Can an adoptive mother breastfeed a child?

General information on breastfeeding an infant

This page is for information and does not replace specialist advice.

Length of breastfeeding

Breast milk is the best food. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months is the physiological diet (WHO) for the majority of infants. When a child is weaned is a joint decision of mother and child (see Breastfeeding and Complementary Food / Weaning).

Diet while breastfeeding

As in pregnancy, continue to eat healthy, balanced and wholesome foods as much as possible. Raw fish, raw meat and raw mix products are allowed again. If you are thirsty, preferably drink unsweetened drinks. The amount of milk can NOT be increased by drinking more, but by breastfeeding more often.

Medication and breastfeeding

If you need to take medication while breastfeeding, you should discuss this with your doctor, a trained lactation consultant (IBCLC) or midwife. There are now a large number of drugs that can be used to continue breastfeeding without harming the child (

Alcohol, coffee, smoking, drugs and breastfeeding

  • Alcohol passes into breast milk and changes its taste. Every now and then a small glass of wine or beer on a special occasion is not an obstacle to breastfeeding.
  • Most children can tolerate a moderate amount of coffee. Drink your coffee after breastfeeding.
  • Nicotine affects the milk ejection reflex, passes into breast milk and changes its taste. High consumption can lead to restlessness, vomiting, failure to thrive and frequent respiratory problems in the child. The risk of allergic diseases is also increased. Make sure your child grows up in a smoke-free environment. Only smoke outside the apartment. Even if you cannot quit smoking entirely, you should breastfeed your child to protect them as much as possible from respiratory infections and sudden infant death.
  • Drugs should generally be avoided during breastfeeding. Drugs of any kind endanger your child's health. (The methadone program without additional consumption is a special situation).

Breastfeeding and Working

If you are working, are going back to school or university, then you have the right to breastfeeding breaks. If you cannot have your child with you, it is worth borrowing an electric breast pump so that the breast can be emptied regularly and the child can be supplied with breast milk. Use the time together with your child to breastfeed. Some children tend to seek closeness more often at night.

Breastfeeding an adopted child

It is possible to breastfeed an adopted child even if there was never a previous pregnancy. In order to successfully build up an "induced lactation", the time of adoption, the age of the child and the motivation of the adoptive parents are important factors. It requires close cooperation with the gynecologist, the pediatrician and an experienced lactation consultant, IBCLC.

Breastfeeding after breast surgery

Basically, neither implants nor a breast reduction (reduction plastic) represent an obstacle to breastfeeding. It is important to provide information and anamnesis during pregnancy. Good breastfeeding support is particularly important after the birth.

Alternative feeding methods

For various medical reasons, it may be necessary to feed a breastfed child with breast milk or artificial baby food. In order to avoid suction irritation in the first few weeks of life, an alternative feeding method tailored to the child is selected.

Alternative methods are:

  • Additional feeding with a spoon
  • Additional feeding with a special cup
  • Additional feeding via the breast (e.g. with a breast feeding set)
  • Additional feeding with the finger (fingerfeeding)

If possible, alternative feeding methods are practiced and carried out by the parents under the guidance of a trained lactation advisor (IBCLC).

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding / Tandem Breastfeeding

You are pregnant and your child is still being breastfed. If the pregnancy is intact and problem-free, there is no need to wean. Your milk changes its taste, composition and quantity in the course of pregnancy. This is sometimes a reason to stop breastfeeding for an older child. Don't worry about the unborn baby. If you eat a balanced and healthy diet, there will be no deficiency during pregnancy. Nature takes care of the unborn child first and foremost, and colostrum will be available to the baby in sufficient quantities after the birth.

Breastfeeding and complementary foods

The point at which an infant needs complementary food depends on the child's thriving and ability to eat. Complementary food should be offered after the age of six months. Whether you want to offer your baby porridge free (baby led weaning) or porridge food is up to you.

Do not force your child to eat, some children love to try new foods, others need a little more time. Eating should be fun. Even touching the food has nothing to do with playing, but is an important part of learning. The first porridges are not full meals. Your child will ask for the breast meal before and after the complementary food (an additional offer for breastfeeding).

Introducing complementary foods does not mean weaning, but offering and introducing new foods. With increasing consumption of complementary foods, the quantitative importance of breast milk as a food decreases in the second year of life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends feeding exclusively with breast milk for six months, then introducing appropriate complementary foods under the protection of breastfeeding and continuing to breastfeed until the age of two and for as long as mother and child wish.


The National Breastfeeding Commission does not give an explicit recommendation as to when to wean. Weaning is an individual decision of mother / partner and child.

If you, as a mother, decide that you want to wean, make sure you are absolutely sure. If you breastfeed slowly, give your child a lot of closeness during this time. Slow weaning (conservative) is the gentlest way for both of them. Medicinal weaning requires a doctor's prescription.