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Breastmilk After the Loss of Your Baby

Breastmilk after the loss of your baby

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Your first days at home without your baby will likely be very difficult. Remember that your healthcare team is there to support you if you need help.

During this time your body will keep making hormones to make breastmilk. These hormones can sometimes help you feel relaxed, and this may help with your feelings.

You have 2 options for how you deal with your milk supply. You may choose to pump and donate your milk, or you may choose to stop your milk supply. Your choice may depend on how established your milk supply is and how long you were pumping or breastfeeding before your baby passed way.

Donating your milk

You may choose to donate your milk if you have an established milk supply. Your milk supply is usually established if you’ve been pumping or breastfeeding 6 or more times a day for more than 2 weeks.

If you would like to donate your milk, contact NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank​ to ask about their milk donation guidelines, because they may affect your choice.

Keep pumping and caring for your breasts as before. You will decide when to gradually pump fewer times a day and for shorter times to lower and later stop your supply.

When you decide to stop making milk, see the advice for stopping your milk supply.

Stopping your milk supply

You may choose to stop your milk supply if you do not have an established milk supply and you’ve been pumping or breastfeeding for less than 1 week.

As you stop your milk supply, your breasts may start to feel heavy and tender. There are a few ways to help yourself feel more comfortable:

  • Wear a comfortable and supportive bra. (Don’t bind your breasts.)
  • Pump for less time and less often.
  • Hand express milk to lower pressure in your breasts and make them softer (if you need to).
  • Wear nursing pads in your bra if your breasts leak milk.
  • Put cool compresses or cabbage leaves on your breasts to help with the swelling and discomfort. This can also help to slow and stop milk production.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to help with any pain. Follow the directions on the package.
  • Your breasts may feel full or have lumps, you should feel the lumps get smaller with pumping or hand expressing.
  • If you have lumps under your armpits, put cold compresses on them. Don’t massage these lumps.
  • Don’t take medicines to dry up your milk. They aren’t safe and can have serious side effects.

When to see your doctor or midwife

If you have any of the following symptoms, call your doctor or midwife:

  • discomfort, hard lumps, redness, or pain in your breasts even after trying the advice above
  • a fever (temperature over 38.5⁰C or 101.3⁰F)

For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.

Current as of: November 4, 2021

Author: Child and Women's Health, Alberta Health Services