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.

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

  1. I lost my baby girl at 17 weeks a week ago today. I woke this morning to a damp nighty from lactating. I got very up set and I’m unsure as to if I want this to continue or stop. I’m finding this a very confusing time. She is the fourth child i gave lost and also the furthest i have gotten ever before :(

    • Hi Birdie,

      We’re so sorry to hear about the pain that you’re enduring. The experience of losing a baby is something that no woman or family should ever have to go through. Keep in mind that the length of time it will take your body to stop lactating is different for everyone. Here are some suggestions on how you can help stop lactation: http://bit.ly/1Ka5WB3. Stay strong, mama.

  2. I lost my baby at 28weeks it hurts so much. She was incubated but died two days later she was my first. Whenever I take fluid my breast gets full and aches badly. Have been taking ibuprofen but don’t seem to work what do I do

    • We’re so sorry for your loss, Abigail. Try placing ice packs on your breasts to relieve some of the aches, or place cold cabbage leaves on your breasts or inside your bra. Cabbage leaves have been reported to help relieve engorgement and tenderness. Try to avoid touching or stimulating your breasts. We hope you find some relief soon, we’re sending warm thoughts your way.

  3. lost my bay at 12 weeks on 7th of Jan 2016 and l took dostinex and it stops but l noticed the lactation is back and my period is not accurate and this lactation is annoying. Pls l need your help cos l need to get pregnant again. should l take drugs again?

    • Hi Precious – We’re so sorry for your loss. We recommend that you reach out to your healthcare provider for guidance on which medicines you should be taking while trying to get pregnant. Our Lactation Consultant might be able to provide further guidance on how to stop lactation: bitly.com/askthelc. We hope this helps + are sending warm thoughts your way.

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