LACTATION AFTER LOSS

After the loss of your baby, you may begin to make breast milk.  It can be a painful reminder that while you are no longer pregnant, your body does not quite realize there is no baby in your arms. Lactation support for post-partum loss moms is virtually non-existent and leaves many suffering in silence.

Let us be the first to tell you; YOU ARE NOT ALONE and YOU HAVE OPTIONS!

Most women will choose to dry up their supply, as quickly (and painlessly) as possible. Others will decide to pump and donate their milk for use by NICU's and moms who cannot breastfeed for whatever their circumstance.

Whatever you decide, your decision is EXACTLY RIGHT for you and your situation.

DONATING YOUR MILK

After the loss of your baby, physical reminders such as lactation, can seem cruel when your child's life has been cut short. You may find solace in donating your breast milk to those in need.  Research in the US shows that donating breast milk to a Human Milk Bank has helped some bereaved women identify as a mother, while grieving the loss of that motherhood. 

 

Donating your breast milk can be beneficial; not only through helping hospitalized premature infants, but also to help with your own personal grief.  The physical act of expressing milk may allow you more time to grieve and cry in private and help you to begin to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Some say that donating breast milk to other infants helps find some positive meaning in the death of their own baby.

Whatever your reason for choosing this option, the process is a little more complex than pumping/expressing and dropping off your milk.  Milk Banks require a criteria screening, as well as testing your blood.  We've heard of some websites where milk is donated privately without screening, but we really do not recommend this.  Always go through The Human Milk Bank of North America or an associated organization they recommend.

DRYING UP YOUR MILK

So often, women are just told to wear a super tight bra (or two), avoid facing the water while in the shower, and letting nature take its course.  While that CAN work, it is absolutely painful, both physically and mentally. 

If you've chosen to dry up your supply after losing your baby, we are here to help!  With medical providers no longer prescribing medications, the homeopathic community has developed some wonderful alternatives that work well.

  • Chilled cabbage leaves can be a great first step in this process.  Placing a leaf in each cup of your bra will help with the pain and swelling from engorgement.  Some say the enzymes found in cabbage can help dry up your milk, but more studies need to be done on that specifically.

  • Put small ice packs in your bra, like these.  You'll just need to ensure they have some sort of fabric backing to minimize the risk of frostbite.  Also, take OTC pain reducers like Ibuprofen or Tylenol, every 4-6 hours as directed. 

  • Wear nursing pads, as your breasts will continue to leak for a little while, even after most lactation has stopped.

  • Drink tea that contains Sage like this one.  Also, the No More Milk tea by Earth Mama is widely used.  Other herbs said to be helpful are: Peppermint,  Chasteberry, Jasmine and Parsley.

  • It is said that Sudafed-D (decongestant) can help your milk dry up.  It's definitely an off-label use, and not widely known, but we've heard it works.  You'll need to get the Sudafed Sinus Congestion (formerly sudafed-d) behind the pharmacy counter.

  • Use Cabo-Creme.  It's made by an Ob-Gyn and has wonderful reviews.  We've even been fortunate enough to get samples to give to our moms.  We no longer have them, but we heard it works!

  • Essential Oils can reduce your milk supply as well.  This article explains what works and how to make your own.

  • Massage your breasts often and express milk by hand as necessary, to prevent engorgement and mastitis.  If your breast is red or you have a fever, call your doctor.

Image by Martha Dominguez de Gouveia

Specific information on the donation process at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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Milk & Honey is one of the many vendors who offer beautiful keepsake breast milk jewelry.  One thing we like about their site is the ability to purchase a DIY kit, if you'd like!

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Emily Thompson of Blood & Milk tells readers exactly how she dried up her supply after the loss of her daughter at 23 weeks.

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Video story of a mother who chose milk donation after losing her baby at 20 weeks gestation

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The HMBANA provides the information you'll need to begin donating your breast milk.  They are a national organization and you can donate to areas outside of DE, NJ and PA.