Lactating After Loss: Aching Heart and Breasts
The experience of losing a baby is something that no woman or family should ever have to go through. If you’re suffering through the pain of pregnancy loss, you’re not alone – millions of “invisible moms” have miscarried, delivered stillborn babies, or lost their baby shortly after birth. Sometimes your body doesn’t immediately recognize your loss and makes milk for a baby that isn’t there. This can cause your loss to be not only emotionally excruciating, but sometimes physically painful as well. Unfortunately, lactation after loss is a topic that healthcare providers may neglect to discuss and many women are sent home lacking important resources to manage their breast milk supply.
Whether you want to suppress your supply as soon as possible or are looking to extend this connection to your baby, do what feels right for you. Everyone grieves in a different way and there is no right or wrong way to manage your lactation.
To Reduce and Stop Your Breast Milk Supply
Keep in mind that the length of time it will take your body to stop lactating is different for everyone. Depending on how far along you were in your pregnancy, you may or may not experience milk letdown or leaking breasts after miscarriage. Your breasts may feel uncomfortably full, but this pressure should naturally lessen after not breastfeeding. To make yourself more comfortable and reduce your supply, here are some steps you can take to stop lactating:
Avoid touching or stimulating your nipples, as this may cause your breasts to produce more milk.
Place cold cabbage leaves on your breasts or inside your bra. Cabbage leaves have been reported to help relieve engorgement and tenderness.
If you need to relieve pressure, stand in a hot shower and allow the water to run over your breasts. You can also sit in a warm bath and lean into the water. Both of these methods will cause milk to leak out. Allowing just a little bit of milk to flow can prevent plugged ducts and infections.
Apply ice packs or cold compresses to your breasts to relieve swelling and pain.
Talk to your doctor about taking a pain reliever if needed.
To Donate Your Milk
Some women may experience healing through milk donation. If you are interested in milk donation, you can reach out to a milk bank near you. Your hospital or healthcare provider might also have more information about donating your milk to a local NICU or milk sharing network.
Remember: every woman experiences the grief of losing a baby differently. Take time. Be gentle with yourself. Reach out to the women around you – you’re not alone. One in four women experience miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Chances are, someone close to you knows what you are going through.