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Breastmilk after the loss of your baby: Care instructions

Breastmilk After the Loss of Your Baby

Care instructions

Your first days at home without your baby will likely be very difficult. Your healthcare team is available to help you during your time of grief.

During this time, your body will keep making hormones to make breastmilk. These hormones can sometimes cause you to feel more relaxed.

You have 2 choices about what you do with your breastmilk.

  • Pump and donate your milk.
  • Slowly stop your breasts from making milk.

Your choice may depend on how long you have been breastfeeding or expressing your milk. There is no right or wrong choice. Do what feels right for you.

If you choose to pump and donate your milk

You may already have an established milk supply. Keep pumping so that you can donate your milk. Learn how to store your milk supply. You can choose to stop (wean) when you are ready.

To find out how to donate your milk, go to

If you choose to stop your milk production

It's important to lower your milk supply slowly so your body can adjust. You will continue to produce milk for a time. As you remove less milk from your breasts, your breasts will be signaled to slow down milk production and eventually stop making milk.

Medicines to dry up your milk are not safe and can have serious side effects.

To help you feel more comfortable while you stop your milk production:

  • Put cool compresses or cool cabbage leaves on your breasts to help with the swelling.
  • If you are using a breast pump, only pump enough milk to relieve the pressure and soften your breasts.
  • Gradually decrease your pumping time, like going from pumping for 15 minutes to pumping for 10 minutes before pumping for less and less time.
  • Gradually pump less often. Instead of pumping every 3 hours, for example, pump every 4 to 5 hours. Slowly increase the time between sessions so you are pumping less often in a 24-hour period.
  • Gently hand express just enough milk to ease the fullness in your breasts.
  • If you have lumps in your armpits, place cool compresses over the lumps. Don’t massage these lumps.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to help with discomfort. Follow the directions on the medicine package.

When should you go to see a doctor or midwife?

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

  • soreness, hard lumps, redness, or pain in your breasts, even after trying comfort measures
  • fever (temperature over 38.5 °C or 101.3 °F)
  • aches and pains

To see this information online and learn more, visit


To learn more about pregnancy and infant loss

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

Current as of: February 20, 2024

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

This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.