Healthy living

Stopping breastfeeding after the loss of your baby or child

Breast milk may still be produced by your body after the loss of your baby or child. Producing milk is distressing for some women and comforting for others. Some women feel their milk is the last link they have to their baby or child.

Producing milk is distressing for some women and comforting for others. Some women feel their milk is the last link they have to their baby or child.

Your breast milk can be stopped naturally or with medication.

Using medication to stop your breast milk

Taking drugs such as Cabergoline or Dostinex® to stop breast milk works best for mothers who have not been breastfeeding for long.

Talk to your doctor, midwife or nurse if you would like more information about these drugs.

Stopping your breast milk naturally

  • Express only enough breast milk for comfort. The more you express, the more breast milk you will produce.
    • For the first 1 to 2 days express each breast every 4 hours, but only for 5 minutes. The aim is not to empty your breasts completely, but enough to be comfortable.
    • For the next few days express every 5 hours, but only for 3 to 4 minutes.
    • Then just express a few times a day to keep your breasts from feeling full.
    • It may take from several days to weeks for breast milk to stop being produced.
  • Wear a firm supportive bra.
  • Drink if you are thirsty. Drinking less will not stop your breast milk from being produced.

Pain management advice

  • If you get very full or heavy breasts, have a warm shower or use a heat pack for a few minutes before expressing.
  • If you get lumps, red or sore spots, massage the lumps while expressing.
  • Use cold packs on your breasts after expressing if they are sore or swollen.
  • Use pain medicine if needed (for example paracetamol or ibuprofen).
  • Refer to your midwife or doctor for any advice

You may develop mastitis

Mastitis is pain and swelling of the breast. There is usually a painful red area on the breast. You may feel like you have the flu.

If this does not get better in 12 to 24 hours or you feel very ill, see your doctor, as you might need antibiotics.

If you have mastitis you may have to empty the breast fully until this clears, then return to the plan above.

Can my milk be used for another baby?

The Perron Rotary Express Milk (PREM) Bank (external site) collects breast milk from healthy screened donors, processes it to ensure safety, and provides it to sick and premature babies.

Contact the PREM Bank on phone 9340 1563 to discuss donating your breast milk.

Who can I call for advice?

Australian Breastfeeding Association

You can also contact:

  • your local child health nurse
  • your local GP.

Acknowledgements
Paediatric Palliative Care, Child and Adolescent Health Service

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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