in Pact's Point of View, The Newsletter for Adoptive Families with Children of Color
"For many women, breastfeeding is an important part of the journey into motherhood, and this is just as true for mothers who have not given birth to their babies. Fortunately, Alyssa Schnell has written Breastfeeding Without Birthing, an incisive and graceful book specifically for adoptive mothers, mothers whose babies are born via surrogacy, and foster mothers, as well as for mothers who have had to terminate breastfeeding and now want to resume, and mothers who use a breast pump instead of feeding directly from the breast.
Schnell, who adopted one of her children through Pact, defines breastfeeding as “nourishing a baby with her mother’s milk and/or nurturing a baby at her breast.” This includes mothers who make enough milk to provide all or some of their baby’s nutrition, mothers who use a feeding tube attached to the breast, and mothers who simply comfort their babies at the breast without producing milk. In her book, Schnell describes techniques that encourage a baby to “latch” (properly position his mouth) onto the breast, an essential step for breastfeeding to take place, and she includes extensive information on how to induce milk production using traditional herbs, modern medications, and physical techniques.
Like many books on the topic and echoing conventional wisdom, Schnell details the importance of breastfeeding as it pertains to a baby’s health. But she also highlights, with an adoptive parent’s perspective, how it facilitates closeness and attachment between mother and child, something parents whose children are not born to them are often concerned about.
In chapters 5 and 6 (“Honoring the Transition” and “Tools for Latching and Attaching”), Schnell offers many creative ways to promote connection and trust between parent and child. The author discusses the importance of being sensitive to a baby’s needs, as the newly adopted baby is in a highly stressed state and may be grieving the loss of birth mother or other caregivers. The uniqueness of this book lies in the author’s concrete ideas about how to foster attachment with an adopted child – ideas pertinent even to those with no intention of breastfeeding. Most adoptive parents are very interested in creating deep connections with their adopted children, and this book is an incredible resource which can be useful to a much broader readership than the title suggests. Whether you are an adoptive parent with a young child, or are waiting to be matched with a young child—even if you have no intention of breastfeeding—these chapters offer critical insights and are definitely worth reading.
While the many benefits of breastfeeding cannot be understated, they are not the only focus of Schnell’s book. She also dives into the best ways to create a community of support, and how to handle critical responses from family, friends, or medical professionals who don’t think breastfeeding is a good idea—or even possible—for women who have not gestated their babies. This information is invaluable for those women coming up against what has been the long-accepted norm.
Schnell devotes one chapter toward parenting partners who contribute to successful breastfeeding by helping with practical matters (acquiring supplies, keeping equipment clean) and providing emotional support (staying positive when things aren't going perfectly). Yet she also emphasizes that a partner is not necessary to the success of breastfeeding; single mothers can do it just as effectively.
There are many aspects of this book I like including its warmth, clarity, and encouragement about how to have breastfeeding work for everyone involved. The photos of parents and babies are beautiful and affirming. Most of all, I like the author’s gentle sense of purpose and her gracious tone. Ultimately, she reminds us that the success of breastfeeding isn’t measured by the ounces of milk produced each day, but rather by the connection to, and the nurturing of, a child. Schnell gently encourages each family to find their own sense of accomplishment and success in the journey."
-Cindy Harrington, prospective adoptive mother
-Diana West, IBCLC, author of Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery and co-author of The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th edition, and Sweet Sleep.
-Linda Smith, MPH, FACCE, IBCLC, FILCA, co-author of Sweet Sleep, as well as several other books for lactation consultants and breastfeeding mothers.
I love what a balanced approach your book takes regarding the many paths to breastfeeding a child who joins a family through adoption or surrogacy. I think many times, if people have heard of breastfeeding without pregnancy, they've only heard one person's experience and think that there is only one right way to do things.
I was a LLL leader for many years and still come in contact with many families who are interested in breastfeeding without pregnancy. I'll definitely be recommending your book. It's a well done treatment of a topic that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves."
-Pamela Willett, adoptive mother, and retired La Leche League Leader