One of the most challenging times for many bereaved mothers is the arrival of their breast milk. The birth of your baby stimulates hormones that tell your body to make milk. Milk will usually come around 3-5 days after delivery. Your breasts may feel fuller and may leak milk. Stimulating your breasts will tell your body to keep making milk. Your milk supply will go away if your body does not receive those signals from stimulation.
Some bereaved mothers find the breast milk to be upsetting and want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Some mothers find the milk to be a comforting reminder of their body’s ability to care for the baby they love. There is no right or wrong way to feel; follow whatever path or choice feels best for you. Your grief and body changes can be overwhelming, and we hope you will be kind to yourself as you begin to heal.
Interactive Module – Lactation After a Loss
Tips for Drying Up Your Breast Milk
- It will take a few days for your milk to dry up. If your breasts are soft and you have just a little colostrum/milk, do not stimulate the breast tissue or nipple areas.
- To help with the pain and swelling:
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen.
- Put cold packs on your breasts. You can use an ice pack or put ice in a plastic bag. Be sure to put a thin cloth (like a dishcloth or pillowcase) between the ice pack and your breasts.
- Use cold cabbage leaves (wash fresh cabbage and refrigerate; pull off one leaf at a time and lay them over your breasts; keep the leaves on your skin until they get soft).
- Apply CaboCreme to your breasts every 2 to 4 hours.
- Wear a well-fitting and supportive bra at all times, even while you sleep.
- When standing in the shower, do not let the water hit your breasts directly. Turn your back and let the water run over your shoulders.
- Try not to touch or massage your breasts. If you are very uncomfortable, you can gently massage your breasts for a few minutes to let some milk out, but only until your breasts soften. Do not pump or empty your breasts completely.
- To help dry up your milk supply:
- Drink one mug of sage or peppermint tea 3 or 4 times per day, for 2 to 3 days.
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can help dry up your milk, but ask your doctor before using this medicine, and do not take it if you have kidney or thyroid problems, or if you have glaucoma.
- Take Benadryl as directed on the package.
- If you plan to resume birth control pills, ask your doctor for pills that contain estrogen.
- When to call your doctor:
- You have redness.
- Your pain is getting worse.
- You have a fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher).
- Who to call with questions:
- Your doctor.
- Lactation services (501-526-3558).
- Remember that your colostrum/milk will go away, but it may take a few days. Be patient.
If you are interested in milk donation, you can find more information through the UAMS Milk Bank: https://uamshealth.com/uams-milk-bank/bereavement/
For Questions or Concerns
For further guidance, you may contact: UAMS Lactation Services at (501) 526-3558 or IDHI/ANGELS Call Center at (501) 526-7425.