Breastfeeding a Foster Baby

Breastfeeding a Foster Baby

Categories: Breastfeeding Today, Our Stories, Previous Issues


Anon, CA, USA

In December 2015, my husband received a call from a social worker informing him that his sister had given birth to a little girl who was now under protective custody. The social worker wanted to know if we were willing to foster and possibly adopt our baby niece. To be honest, we had no idea my sister-in-law had even been pregnant. My husband loved his sister, but we had lost our connection with her as a result of her lifestyle choices.

We considered our chances to adopt were favorable. Because of the biological parents’ history, the baby girl was born with more than three dangerous drugs found present in her blood. She had spent the first 18 days of her life in the NICU on morphine to help her through withdrawal symptoms. From there, she was placed in two different temporary foster homes. After she had been released to her first foster family, she was once more admitted to hospital with digestive and respiratory issues.

On the morning of January 22, 2016, we had a “team decision” meeting, at which we discussed the baby’s current health issues, including an umbilical hernia and lingering withdrawal symptoms, and were given permission to begin our journey with her as foster parents.

During the meeting, I asked if I might breastfeed her and the social workers agreed that it would benefit the baby to have that natural source of nutrition. It was also stated that there are no rules or regulations governing breastfeeding a foster child. We just needed permission from her birth parents. Since both biological parents’ whereabouts were unknown, the social workers were able to grant permission.

At noon that same day, we went to pick up our little girl. She was just shy of two months old and had never been to the breast. I was an active La Leche League Leader at the time, so I had all kinds of tools to use if we encountered any problems. To my surprise, she latched on pretty well and she has never had to drink any formula from the first time she was put into my arms. My two-year-old son tandem nursed with his new baby sister for a while.

I can vouch for the healing powers of breast milk because I have seen them with my very own eyes. Within a couple of months, her umbilical hernia (caused by digestive issues) was completely gone. She grew out of her other symptoms by six months of age. She will be a year old in a few weeks and is still nursing really well.

Unfortunately, her birth mother passed away in March from her untreated illnesses. Her birth father remains uninvolved in her care and potentially he will lose his parental rights before the end of the year. We hope that we shall be able to formally adopt our niece some time during 2017. I am so thankful to have been able to give my little girl the gift of breastfeeding and a forever family.

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