I had always thought that the options for breastfeeding an adoptive infant were to hire wet nurses or retrieve breast milk from milk banks (otherwise adoptive infants were fed by baby formula). It hadn't even crossed my mind that in some circumstances, adoptive mothers were capable of inducing lactation by breast-pumping.

Obviously, emphasis on the "some" as I know not all women are not capable of inducing lactation in order to produce breast milk. However, must a woman had previously given birth to a child in order to induce lactation?

Also, when an adoptive mother is able to induce lactation for their adoptive infant, are they able to produce colostrum, the first most nutritious (full of antibodies) secretion from the breast? Or is this only produced when the body is actually preparing to give birth to a baby?

How are they able to induce lactation?

  • What about nineteenth-century's wet nurse, without chemicals (hormones) available?
    – mattia.b89
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


Yes. This article on the Mayo Clinic site suggests combining three approaches:

  • hormones before the baby's arrival, if there is time
  • pumping both before and after the baby's arrival
  • feeding the baby through a system that provides nursing pressure (such as this SNS, a bottle you wear around your neck with a thin tube you put on your nipple, so that the baby gets milk from the tube while the mechanics encourage more production)

Searching for "induce lactation" will find you a number of personal stories with varying degrees of success, and varying definitions of success. Click carefully - there are also sites dedicated to the subgenre of "erotic lactation" which not everyone will want to visit.

On colostrum, it isn't the most nutritious milk, but it does give a big antibodies boost. Nevertheless, milk continues to be a good source of immunities for a long time after that first week, as this 2013 Future Virology article describes:

Human colostrum contains more than 1 g/l IgA, and during the first year of lactation, concentrations are maintained at approximately 0.5 g/day

Since the approach generally involves beginning to pump before the baby is born, even if there was a colostrum response, it wouldn't be timed to the baby's arrival. The people I know who considered this took into account convenience (once a supply, even a partial one, was established), health benefits, feelings of closeness, and not getting glare-stares when using a bottle in public.


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