We learned they were mostly breastfed: Their birth mother couldn’t produce enough milk, so they were primarily fed on hospital-grade formula.When my daughter was reaching for my breast that first time, it occurred to me that she may have missed this early bonding experience with her birth mom.Whether that’s true or not, both my daughters would have seen babies on the breast all around them in Ethiopia.

Babies are carried on their mothers’ backs until they’re older toddlers, and children are openly breastfed — often up through five and six years old, and even older in rural areas.

(And, in fact, there’s even communal breastfeeding in rural communities, where female relatives nurse other children.) Nursing at your mother’s breast is a big part of what it means to be her child.

Although I knew we’d be getting siblings, I didn’t know how old our children would be until we received a referral.

I was aware that some adoptive mothers had successfully induced lactation to feed their adopted children, but since I’m not one to ingest unnecessary chemicals or meds, I didn’t want to do that.

A few days after we arrived home from Ethiopia as a family of four, I was sitting on the couch with one of my daughters when she stuck her hand down my shirt.

I thought she was being playful at first, but it soon became clear she was reaching for my breast, wanting to nurse. My initial reaction was to gently pull her hand away and redirect her; after all, there was no milk there, and my four-year-old daughter is obviously not a baby. Before my husband and I landed in Ethiopia, I made a list of questions I hoped to ask the girls’ birth family (if we had the privilege of meeting any).One thing I wanted to know was whether the girls were breastfed.Amazingly, on our second trip, we found ourselves sitting across from a birth relative in the home our girls had lived in before being brought to the orphanage.(If I’d already been nursing a biological child, I certainly would have breastfed an adopted child.) I had planned to seek out some breast milk for nutritional reasons, if we found ourselves with a baby or two, but since we ended up with four-year-old twins, the issue seemed moot.Yet there I was, with preschoolers who wanted to nurse — both of them at first, but mainly the daughter who regressed the most. And so, on that first day, I took a deep breath and let her nurse.Then I prayed that none of my neighbors would choose that moment to walk past our living-room windows.