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Lactation After a Loss

After a stillbirth or miscarriage, many women are shocked to find that their milk will begin to come in within a few days after delivery.  Naturally, this can be a traumatizing experience for a woman who is grieving her baby.

If you are finding this page after experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, we are so very sorry for your loss.  Please know that there are many free resources available to you and your family to help you honor your baby, cope with your devastating grief, and find answers.

For more information, visit our Resources page.

Lactation After a Pregnancy/Infant Loss

After your baby has died – particularly after a later-term loss (>20 weeks) – it is important to know that your milk will likely come in a few days after delivery.  Your breasts will be swollen and tender, but there are several options available to help you manage the engorgement and minimize the physical pain, including techniques for suppressing lactation or donating your milk.

There are no right or wrong choices when it comes to your breast milk – whatever you decide, support is available to you.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Stopping Lactation

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to “stop” your milk from coming in that is deemed safe by the US medical community.  However, the following strategies may help to lessen the discomfort of engorgement and encourage your body to stop producing milk as quickly as possible:

  • Wear a supportive bra 24 hours a day (sports bras work well)
  • Apply ice packs to the breasts
  • Use breast pads to keep the nipples dry
  • Use over the counter pain medications
  • Cabbage leaves or cabbage extract has been used to provide relief as well (CaboCreme can be purchased in our online store – overnight and international shipping options available)

If your engorgement is unbearable, you may release some pressure by hand-expressing or pumping a small amount of milk.  However, please be advised that the less often you do this, the faster your body will stop making milk and the engorgement will resolve.  The more you drain your breast, the more your body is stimulated to produce more milk, prolonging your discomfort.

Most women report their breasts returning to normal in about 2 weeks.

Contact your health provider right away if your breast(s) are warm and red, you have a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and/or you have body aches, as any of these symptoms may be signs of infection.

Milk Donation

Alternatively, some mothers find it a healing experience to pump and donate their breast milk to another baby in need.  In addition, pumping offers the advantage of being able to stop lactation gradually over time, minimizing engorgement.

For more information about milk donation options in your area, please contact your local Star Legacy chapter, hospital NICU, Milk Bank, or La Leche League chapter.

Even when pumping, please be aware of any signs of potential infection, including warm/red breast(s), fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and/or body aches.  If you experience any of the above, contact your health provider right away.

Star Legacy Foundation is a Milk Bank Depot for the Minnesota Milk Bank.

Breastmilk Keepsakes

Some families find it healing by expressing milk and turning it into beautiful keepsakes such as jewelry or memorial pieces.   Some companies offer kits to make these keepsakes yourself while others will make them for you.

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