I BREAST­FED MY ADOPTED BABY

Juanita Fourie of Piet Retief in Mpumalanga shares her story of re­latch­ing suc­cess

Your Baby & Toddler - - Front Page - YB

Imar­ried my hus­band, Llewellyn, in 2010. We wanted chil­dren, but we also knew I had poly­cys­tic ovar­ian syn­drome (PCOS), so we started on our road to fer­til­ity straight away. I even­tu­ally un­der­went a pro­ce­dure called ovar­ian drilling to laser the cysts and have en­dometrio­sis scar­ring re­moved. I fell preg­nant im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, and in April 2012, our son Luan was born.

I breast­fed Luan for nine months, then stopped as we were ready to start try­ing for our sec­ond child – know­ing we ide­ally wanted a small age gap, but that be­com­ing preg­nant again could be dif­fi­cult, we were in a rush.

My med­i­cal prog­no­sis had not im­proved. Af­ter pray­ing about the sit­u­a­tion, we de­cided not to have an­other op­er­a­tion, but to pur­sue adop­tion in­stead. I had al­ways wanted to adopt chil­dren in any case.

THE DE­CI­SION TO BREAST­FEED

By the time we started our in­ter­views with some pri­vate adop­tion agen­cies by March 2014, I had al­ready de­cided that I wanted to try to breast­feed my adopted child. As a di­eti­cian, I know that breast­milk is the best start you can give your baby – I also thought it would be good for cre­at­ing a bond with our new baby. We stip­u­lated that we wanted a child as young as pos­si­ble for that rea­son. In South Africa th­ese days it is not pos­si­ble to adopt a child be­fore 60 days old, as this is the amount of time a birth mother has to change her mind about adop­tion. So we knew we wouldn’t get a new­born.

Stud­ies have shown that it is pos­si­ble to teach a three- to six-month-old non­breast­fed baby to latch; with a six- to nine-month-old, it is still pos­si­ble but you are un­likely to suc­ceed; and af­ter nine months the baby will not be able to learn to latch any­more.

We also wanted a girl – and of course with adop­tion, luck­ily you get to choose! I started buy­ing baby clothes, go­ing on the adop­tive par­ent­ing course that our agency – the won­der­ful Abba Adop­tion Home in Pre­to­ria – man­dated, and pre­pared my­self for the wait­ing pe­riod of any­where be­tween three months and two years for our baby girl to come to us.

I also read up on relac­ta­tion and in­duced lac­ta­tion. Be­cause I had breast­fed my son less than two years pre­vi­ously, I would be of­fi­cially relac­tat­ing, whereas an adop­tive mother who has never breast­fed be­fore would have in­duced lac­ta­tion.

ALL THE STEPS TO SUC­CESS­FUL RELAC­TA­TION

Relac­tat­ing is quite a process. The con­tra­cep­tive pill mim­ics preg­nancy. So first I had to go on the com­bined pill, skip­ping the placebo week (the placebo week is what starts your “pe­riod”) – which adds up to nine weeks straight of hor­monal in­ter­ven­tion. Af­ter that the woman must go on Eg­ly­nol or Dom­peri­done – both are drugs which in­crease lac­ta­tion by in­creas­ing the pro­duc­tion of the hor­mone pro­lactin. Within a short three days (the av­er­age time is two weeks), I started to lac­tate, and ex­press my milk.

It starts off slowly: first you get 5ml, then 10ml. By the time I was pump­ing 50ml at a time, I started freez­ing my milk, as prop­erly stored breast­milk can be frozen for up to six months in a deep freezer. Ide­ally you are sup­posed to pump ev­ery two hours and also pump at night – some­thing I just didn’t do, as I still had a very small Luan to look af­ter day and night, and I would have been too tired.

MEET­ING OUR LIT­TLE GIRL

Then the call came that there was a baby for us! Fi­nally, on 15 Septem­ber 2014, the day dawned, and we could go and fetch our baby girl in Pre­to­ria. We named her Lu­lanie, and she came to us the day be­fore she turned five months old.

On the long drive home to Piet Retief, we stopped at the Spur in Bethal for lunch. Lu­lanie cried, and I took her to the baby chang­ing sta­tion to change her nappy – and then I thought I would try to of­fer her the breast. Amazingly, she latched right then and there!

NURS­ING SUC­CESS

My hus­band and I are both di­eti­cians at the Piet Retief Gov­ern­ment Hos­pi­tal, and I re­ceived eight weeks of ma­ter­nity leave. Dur­ing that time, I breast­fed Lu­lanie day and night. The night feeds were al­ways easy. This was good be­cause pro­lactin is se­creted at night, so if you empty a breast at night you help keep your milk sup­ply up. The day feeds weren’t quite as easy though – Lu­lanie was bit­ing down on the breast, which is a com­mon thing for bot­tle fed ba­bies to do to get the milk to come out faster, but it was ir­ri­tat­ing me and not good for our bond­ing. So I gave her bot­tles of ex­pressed milk in the day and breast­fed her at night.

I con­tin­ued like this af­ter I went back to work, and even­tu­ally stopped breast­feed­ing in Jan­uary 2015, so she had about five months of a breast­milk diet. I am happy with that. I was pre­pared for the fact that my baby would have to have mixed feeds (made up of both for­mula and breast­milk), which is fine un­less a mother or baby is HIV+. As a di­eti­cian I know any amount of breast­milk is bet­ter than none. Re­cent stud­ies have shown that breast­milk even helps with gene ex­pres­sion – so it can en­cour­age good health even at the ge­netic level, as it en­cour­ages good or strong genes to suc­ceed – and I am proud of what we have achieved.

A HAPPY FAM­ILY

On the whole our fam­ily and friends have been sup­port­ive of our breast­feed­ing jour­ney. The big­gest chal­lenge is that peo­ple still think of breast­feed­ing as some­thing that should be done in pri­vate and away from pry­ing eyes, which is why I think ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing for the first six months is so rare in South Africa. I re­ally think it’s time that peo­ple changed their mind­sets and ed­u­cated them­selves about the benefits of breast­feed­ing, and learnt how to sup­port women in a com­mu­nity to breast­feed

Lu­lanie is now a happy, talk­a­tive baby. She started walk­ing at 10 months, she loves to dance, and she has started speak­ing Afrikaans, which also de­lighted us and helped us bond with her, as she was re­ally lit­er­ally speak­ing to us in our lan­guage now.

Would I re­peat this process with an­other baby? Ab­so­lutely yes, I would. It was a suc­cess. My ad­vice for other par­ents con­tem­plat­ing relac­ta­tion or in­duced lac­ta­tion, though, is to con­sult the ex­perts and get good ad­vice and coun­selling. Get a lac­ta­tion ex­pert to help you and make con­tact with the La Leche League South Africa. This will highly in­crease your chances of suc­cess.

Juanita suc­cess­fully breast­fed her adopted daugh­ter for five months

Lu­lanie, Juanita,Llewellyn and Luan are a happy,healthy fam­ily

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