EPISODE 25

Breastfeeding after Pregnancy & Infant Loss

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Episode Transcript

October 16, 2020

Lactation after loss... what do you do?

It’s very important to ask your provider if you’ve gone through a loss, what’s going to happen with your milk. And, you know, hopefully you’ll always have this episode because we’re going to go over what to expect and how to manage it and what your options are for managing it. So, you know, God forbid, if anything does happen, you can always go back to this episode and listen to what to do.

This is Maureen Feral and Heather O’Neal and this is The Milk Minute. An inclusive evidence-based podcast hosted by midwives and lactation professionals. That’s us. Here to talk to you about all things, lactation and boobs, body positivity, mental health, all the milky topics. Join us for another episode.

Welcome to The Milk Minute everybody. Hi, we’re happy to have you back here. So this month, October, is infant and pregnancy loss awareness month. Specifically, October 15th is the like international observation day for that. Yeah, it can be a really hard day for anybody that’s experienced it, including partners, you know, partners of people that have experienced loss of this magnitude.

It is a big deal. And it’s, you know, pregnancy is everywhere, especially with social media these days where it’s just hard to kind of get away from those pregnancy announcements. And it can be really, really hard to kind of move forward in your life with this grief that you’re carrying around, that you just now, it never goes away. You just kind of make room for it in your life.

And we wanted to honor that today and talk about this loss and, and how that affects lactation and what you can do with it. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, we wanted to do this too, to just help bring awareness and normalize it because one in four people who have been pregnant have experienced a miscarriage and probably the number is higher than that, because a lot of miscarriages are managed at home without a healthcare provider.

And it’s just, it’s very common. And Heather, do you know the statistics on like late term pregnancy loss or, or infant death? It’s not nearly as high, but it’s, it’s not nearly as high. And I’m not quantifying grief, but when it happens, I think it impacts more people around that person because you’ve had time in your pregnancy for everybody to get excited about it.

And I think that it tends to just be less of a private matter when you lose the baby later in pregnancy. Yeah. This whole experience of death and loss is really, really difficult, especially in the sort of culture and society that we live in today. A lot of people really back away from grief and they back away from acknowledging other people’s grief, you know? And especially like, I don’t know why, you know, that this has become the norm, but waiting to announce a pregnancy until after the first trimester, because of the high incidence of pregnancy loss really has had an interesting cultural impact. Because it really takes attention away from how common miscarriage is and then how important grieving over those lost and those lost children or the lost potential, or however you want to think about that. You know, that grief is really important, too.

And it’s important to let yourself feel that and, you know, to kind of have then a really isolated experience around it can be very hard for people, right. And then also feeling obligated to have that isolated experience, because you are told you shouldn’t announce it until after 12 weeks, because you don’t want to make people upset.

You know, like if too many people know about it, you’re going to make everybody uncomfortable if it doesn’t work out. And it’s like, yeah, let’s, let’s get uncomfortable. So I agree from a society standpoint, I mean, of course do whatever you want to do, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, you announced when you’re ready to announce. And if something happens, then you find out who your friends are and you find out how your people grieve.

And that’s just more information you have about your friends and your family members. I just, I do recommend that if you have strained relationships with any of those people that you do protect yourself, you know, like when you receive the information that you’ve had a loss, take some time for you to figure out how you want to handle it.

It’s not your job to make sure everybody else handles it a certain way. Absolutely. Yeah. You’re not obligated to tell anybody anything, you know. I’m like, Oh my therapist’s words are ringing through my brain right now. Especially when you said, you know, take that opportunity to protect yourself.

Absolutely. And you do what you need to do to get through that. And if part of that is telling everybody about your experience so that you can share your grief, that’s great. And if part of that is doing it alone, that’s okay too, but make sure that you have support.

Let’s take a minute to thank our sponsor, Aeroflow. Oh, tell me more about that. You know, do you ever wake up in the morning, and you’re like, I would love to call my insurance company today? Literally never once have I thought that, okay. So people at Aeroflow knew this and they decided that it would be in everybody’s best interest if they developed a business where they contacted your insurance company to order your breast pump for you. This sounds good. So you literally never have to call your insurance company to work out getting a breast pump, which is fantastic because no one ever wants to do that crap when they’re postpartum.

And the other cool part is they will text you and let you know when it’s time for you to replace your pumping parts and when your insurance will pay for new ones. So maybe, you know, your pump parts are fine for now, but if insurance is going to cover a new set, great. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’m not really combing through my insurance benefits information postpartum to see when I qualify for replacement parts? No, not at all. Right.

So we’re going to go ahead and put a link in the show notes for Aeroflow. And when you click that link, it’s super easy. You just put in all of your insurance information and then somebody from Aeroflow contacts you directly, and you have like a real person that you talk with and then they do all the dirty work for you.

It’s fantastic. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Please. Just do yourself a favor and get your pump through Aeroflow. It’s going to save you so much time and trouble, right? And they have all the top brand name pumps, replacement parts, and accessories. You know, they’ve got cooling gel pads. They’ve got those pumping bras, all the stuff you need, one place. Yep. One place. So, um, I guess the only thing left to say about that is you’re welcome. Yeah, you’re welcome.

I do want to talk a little bit about how to be a supportive partner, friend, family member. Because I think, honestly, that’s almost more what this awareness month is about. You know, obviously the people who have lost babies, who have had their pregnancies ended, they know what that grief feels like. And, you know, they know that this happens to people, but having this awareness month is a good opportunity for everyone around them to really analyze if they’re being a supportive person.

If you are sitting there and you’re like, I don’t know a single person who’s had a miscarriage. That’s not true. You know, probably you were just never told and you know, maybe you can think about like, wow, I wonder what I could do to kind of make myself a more available person to help my friends or family through that.

So, you know, and I, as a midwife have taken some bereavement trainings because I have supervised stillbirths and miscarriages before. And, you know, personally, I was like, wow, I want to know what to do, what not to do. I don’t want to be that healthcare provider that fucks this experience up for somebody.

So, you know, my biggest takeaways from those trainings were really just to: one, if I’m feeling emotion, that’s okay. I don’t have to hide it. You know, that’s okay to show, that it’s okay to talk about that pregnancy. Talk about that baby. To use words like death and dying. And really, you know, to listen to the person who’s experienced this and if use the language they’re comfortable with, if they’re using a name for that baby, even if that baby only made it to nine weeks gestation, use that baby’s name them with them.

It’s and it’s okay to ask about that, too. If you know someone who had a miscarriage, it’s okay. A couple of weeks later, just say, Hey, how are you doing? You know, I know you had a miscarriage. I just want to check in. Yeah. And, you know, depending on where they are in the process means you have to be different at each stage.

So if you are managing an acute loss, like it just happened and you are with that person, maybe in the same house, maybe in the same hospital room and they are crying the cry that has this very specific sound. That is the deepest grief that you can possibly ever have the privilege to hear, which I have heard many, many times.

I tended to take those patients at the hospital. Um, I just, I am a person that is comfortable standing in that grief with somebody and not everybody is. So I was happy and blessed to be able to do that for people, but your job is not to tell them it’s okay. Your job is not to make them eat a cookie off of the bereavement cart.

Your job during that moment is to safeguard their experience so they can go through it alone because it is their grief alone. Truly it is. I mean, does it spill out to other people? Yes, but this is something that they will go through by themselves. They grew the baby, they birthed the baby in some way, and now they are moving through it.

So even if that means just standing outside of the door while letting that person go through it, you’re safeguarding that special space for them. And then, you know, days and weeks later, you know, making sure their basic needs are being met so they can continue to go through that process.

You know, in the Jewish culture I love the idea of sitting Shivah. You know, where you are basically just bringing food, you are stopping in, you are saying, how’s it going? That person is expected to do nothing but grieve. Absolutely. Yeah. And I think. The, the person who’s lost this pregnancy or this baby is still having a postpartum experience and they need to be supported in that regardless.

So if that means you come over and you do every dish in the house and you finish the laundry, great. You know, that’s what they need because somebody who’s grieving over the loss of their baby, isn’t going to want to fucking do the dishes. You know? They don’t care. And most likely that stuff isn’t going to get done and then that accumulation of things that you have to do really adds to that weight and that anxiety and that grief.

Yeah. And it rushes it, you know, it’s like a hurry up and be done grieving because look at all the shit that needs done. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s okay to ask, like, what, what can I do? And it’s okay for that person not to know, but just, you know, knowing in grief that somebody is there to help you, whether or not you actually take them up on that offer, is really important. Yeah. And if you were a coworker of somebody that has gone through a loss, you are probably one of the top three people that can be helpful because you don’t get a full maternity leave when you lose a baby.

Yeah, how fucking bullshit. I think it’s ridiculous. Yeah, it is so ridiculous. Yeah, you do not get the full six weeks, which is not enough anyway, even if you do get to come home with a baby. So you, this person might be forced to go back to work. And if you are a coworker, please pick up any kind of additional work that you can for that person.

So they can just exist at work. If, you know, honestly, like sometimes just showing up is going to be the hardest thing that they’ve done that day. So, yeah. And if you are an employer, who’s in a position to make a decision about how long somebody gets off after experiencing a miscarriage, a loss of a baby, make the right choice. Make the right choice, give them a full six weeks at least.

And figure it out. You, you can manage whatever that looks like for you because they are managing something much harder. And, you know, keep in mind that sometimes the labor is just as intense to have a stillborn as it is to have a baby that you get to take home. Um, so their body has been through it.

It’s like, you don’t get a prize at the end. You get the most unimaginable grief. So, you know, we are acknowledging that for everybody. We’ve seen it, Maureen and I have managed it differently. She’s done. She’s actually had the privilege of being able to manage it at home with clients, which I have never had the experience of that, but I have done the hospital stuff.

 And I, I just, I imagine that it’s different, but the same in many ways. Like the same feelings, the same stress, the same grief. Right. And on that note, you know, I do want to mention that if, if you have a pregnancy that you expect to end before baby is viable, or you expect to have a stillbirth or you have a diagnosis for your baby that is something like: they’re not compatible with life, they might die during labor, after, or in the next couple of days. You actually still have the option to have that baby at home and choose palliative care. So that’s not right for everybody, but for a lot of people that feels much better. Um, and I did just want to mention that, you know, I had the extreme privilege of helping somebody with a birth in that scenario.

And it was, it was a first for my practice, you know, we were like, yeah, I think we can do that at home, but how about we’re going to go do all the legwork and double-check that there’s no legal barriers for us because that’s the last thing that we want you to experience. And, you know, there weren’t any legal barriers.

We just had to do some extra paperwork and I’m happy to do that. And I got to watch honestly, the most beautiful birth I’ve ever seen. You know, at home, in a birth pool, it was extremely healing for those parents as well. And, you know, we got to protect their space and take photos for them. They got time to be a family without interference.

You know, it, it was really beautiful. And if that, you know, if you’re sitting there and you’re sitting with a diagnosis like that, you can absolutely consider that as a birth option. And, you know, I love that. I love that you were able to do that because I, I wonder how much of the grief is unprocessed due to birth trauma?

A lot of the time. I bet you anything it’s not as much birth trauma as when you do get to take your baby home, because my experience at the hospital is that providers just leave you the hell alone. Like, yeah, they’re afraid. They’re afraid to engage if your baby dies. And I mean, I hate that, but also sometimes that works in your favor, depending on where you’re having your baby.

I have to say that as a nurse, on labor and delivery, I was truly able to be a nurse. Like I felt like I was actually able to do the full capacity of my job. I wasn’t stopped by providers every five minutes. You know, like I love doctors don’t get me wrong. I love them. I love what they’re able to provide.

And the good ones are really, really good. But in the case of an infant loss, they tend to just kind of leave you with the nurse. You know, and, and that nurse can make all the difference in the world for you and protect that space for you or not. You know? So I think sometimes it’s highly medicalized. I think that what I have seen occasionally is people don’t want to see the baby.

And then at the last minute they change their mind, but the provider doesn’t comply or is not able to comply because of the, you know, they think that it’ll just be too much for the person. Yeah. That’s not their choice. Right. That’s not their choice. You don’t have to decide beforehand. Like we will ask you beforehand, but you don’t have to decide definitively.

You have the ability to change your mind at any point in time about how you want it to go and how involved you want to be after, if you want to see the baby or not. And I just wanted to remind you to advocate for yourself and have your partner advocate for you. If at the flip of a dime, you know, if you’re like change my mind, I want to see the baby, your whole care team better be like absolutely, whatever you need.

Yeah. And, and I think, you know, one of my biggest takeaways from getting it. So I, I received some training from the bereavement coordinator for our entire state’s perinatal partnership, which was really nice. She’s amazing. Shout out to Mary Meadows because Holy shit, she’s great. Uh, and I think one of my biggest takeaways from her is, is that providers should not be making these choices for patients.

And that she always pushes things like photographs really hard. Even if the patient doesn’t know if they want them, she’s always like, Hey, how about we take them? And you know, they’re going to be in this place and they’re going to be safe. And if you never want them, if you don’t ask for them in however many years, they can just go away.

But if in a month, if in six months, if in six years you want them, you have them. Oh, that is, you know, a friend of mine who experienced a loss of her twins, she, that was one of the biggest things that she did with training our nurses at the hospital. She said, even if the patient tells you, they don’t want pictures, don’t just take pictures. Take pictures of her holding the babies. Yeah.

Like take the ugly pictures. Take the pictures of the whole family. Um, dressing the baby, swaddling the baby, because it’s hard for your brain to reconcile what happened sometimes. And it can feel like it never happened. And it’s helpful to have those pictures of you in it, like in the situation for your brain to finally be able to close that loop.

Yeah. Processing trauma can be really hard when there’s no evidence that that happened. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, you know, I want to say too, like if you are in that experience, in that position where a provider’s like, Oh no, I do really want to see your baby. They don’t have the right to keep your baby from you.

You always have the right to see your baby and hold your baby. And in a lot of places, you have the right to take it home with you. You know, that was something in my research when kind of figuring out legality surrounding all of this, you know, was trying to figure out like, if you had a stillbirth at the hospital, did you have to have a funeral home lined up?

Could you just take the baby home? In West Virginia, you can just take your baby home. And we also have some really good laws surrounding like home burial plots and things like that, which is nice. So when I was helping a family who had had a stillbirth at a hospital, that that was nice because they, you know, it was unexpected.

They didn’t know what they were going to do, but they knew that they had the option to bury their baby at home, or to contact your funeral home or to do this. And it was really good for them to know that. Yeah. And also on that note, a lot of funeral homes will cremate your baby for free, um, because the baby is so small that they kind of just slip it in on the side of another person’s cremation, which sounds crazy.

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But that, that way, like, they’re not going, how am I explaining this? They’re not taking up any more of their time and they’re able to save those specific ashes for you. Sometimes. Sometimes,  so my in-laws are actually funeral directors and they run a crematory and they do all infant loss services for free.

But even if it costs them money, they do it for free. And so that that’s the reality for a lot of funeral directors. And also to know, then if you contact one funeral home and they’re like, Oh, it’s going to be $3,500 for the service and you just have nothing, try another one because a lot of them do consider this a compassionate service that they can provide.

Oh, that’s good to know for sure. Okay. Well, you know, here’s the other thing though, as providers, you know, sometimes we focus so much on wrapping up the experience that you’re currently having, that we don’t remind you of the experience you’re about to have when your milk comes in. So depending on when you have your baby, like how many weeks gestation you are when you lose your baby, your milk might come in.

Um, yeah, mostly if you have that loss in the third trimester, sometimes in the second trimester, but it’s mostly the third. Yeah. I mean, you have colostrum in your breasts from 18 weeks on typically, but your body doesn’t fully transition into like, we’re making milk, until about the third trimester.

So, you know, it’s very important to ask your provider if you’ve gone through a loss, what’s going to happen with your milk. And, you know, hopefully you’ll always have this episode because we’re going to go over what to expect and how to manage it and what your options are for managing it. So, you know, God forbid, if anything does happen, you can always go back to this episode and listen to what to do.

And honestly, you can always email us or message us and be like, Hey, this is my situation. And you know, I listened to the episode, but I still have questions. We’re happy to help. Absolutely. A hundred percent.

Let’s take a minute to thank our sponsor, Happi Tummi. Wait, what’s Happi Tummi? Maureen, I’ve told you about this. Well, I forgot. So tell me again. Okay. So Happi Tummi is a heating element combined with aromatic and therapeutic herbs. Okay. Okay. I’m listening. And you slip it into a fabric waistband with a separate pouch insert and you put it directly against your baby’s tummy and it provides nearly immediate relief of most common symptoms of fussiness and gas.

Sounds really nice. Well, it is really nice because I mean, I used to get really bad cramps myself and I had a lavender heat pack that I would put on. And it just makes sense that you would have one for babies. Yeah. I was kind of just thinking like, hmm, I could use this for my own self. Yeah.

I mean, it’s got a mixture of lavender, chamomile, lemongrass, peppermint, and spearmint. Oh, I love that. Yeah. I mean, how great is that? Yeah. If I had gas and you came over and just tied that around me, I would love you. You would be one happy baby. I would be one, I’d have one happy tummy.

Yeah. We have an exclusive offer for you, our listeners. If you go to Happy Tummi’s website, you can enter a promotional code MILKMINUTE10 for 10% off. Yeah. And they have way more products than just that. That just happens to be my favorite one. Yeah. So we’ll put the link in our show notes. Yes. And don’t use gas drops and just get Happi Tummi.

Yeah. Again, it’s promo code MILKMINUTE10 for 10% off.

All right. So after you have your baby, you know, the placenta comes out and your body starts to transition into milk making mode because your body is smart, but it’s not that smart that it doesn’t know that there’s a baby that needs to be fed. So usually you get discharged a lot sooner from the hospital after you have a loss, even like six hours after they’ll let you go home.

So often a couple of days later, you’ll wake up and be like, what the heck is going on? As a nurse on labor and delivery I got a triage call one time and I will never forget this call because I, I fucked it up royally. Uh, yeah. So typically when we get a triage call, it’s people that are in labor, you know, they’re like, Hey yeah, my water broke or I’m contracting whatever.

And we ask the same questions over and over again. I got a call one night from a patient who was saying that her breasts were leaking. And I was so confused because I really didn’t. She couldn’t tell me that she had lost her baby. She wasn’t there yet mentally. So I just kept asking questions, trying to get to the bottom of what was going on instead of just naturally being like, Oh, she lost her baby and her milk came in.

I mean, yes, it was, it was out of the realm of what I normally did with a triage call, but I probably should have picked up on it a lot sooner. And I regret that to this day. I mean, you’re on autopilot when you’re working those nursing shifts sometimes. It’s hard. It’s hard to blame you for that, Heather, but I understand how this could be eating at you ever since then.

Yeah. I mean, she said I’m in so much pain. You know, I don’t know what to do. Nobody told me that this would happen. And so I thought then she was postpartum, like had her baby at home and I was like, is your baby nursing? She’s like, no, my baby died. And I was like, Oh, okay. I’m with you now. I am so sorry. And so we, we ended up talking for like an hour.

So, you know, we hopefully. I hopefully I made it up to her, but I don’t think I did, but so here’s what we talked about because it’s basically the same kind of thing that you do every time. So, Maureen, do you want to start? Yeah. So most people after a birth will experience their milk coming in between three and five days postpartum.

And what we recommend for anybody who does not want to lactate. So whether you’ve had a baby that you just want to formula feed, whether you’ve lost your baby, whatever the situation is. On the whole, we recommend you express milk as little as possible, right? Because the act of removing milk tells your body to make more.

But this can be really uncomfortable. You might experience engorgement, pain, redness, stuff like that. So if you have to express a little bit, what we say is express only until you’re comfortable or go in a hot shower and just let that hot water run over your breasts or in a hot bath, so that you’ll leak out enough milk, that you’re more comfortable.

And you might have to do that or pump or hand express just a little bit, even for a couple of weeks, kind of the duration of that initial lactation really varies from person to person. Usually it’s just a couple of days. And then we recommend cold compresses, cold cabbage leaves, gel packs, stuff like that. Um, you can take ibuprofen or Tylenol for the pain.

And usually that about does it for people, but then we also have some next steps we can take too. With the cabbage, just a little tip, cut this whole stem off the cabbage, and then try to remove the leaves as whole pieces, stack them and stick them in a Ziploc bag of cold water. And you can put that in the fridge.

And so just take out one leaf at a time and put them directly against your skin, on your breast, inside your bra with maybe like a washcloth on the, between your bra and the, and the leaf. And then you change them when they’re warm and wilted. So it should take about 20 minutes or so, and it will help to pull the swelling out of the tissues and it, it can help to dry it up.

And yeah, it stinks a little bit, but it honestly feels amazing. It does. It feels so good. And, and you can use the cabbage leaves when you’re experiencing like any breastfeeding or engorgement they in themselves will not dry you up. But if you apply them that often, and for that long, just that coolness like that, that’s all going to help it.

Yeah. Just do it. If you’re still trying to lactate and you’re just trying to manage your engorgement, just only use them after you express milk. Exactly. Yeah. So. Say you’ve done these things and you’re, you’re still in pain. You’re still lactating or having trouble. Then we’re going to kind of move on to, what can we give you to help you with that?

So we can talk about taking over the counter cold medicine that we usually recommend you do not take when you’re lactating, like Sudafed. Which has shown honestly really good results in reducing the amount of milk you make. So what we recommend is just start with one normal dose. See what happens and then kind of repeat as needed.

You can also try things like Sage or peppermint tea. And when I say that I don’t mean like have a half a cup of it. I mean, like several cups of it, right? Because when we’re talking about using herbs for medicinal purposes, we’re talking about making really strong infusions of them. And with the Sage, I recall you and I having a discussion about this, where you start with like four or five cups a day of Sage tea, and then you slowly back it down to maybe like one cup a day until you’re totally dried up.

And Sage is really drying. So you’re going to  feel like you have a dry mouth and all of that, just to be prepared. It’s also super fucking bitter, so you can add honey to it. That’s okay. You don’t have to drink it just straight. Okay. That’s good to know. And then also, if you’re trying to sleep at night, you can do Benadryl.

You know sometimes when you’re grieving, your sleep gets just completely jacked up. Like  you might have some insomnia going on, so you can definitely take some Benadryl if you are trying to sleep, that’s fine too. Yeah, and it, it used to be the standard recommendation that you bind your breasts if you don’t want to breastfeed, but we do find that that causes more clogs and mastitis.

 So we don’t universally recommend that anymore, but you can wear like , a more supportive, like tighter bra, if you want to. Yeah, just like a regular sports bra is fine. And then you, you still might leak. So, you know, putting dry breast pads, making sure that no milk is sitting on your breast pads because that can set you up for yeast and you just don’t want to be dealing with any kind of a yeast infection or a mastitis infection on top of a loss.

Right. That’s just horrible. And then there are prescription medications that you can ask for, but usually you’re not going to get them until you’ve like tried some of these things. Again, it used to be really universal that doctors would just prescribe them Willy nilly. Now they’re kind of more targeted.

So, yeah, most of the time this will resolve within a week or two, just doing these easy things that we just went through. The other option is you could donate your milk. Some mothers, some parents find it healing to pump that milk and donate it to another baby in need. And, you know, milk banks, especially benefit from premature milk.

So if you lost your baby prior to term, and this is something that you want to try and you can always try it and change your mind, you’re not like locked in. You can do it as long as you want to do it. That premature milk is much higher in protein and it’s very hard for the milk banks to get ahold of that milk for these very special NICU babies.

So that’s something to consider. If you’re on the fence, you try it, you know, try it. There are some, some milk banks do require a minimum amount of ounces to donate to be considered a donor, but the good news is, um, the, you also need typically like blood labs drawn and things like that, which you’ve probably already had in pregnancy.

And because they are so short on premature milk, sometimes they’re willing to make exceptions just to get it because the composition is so different. So call a local milk bank and find out. And most people who experience a loss do not do this, but the people that do you decide to then express milk and donate really pretty universally talk about it as a very healing experience.

And I did. I found a story that I found really moving, you know, I thought it, it might be really good for some people to hear a firsthand account. And then also know there are hundreds of stories like this out there. If you just search lactation after infant loss, donating milk after my baby died, you’ll find them.

But yeah, I, I wanted to share this with you. So this is from lactationmatters.org, and I will put the link into the show notes. I will also be putting lots of links in, so keep an eye out. So this story was published in 2014 from Monique about her baby Freya. At 33 weeks gestation, there was a cord accident and our second daughter, Freya died in utero.

I never had the opportunity to breastfeed or pump milk for Freya. Even though I had no baby to feed, I produced milk and decided I wanted to pump. The lactation specialists that I worked with during my pregnancy was bewildered that I wanted to keep pumping my milk after Freya died. She seemed confused as to why a bereaved mother would want to keep pumping her milk.

My main support to keep pumping came from my husband and a dear friend who’s a naturopath and a midwife. Both of them encouraged me to pump my milk as long as I wanted to. The pain of losing a baby is indescribable. And for me, pumping milk helped create a structure for the days after my loss that were filled with grief.

I pumped my milk multiple times a day for six weeks. I stored every drop of milk that I pumped in a freezer. I couldn’t imagine throwing away Freya’s gold because there was so much love in that milk. In my experience, there’s a general discomfort with grief and loss in our culture. There’s pressure to close the loop on suffering and that’s not realistic for bereaved mothers.

Pumping milk is one way that bereaved mothers can manage that intense and ongoing grief of losing a baby. Oh, that makes me want to cry. That was a good story. Yeah. I mean, I’m just crying because it’s so beautiful. I mean, and I love her point about having some structure because your breasts will wake you up and let you know it’s time to pump and it gets you up and moving and gives you purpose.

Yeah. That’s why I chose this story actually, because that one sentence. I was like this is so important to have meaningful purpose and structure after you’re grieving a death like that. Right. And to just kind of know where your milk is going and just to imagine the healing that you are providing to another person.

I mean, yeah, it’s, it’s amazing, you know, and some people do this for two weeks and, you know, they donate some milk and it’s great. And other people, I mean, I’ve read stories where people did this for years after losing a baby and donated gallons and gallons of milk. And they just said it, it was the only way that they could feel like the loss of their baby was serving any purpose.

And it wasn’t just like senseless grief, and death. Hmm. You know, my mom lost a baby before she got pregnant with my littlest brother, Josiah. And he was one of those like little Indigo children. Like I swear that kid, like prior to the age of four, could just feel and sense other things that we couldn’t anymore.

And he, my mom planted a rose bush after she had lost the baby. Then she had Josiah and I was doing a photo shoot of Josiah, cause I was in high school, we’re 16 years apart. And he was right next to the rosebush that had died. Actually the bush died. And of course, you know, and he looked at the bush and he touched the leaves and he said, where’s the baby?

And we were like, what? And he says, where’s the baby? And my mom just burst into tears. And she said, Josiah, what do you mean? And he said, well, wasn’t there a baby here? And she says, well, yeah, there was a baby, you know, we had a baby before we had you, but that baby didn’t make it. And he said, just so matter of fact, in such a little kid way, he looked at her and he said, don’t worry, mommy, all the babies are up on a shelf in heaven.

And sometimes the babies, sometimes the babies are too scared to come down, but the other babies are really nice. So they just let that baby go to the back of the line and they take the turn. So interesting. I know, but I just love the idea of that. Like, don’t worry that baby will come back around. Right.

You know, that body didn’t work out, but you know, maybe next time and it’s just like, so matter of fact, right? Yeah. So, if you have experienced a loss or, you know someone who has, I am going to put a bunch of resources for you guys in the show notes, you know, different advocacy groups, support groups, stuff like that.

You know, and even if you’re like, I don’t want to look at it right now, you’ll know that it’s there and it’s available to you in one spot, which is nice. Yeah. And if, you know, if you have a friend that has gone through a loss, especially if it’s their first loss, please share this episode with them and tell them you don’t have to listen now, but when you’re ready, it’s here for you.

And let me know if you want me to send it to anybody else. Like a partner or their mother, or, you know, whoever just because it’s going to be helpful for people to know what their role is. And I do want to mention with a lot of these organizations, they do have a religious affiliation. So I’ve tried to note whether or not that’s true and what affiliation that might be.

Because I do understand that, especially for non-Christian people who lose a baby, it’s actually very hard to find like secular support. And it can be really hard when your only support systems are super Christian or, you know, whatever in that. And that’s not something you’re comfortable with.

So thanks for mentioning that. That’s super important. Yeah, we definitely don’t want to push it down anybody’s throat that’s for sure. Right. Absolutely. And it’s just, it’s just not appropriate if that’s not the faith that you have to be, for that faith to be your only support system. So, right. And if you do run a secular support group for bereavement and infant loss, let us know, and we will happily include that in the show notes.

Yep, absolutely. Yeah. Or if there’s a resource that you know of that I didn’t put on here, that’s really great, let us know. And my friend, uh, Jan sells Color Street, nail strips, like the nail polish stuff. And so this is so random, but color street actually did a special nail set for pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.

And I bought some, so I’m going to put them on and I will share a photo of it on our Facebook and you can see it. And of course it goes to a good cause. Yeah. Awesome. All right. Well, thanks for listening everybody. And I hope that you all find the support you need and the time that you need to grieve. Yep. Me too. We’re here for you if you need anything, guys.

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