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Women and Family Care

Breast care after losing your baby

It can be shocking or distressing for a woman who has had a loss to find that her breast milk has come in. Somehow her body never received the message about what has happened. It seems like such a cruel trick by nature. But it may help to realize that the filing of the breast is only the completion of the total pre-planned process of reproduction, and breast care and breast milk may become part of the grieving process.

Here are some general breast care guidelines:

  • To decrease the chance of your milk coming in, wear a supportive bra and avoid stimulation to the breasts.
  • Even without a baby nursing, your breasts can become painfully hard and full.
  • You may also have a slight fever lasting no longer than 24 hours. This is called engorgement. Most of the fullness is due to increased lymph and blood supply. Milk usually comes in about 72 hours after delivery.
  • Engorgement is more likely to occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

To relieve symptoms of engorgement:

  • Wear a firm bra for support and comfort (generally one size larger). A binder or towel fastened with safety pins around your chest can also be used.
  • Ice packs may help decrease discomfort and reduce tissue swelling.
  • Medicines are no longer routinely prescribed to decrease milk production. Ask your doctor if you have questions. Mild pain medicine, like Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, may help ease breast discomfort.
  • Try a hot shower or a warm compress on both before expressing some milk (even a few drops may help your discomfort). The warmth will make handling your breasts easier.
  • If your breasts become very painful, reddened or "lumpy," contact your doctor right away.
  • Engorgement generally goes away in a few days to two weeks.
  • Some women actually experience "let down" of milk when they see or hear a baby or even just think of their baby. You may need to wear pads inside your bra to protect your clothing.

Donating breast milk

One way to help others in memory of your child is to donate your breast milk. Some moms have found that time spent pumping milk also provides time to reflect. For others, donating breast milk provides a modest sense of accomplishment during a very difficult time. Donated breast milk is given, by prescription only, to babies and others who have special health requirements for milk and whose own mothers are unable to provide it. There are some requirements if you wish to donate your milk. If you are interested in donating your milk, contact the Mothers' Milk Bank or WeeSteps.

Mothers' Milk Bank
Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center
1719 East 19th Avenue
Denver, CO 80218

You may also contact our WeeSteps lactation program:
Poudre Valley Hospital

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