Breastfeeding Grow Newborn & Infant

Nursing, Adoption, & The Self Critic

Mother and adopted daughter
Written by Tracey Biebel

They were all pregnant. Five of them. When we started the adoption process, none of them were pregnant and two weren’t even sure they wanted a second child.

Finding joy for my friends while I waited, and waited, and waited was painful. I was happy for them. I did love watching their bellies grow, their bodies change as the arrival of their little ones grew near. The timeline of pregnancy is fairly predictable. The timeline for adoption is NOT.

The waiting, the hoping, the “expecting” without any outward signs of your process is outside what society acknowledges. I was pregnant too. I just didn’t look it.

Our adoption journey took 2 years. And it was worth every piece of paperwork, home visit, fingerprint, and plane ride. We met my daughter in a hallway in China when she was 8.5 months old. She is now 7.

I am in awe of her daily.

She is my second child. My first is biological, now 10 years old. Following his birth, I had medical complications that prevented any further pregnancies. The grief over the loss of my fertility was overwhelming for a while. It still surprises me by recurring every now and again. Gratefully, with much less force than in the beginning.

I am a HUGE breastfeeding advocate.

I feel so fortunate that I was able to nurse my son, even in the face of the medical complications, until he self weaned at 13 months. I live in Portland, Oregon. There is some SERIOUS breastfeeding judgement here. Pulling out a bottle and admitting to formula feeding, even while wearing your cloth diapered baby in the ERGO, can incite quite a “discussion” at the playground.

So, I had a great deal of guilt over not taking drastic measures to try and nurse her. The pressure to live up to all the “right” ways to parent can be overwhelming. For quite some time, I felt shame and the need to explain whenever I pulled out a bottle.

Then, I saw her thriving. She was growing… cognitively, physically, emotionally… she was growing. She was bright eyed. She was curious. She was learning to trust.

When we did bottle feed, I made a point of being skin to skin. I made a point to never let HER hold the bottle. To be sure that it was my hand, my skin, she felt when she did touch the bottle. We made eye contact. I held her in the nursing position. I realized that nursing was SO much more than the milk it provides. It is about the connection. The attunement. The nurturing. The relationship. So, in a way,I felt I was nursing her.

My shame started to subside. She and I began to claim each other. The details and explanations to other people seemed less important. I gained confidence in my parenting of this new little person. And she gained confidence in my ability to care for her. And that was the goal all along.


Tracey B. Johnson, LCSW is the founder of Practical Parenting: Solutions for Everyday Challenges, a private practice designed to offer support and education to families seeking ways to decrease the frustration and increase the fun in their family lives. She and her two children and little dog live in Portland, Oregon. You can find her, and more of her writing at:


About the author

Tracey Biebel