Being pregnant, for most women, is a wonderful, exciting, period. They have wanted to start a family and this is the beginning of their adventure. For others, the pregnancy may have been a nice surprise or it may be a difficult, unwanted, experience. Life experiences are not always what we expect.
Sometimes, women have read numerous pregnancy books and then their pregnancy does not follow what the texts indicate. This also goes for the birth experience. One woman may dream of an idealized, beautiful, un-medicated water birth, while another, clearly having made up her mind that she wants a pain free birth, will opt for an epidural.
Birth and the postpartum period do not always occur as expected or imagined. Sadly, sometimes things go very wrong, ending in perinatal, neonatal, or infant loss. As an IBLCE or lacation support provider, it is important to have knowledge about how to care for a mother following such a loss. In Melissa Cole's article, Lactation after Perinatal, Neonatal, or Infant Loss, she states, "When care providers have a good understanding of the physical postpartum changes, along with the psychological issues following infant loss, they will be able to better serve the bereaved mother." Any pregnancy loss after 16 weeks gestation, may lead to secretory activation, resulting in the bereaved mother's milk "coming in" due to the endocrine control of milk sythesis. Mothers may not expect this and be quite bewildered as they have no baby to feed. Informing the mother and providing anticipatory guidance during this stage is crucial.
Kindly take the time to read Lactation after Perinatal, Neonatal, or Infant Loss, by Melissa Cole. You are likely to find this article very helpful in understanding both the physical and psychological needs of a mother related to lactation after a pregnancy or postpartum loss. As health care providers, it is our responsibility to provide quality care and healing support to these mothers during this difficult time.
Cole, M. (2012). Lactation after Perinatal, Neonatal, or Infant Loss, Clinical Lactation. 3. 3 94-100