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Publication Date: 
March, 2005
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Reports of 32 adopted children who sought breastfeeding from their mothers are presented. Children were 8 months to 12 years at placement and sought breastfeeding from the day of placement to several years after. Some children suckled only a few times whereas others breastfed frequently over a protracted period. Suckling was comforting to children and assisted some in expressing grief over birth mother loss. Mothers felt that breastfeeding assisted in attachment development. It is proposed that the reason why children desired breastfeeding is associated with their first maternal relationship. Children may be seeking breastfeeding as a conditioned response to stimuli provided by the adoptive mother, have memories of breastfeeding or the mother child relationship, or be exhibiting regression in response to stress. Suckling at the breast could provide comfort and stress relief to the child and promote maternal responsiveness. The frequency of adopted children seeking breastfeeding is unknown however adoption professionals should advise adoption applicants of the possibility. It may also be appropriate for adoptive mothers to pursue breastfeeding in the event that the child does not.

KEY WORDS: Adoption, attachment, breastfeeding, institutionalisation, memory.


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