Weaning After Child Loss

It’s important to know if the mother was nursing or pumping at all before the loss of the baby. The process of weaning if the mother was pumping for or nursing a premature or sick baby will be more gradual and complex than for a mother who delivered a stillborn baby but never stimulated the breasts to establish/increase production.

There is no longer a pill or shot that is given to mothers to “dry up” breast milk. While there were drugs of this nature given in the past, they are no longer sanctioned for use due to serious adverse affects including strokes, seizures and death

It is important to understand that a pregnant mother begins to produce milk in the breasts (a concentrated, high protein milk called colostrum) starting at around 10 weeks gestation, generally when the breasts increase in size. This is why a mother must deal with the issue of breast milk production regardless of a baby’s health status.

Tightly binding breasts is also not recommended, as this can lead to plugged ducts or a more serious condition called mastitis (an infection of the milk ducts). However, a snug sports bra which flattens the breasts and exerts steady pressure, without stimulating the nipples, will send the body signals to slow and stop production.

As milk increases somewhere around the 3rd – 5th day post-delivery, the mother should not pump the breasts, but may use gentle hand expression to express just enough milk to be comfortable and avoid plugged ducts

Sage tea or sage tincture is known to reduce breast milk production and can be given to the mother following the directions on the product. The mother can drink to thirst taking care to avoid dehydration, but should not drink excess fluids. Avoid oatmeal, which is known to increase breast milk production and decrease salt intake. Flattened cabbage leaves worn on the breasts and changed every few hours also decreases milk supply. Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) is also known to reduce milk supply – however, a doctor should be consulted before using this method as pain medications or treatment protocols may make this undesirable.

If mothers have been pumping milk, the above methods will be of assistance in reducing production, but reduced episodes of pumping may need to continue if hand expression is not sufficient in reducing pressure, but should be used to lower pressure without the goal of completely emptying the breasts. Pumping episodes should be able to be eliminated at the rate of approximately one session each 3-7 days, or possibly faster in combination with other milk reduction protocols.