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Induced Lactation: Breastfeeding for Adoptive Parents

A growing number of adoptive parents are interested in breastfeeding their babies through induced lactation. Since induced lactation works best with a newborn or very young baby, it's best to talk with your doctor or pediatrician sooner rather than later about it. Ideally, you will want to begin inducing lactation weeks to months before your baby arrives.

Prescription medications to stimulate milk production

No drugs specifically designed to induce or enhance lactation have yet been approved by the U.S, Food & Drug Administration. However, a few medications typically prescribed for other reasons, such as the drug metoclopramide, have also been shown to stimulate or enhance milk production in some cases.

Medications to stimulate milk production must be prescribed by a physician, and they do have side effects. So, your doctor will want to review your medical history before prescribing them. In some cases, oral contraceptive pills may be used to stimulate milk production.

Herbal medications for lactation

In the United States and other countries, mothers have used herbal medications, available either in capsules or in teas, to stimulate or increase milk supply. Ask your doctor or lactation specialist about herbal medications before considering their use.

Note: herbal medications are not regulated in the United States for content, purity, or possible contaminants.


You must accompany any medication with regular nipple and breast stimulation with a breast pump every 2 to 3 hours. Once your baby has arrived, they can be encouraged to suckle at the breast. Pumping, hand expression and infant suckling helps start a breastfeeding relationship while further stimulating milk production.

At-breast nursing supplementers

While there is no way to predict whether your milk production will reach sufficient levels to fully satisfy your baby's needs, many adoptive parents happily breastfeed with the aid of a nursing supplementer that provides donor breast milk or formula.

How long does it take to induce lactation?

If you're interested, you should talk to your doctor and start the process well before the arrival of the baby. Milk production can take weeks to begin—an average of 4 weeks—after you start pumping. The stress of the adoption process can also disrupt the production of milk.


Talk with your pediatrician if you have any questions about feeding your baby.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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