PLIDA Recently Released a Positional Statement on Lactation after Perinatal Loss
The Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance has released a statement on Lactation after Perinatal Loss. According the website, PLIDA is “An alliance of professional groups,, institutions, and individuals who provide care and support to families who experience perinatal loss.” Their goal is to be a source of support for professional caregivers. The recent statement on lactation after perinatal loss is important to lending support to bereaved families.
Mothers, when they are denied the ability to offer their child breast-milk, feel an intense grief
PLIDA quotes several mothers in regards to their grief in not being able to feed their baby.
- The things that made me sad were really just the realities of losing a baby. Like, I couldn’t hold her, I couldn’t, I couldn’t nurse her… (Lathrop, 2010b)
- But when your baby dies… there’s not much you’re going to do for your baby. You’re not going to feed your baby… (Lathrop, 2010a, p. 141)
- I had lost the baby and I remember when my milk came in, that being a really bittersweet moment. Like it was, on the one hand it was sad, because, you know I had all this milk and I couldn’t feed this baby… (Limbo & Lathrop, 2014, p. 53).
- I think a big part of a mother’s experience is being able to feed your child. You know, not being able to do that was odd. (Lathrop, 2010b)
- I nursed my first child. And so I— I kind of feel like that’s just what you do. You know, that’s kind of a mother, maternal thing that happens: when you have a baby, you are nursing. And I was— I kind of grieved about that, before I even had the baby. (Lathrop, 2010b)
- The interviewer reminded one mother that she had expressed a few drops of breast milk and placed them on her dead baby’s lips, a symbolic act of caregiving. (Kobler, Limbo, & Kavanaugh, 2007; Limbo & Lathrop, 2014, p. 53).
Grief Caregivers Yield Heavy Influences
PLIDA remains firm that caregivers need to be aware of the influence they yield when supporting a bereaved family. Therefore they recommend any caregiving staff- nurses, doctors, clergy, midwives, doulas, funeral directors, etc,- be well versed in self-care education and coping skills. The Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Association encourages these bereavement counselors to inform the mother of the chances of lactogenesis. Milk tends to “come in” at about 30-40 hours after the loss or birth of their baby.
Rituals and parenting opportunities related to breastfeeding—whether they be cultural, religious, or familial— can provide some form of reconciliation to the loss being experienced by the mother and her family.
Next, the PLIDA statement on Lactation after Perinatal Loss is careful to emphasize to caregivers that the “most important aspect is to listen to her (the mother’s) wishes, desires, and hopes, and to advocate for these to the extent possible in your care setting.” Particularly, this is important in regards to the mother’s desire for skin to skin, offering a breast to her dying baby, or to place a few drops of colostrum to an already passed infants lips, or whatever choices she makes about her milk.
Options for Bereaved Mother’s Milk
Fortunately, the Lactation after Loss Statement provides several options for a mother choosing to commemorate her loss via her breastmilk. Some of these options include:
- Taking a Keepsake of her Breastmilk. Some mothers may later choose to use this sample to create jewelry from it, such as Beyond the Willow Tree does.
- Pump and Donate her milk to a human milk donation bank
- Pump to provide milk to other infants in need, which also can help a mother to find some meaning in experiencing her loss.
PLIDA Recommended Lactation Support:
Human Milk Banking Association of North America (to locate an appropriate milk bank for donations): https://www.hmbana.org
International Lactation Consultant Association (professional organization of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who can provide assistance to mothers): http://www.ilca.org
La Leche League International (mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education about breastfeeding): http://www.llli.org
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