised how much it promotes secure attachment and said it was such a postive parenting skill to have- something that some of these Mums might not have a lot of. I was surprised to know that that was even a possibility- it was good to have my mind opened that way.

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Post by Mummy woo! » Mon May 14, 2012 4:48 pm

Just wanted to add to the conversation that I follow the blog of a US lady who takes foster kids and she is not allowed to feed her foster kids the milk from the goats on her farm (she keeps goats for home use, not a dairy farm). So her family drink the goat milk and the foster kids get cow's milk from the shop.

Can you imagine if she wanted to breastfeed them? :roll:

I think breastfeeding a foster child would be fine if the parents of the child gave informed consent. If the parents and the foster mother consented then I don't think it would be anyone else's business, including DOCS. I don't think it is very likely that would happen given current societal attitudes to cross-nursing.

I also don't think the community understanding of a child's 'right' to breastmilk has progressed enough to encompass breastfeeding a foster child without the biological parent's permission. Practically speaking, to try to ensure breastmilk for fostered children would reduce the available pool of foster carers drastically.

Having seen Mrs Moops being very protective of 'her' mummy milk, I would have to consider the impact on my biological children of needing to share breastfeeding with a fostered child when they are already adjusting to a new family member. Not a reason not to do it, but certainly a need to provide additional support during the adjustment period for all the little people in the home.

A very interesting question - lots of intersecting rights and values there!
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Post by Andypandy » Mon May 14, 2012 4:54 pm

I know a foster mum who looks after newborns was trying to seek permission to feed a newborn donor ebm. I think it was a huge rigmarole to get an answer and it was no :(
DS1: May 09 Breastfed 2y7m
DS2: Oct 2012 Breastfed 2y1m I am pretending he is weaned
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Post by Karleen » Wed May 16, 2012 12:32 pm

I think that you can see that foster breastfeeding brings up all of these questions because of the issue of "boundaries," what is appropriate caregiving from someone who is not the "real" mother's the same reason why many people struggle with adoptive breastfeeding.

Mind you, I don't think that it's a good reason. Foster mothers provide substitute maternal care. Breastfeeding is a part of normal maternal caregiving (as is cuddling, nappy changing, kisses and love)....anyway, I've not heard of anyone asking and being given permission to breastfeed a foster child in Australia- even for permanent care placements (refusal is generally the "Yuck factor" based). I know it happens and I did it myself (though very unique circumstances and I was open about it). Yes, a long way to go before breastfeeding a foster child is seen as OK and even a long way to go before breastfeeding in at risk dyads is supported- I've done far too many "expert opinion" letters for breastfeeding children in foster care whose mother wishes to breastfeed and or provide breastmilk being stymied by authorities. So legal mother cannot breastfeed and foster mother cannot breastfeed- where's the child's rights in all of that?


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Post by JennyD » Wed May 16, 2012 12:37 pm

As a child our neighbour adopted two kids, and I remember wondering why she didn't breastfeed them, I was quite sure she would be able too. Which is quite strange given I'd never actually seen anyone breastfeeding and I was only breastfed for 3 months (not bad for my generation, but still). It just seemed logical to me that she would put the baby to the breast, she didn't of course :)

Slightly off topic. I was watching Embarrassing bodies last night (recorded from the night before) and this day care mum was worried about the milky stuff coming from her breasts. Was it cancer, was it the implant busting, no it was milk. Because she cares for so many babies her breasts started working, magic. Of course she didn't see it as magic, but did accept that she may just have to live with it. I suspect the mums of babies she's caring for wouldn't go in for wet nursing :)

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