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Regarding Infant Loss And Medical Weaning

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There are times when unexpected tragedy steps in the way of our intent or desire to breastfeed. The loss of your baby, or a medical condition that would make breastfeeding impossible.
This page will help you to understand the best way to wean your breasts from milk production, in a way that will keep you comfortable, and hasten the end of milk production.


Lactation Suppression

Once your milk supply is established, stopping abruptly causes certain physical changes. Your breasts will continue to produce milk for a while, and if some isn’t removed, you may become engorged, and possibly develop mastitis. You will also experience a sudden drop in prolaction levels, which often add to your feelings of depression.

Here are some suggestions that may minimize your discomfort, and avoid potential problems.

  • Don’t bind your breasts. This is an old fashioned idea which is no longer recommended because it can make you very uncomfortable, and may cause plugged ducts and mastitis. Using drugs to "dry up" the milk is also not recommended because they are not very effective, and may cause serious side effects.
  • Wear a supportive (but not tight) bra for support. Choose clothing that is less likely to show wet spots if you leak, and wear nursing pads to absorb leaking milk.
  • Drink to thirst. Restricting fluids doesn’t help.
  • Take 200 mg of vitamin B6 each day for 5 days to relieve engorgement. (Discuss this step with your family doctor)
  • Sage tea contains a natural form of estrogen and can decrease your supply and help dry up your milk. You can buy it at the health food store, or use the spice from your kitchen. Take 1 tsp of rubbed sage with 1 cup of hot water and let it steep for about 15 minutes. You will want to add some milk or honey to it as it is very bitter.One full cup every 6 hours usually will usually dry the milk up quickly. Sage works best if you use it along with cabbage leaf compresses. You can also get an alcohol tincture from a health food store. 3-4 ml every 6 hours usually dries up the milk quickly and goes down a little faster than the tea. The tincture is more readily absorbed in the mucous membranes, so it is somewhat more efficient at decreasing your milk supply.
  • Don’t be afraid to relieve your discomfort by expressing some milk. Express just enough to soften your breasts, but not enough to empty them completely. A warm shower will help relieve the discomfort of full breasts, and is a good place to express a little milk to relieve the fullness.

How often you express should be determined by your comfort level. Always go as long as you can before pumping (or hand expressing) and take out as little milk as possible. If you have been pumping every 3 hours, start out by pumping every 4 hours, then every 6, then every 8, then every 12, etc. If you have been pumping 6 ounces at each session, pump 4 ounces, then 3, then 2, etc. By gradually expressing less milk less and less often your supply will decrease without causing physical problems for you.

The amount of time it takes for your milk to dry up depends on how full a supply you have built up. If you have very little milk when you wean, it may be possible to quit cold turkey with a minimum of discomfort. For most mothers, a more gradual approach is recommended. If you have a full supply when you wean, and you taper off gradually, you should be able to stop expressing completely within 2-3 weeks, and often sooner. It is normal for you to be able to express a few drops of milk or have a little leaking for weeks or months after you stop nursing.

If you have lost a baby, and would like to donate the milk you express during this time, or any you might have frozen, you can contact one of the milk banks around the country. They provide milk for sick or premature infants whose mothers are unable to provide milk for them. Check the website for the Human Milk Banking Association of North America for a list of milk banks in your area –

These are organizations which will do everything they can to make it easy to donate your milk. Contact them at: or see the breastmilk donation page here at SNBS.

There are also books and support organizations for mothers who have experienced the loss of a child. Empty Cradle, Broken Heart : Surviving the Death of Your Baby is one of the best. Support organizations include SHARE (618-234-2415) and Compassionate Friends (312-990-00100).

A grieving mother once wrote: "I have lost my child and a hole has been ripped in the universe. Neither I, nor the universe can be the same. We shall mourn our losses together." This will be the most devastating thing you will ever experience. I encourage you to seek support from others who have experienced the same loss.

Please contact me if there is any way I can help during the difficult process of weaning after the loss of your child or medical weaning.


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After The Loss Of A Child
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