There is tons of advice for women who have chosen to stop breastfeeding. The choice can be hard, but one women understand will happen as soon as baby is born. There is another side to the story, however, that often goes unspoken. Women who are actively breastfeeding and experience the loss of a child must also face the struggles of stopping breastmilk production, but the impact on life can be much more difficult.
Try not to panic when engorgement starts
Often women who’ve lost a child don’t think about breastfeeding until the pain of engorgement starts. When breasts become engorged it can cause immediate panic. Some rush to the breast pump to relieve the pressure and save milk. Others will hand express milk to maintain milk supply. Stress levels are already at an all-time high. Panicking about breastmilk production is not going to help progress the healing process.
Immediately seek help with a support group, psychiatrist or psychologist
The loss of a child is the hardest loss any parent can experience. When mom is still breastfeeding, the pain of the loss is even deeper and more profound. Support groups specializing in parents who’ve lost infants, psychiatrists and psychologists are there to listen and offer some sound advice.
Continue breastfeeding if it makes you feel better
There is no reason why women should not continue breastfeeding after the loss of a child, physically. The mental connection to breastfeeding will likely fade over time. If you want to donate breastmilk to organizations that help mothers who want to breastfeed but cannot, contact La Leche League for more information. There are only a few organizations in the United States that accept breastmilk, but one may be located in your area.
Take a vacation away from the memories
Some women experience let down and breastmilk production at the slightest thought of baby after a loss. If this is the case, plan a getaway to allow milk time to dry up. When you stop breastfeeding it can take more than four weeks for breastmilk production to stop. If the process takes longer, there are no health risks to mom.
Losing a child is a painful experience. Breastfeeding mothers not only have to deal with the emotions of loss, but they have to deal with the physical pain of breastmilk drying up. If you feel overwhelmed by the loss of a child seek help immediately from a local support group, your obstetrician or a family member.