Lactating After Loss: When Your Breasts Ache Like Your Heart Does

September 17, 2013
Lactating After Loss: When Your Breasts Ache Like Your Heart Does

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 or delivered stillborn babies. What can happen is that your body doesn’t recognize your loss and makes milk for a baby that isn’t there, making your loss not only emotionally excruciating, but sometimes physically painful as well. Unfortunately, lactation after loss is a topic that health care providers may neglect to discuss, and many women are sent home lacking important resources to manage their breastmilk 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 Breastmilk 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.

+ Take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

+ Drinking sage tea or taking B6 vitamins can also work as a natural remedy for reducing milk production.

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 health care 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 miscarriage 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.

28 thoughts on “Lactating After Loss: When Your Breasts Ache Like Your Heart Does

  1. I’m sorry to be upset about this for so long, but I miscarried my baby 6 years ago and my breasts and nipples still lactate from time to time.
    I’m still sad about losing my baby, could that be the reason?

    • Hi Joy – We’re so sorry for your loss. It’s important that you take as long as you need to mourn your loss. Our Lactation Consultant might be able to help provide more tips on how to stop lactation: We’re sending warm thoughts your way.

  2. I lost my baby boy September 5th I was only 20 weeks. My breast swelled the day after and were only swollen for about a week, than reduced back to their normal size. I still lactate though. It seems like this week has been the worst yet and I’m not sure why?

  3. I miscarried my baby at about 8-9 weeks this was over 5-6 weeks ago. I realized that my breast are getting sore and today I noticed milk coming out. Wondering if this is normal? Would’ve been about 14w along if I would’ve not misscaried.

    • Hi Linda – We’re so sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, it is normal for your body to lactate after a loss because your body may not recognize that loss. Here are some tips to help stop lactation, and manage your pain: Our Lactation Consultant should also be able to help provide more guidance: We’re sending warm thoughts your way.

  4. I just loss my baby at 29 weeks and I don’t know what to do my breast are so swollen that my chest hurt and I can’t sleep it’s been a week and they still haven’t went down but got bigger I’m depressed 😥

    • Hi Betina,

      Our hearts go out to you and we are so sorry to hear about the loss of your baby. If you’re still having trouble after trying the tips in our blog above, we suggest reaching out to your healthcare provider for guidance. You can also reach out to our Lactation Consultant for free, one-on-one advice via email here: Sending warm thoughts to you and your family.

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