After the loss of a child, lactation support is critical, as your body will continue to lactate. Milk supply works off supply and demand: the more milk you express, the more your body will make. Reducing the amount of expressed milk (gradually to reduce the risk of infection) will reduce the amount of milk your body is making and slowly suppress your supply. Continuing to pump will alert your body to continue producing milk. For some women this is a comfort, it reminds them of their baby and helps acknowledge their existence. For others this can be an added weight of grief and a reminder that their child is gone. Both feelings are completely normal. Do what feels right for you.
Select each of the lactation topics below to learn more.
For mothers who want their bodies to stop producing milk immediately, there are steps to take to help suppress your milk supply as soon as possible. For others, continuing to pump may be a more therapeutic route for your grieving process. Milk donation and helping others in need can be a positive experience for grieving families.
The time it takes for milk suppression will be different for every person. Some mothers will take days, while others take weeks, it just depends where you are in your journey. The most important point is to reduce milk supply gradually to reduce risk of infections. Pump to relieve pressure and discomfort only. Consult a lactation consultant in your area for some one-on-one help to get the results you need.
Tips for Stopping Breastmilk Supply:
- Wear a supportive bra that hold breasts firmly, but do not bind.
- Use ice packs or over the counter medications to help manage pain.
- Hand express or use a hand pump when possible to provide relief.
- Avoid long hot showers, which can trigger let-downs leading to additional production.
Natural Milk Suppression Methods:
- Sage tea- contains natural estrogen which helps to dry up milk production. Add some honey to sweeten the taste.
- Chilled cabbage – put some chilled cabbage leaves in your bra and change out every 2 hours. This can provide pain relief and comfort from engorgement.
Medications for Milk Suppression (Consult with your doctor before taking any medications):
- Birth control that contains estrogen can help to slow milk production. Consult your doctor about your options.
- Some women have had success in taking certain over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants. These contain pseudoephedrine to help to dry up bodily fluids including to help slow milk production.
- Your Doctor may prescribe medications as well; consult your doctor to learn more.
Signs of Infection:
Infections including mastitis and plugged ducts can happen when milk expression changes drastically. Watch out for signs and symptoms of an infection including:
- Warmth or redness
- Red spots on the skin
- Lump or hard areas on the breast
Continuing to pump for a baby in need is always another option. Many ways exist to donate milk. You can choose to donate your fresh or frozen milk to a milk bank or to another peer through milk-sharing.
Donation to a HMBANA milk bank requires screening and some minimum requirements that will include a phone interview, paperwork, medical history and blood collection. Contact a milk bank near you to see further requirements and determine if this is the right fit for you.
Here are a few options to get you started with donation:
- Human Milk Banking Association of North America
- Missouri Breastfeeding Coalition (Milk Depots)
- Milk Depot in Texas (Accepts milk from all over)
Peer-to-peer milk-sharing enables mothers who are in need of breastmilk to post their needs online and allows mothers with milk the opportunity to share with those in need. Milksharing is done at your own risk. It is up to the recipient to screen the donor as there is no official screening process for this type of milk sharing process.
Here are a few options to get you started with sharing:
A variety of options exist to for lactation consultation:
- Many hospitals offer free lactation consultations. Contact your local hospital to see what services they offer
- Find a La Leche League group near you
- You can also visit the United States Lactation Consultant Association to find lactation consultation
Some mothers find that a keepsake of their breast milk provides comfort. There are a variety of places that will take some of your milk and include it in jewelry or art as a memory of your child. You can check with the organization making the jewelry to see how much you need, but typically it takes about 1 ounce or less. You can see some examples from breastmilkjewelry.com.