Loss of your baby - breast feeding

  • The death of your baby or young child is a devastating event that has an impact on every part of your being.  For mothers who have been breastfeeding and fathers involved in the care of their child the end of this special relationship is another loss.  Whether you found breastfeeding a struggle or a joy there are likely to be strong emotions as this change occurs.

    Suppression of breast feeding

    Breast milk is often produced for some time after the death of your child.  Your body does not automatically stop producing milk.  Some parents may find this a distressing reminder of their loss whilst others find it a positive aspect at this sad time.  Some mothers may even choose to keep some frozen breast milk as a memento.

    Breast milk is most often suppressed naturally although there is the option of medication in some instances.   This can be discussed with your breastfeeding consultant and doctor.

    Natural suppression of breast milk involves the following:

    • Minimal stimulation or expressing of breasts for comfort
    • Wearing a firm but supportive bra
    • Using cold packs to breasts if feeling sore
    • Use of paracetamol or anti-inflammatory drugs for discomfort
    • Restriction of fluids, taking fluid tablets or other medication to stop lactation is not necessary.
    • How often you need to express will depend on your own comfort level and the frequency you had been feeding.

    An example:

    This is a suggested regime for a mother who has been feeding/expressing approximately every three hours:

    • For first one or two days, express every 4 hours but just for 5 minutes - the aim is not to drain breast completely but sufficiently enough to a comfort level.
    • For the next few days, extend the interval between expressions and reduce time to a comfort level e.g. express every 5 hours and for only three or four minutes.
    • This regime of gradually reducing to one or two expressions a day, whenever you feel the need to express to a comfort level may take varying amounts of time, sometimes for weeks. Eventually this will stop altogether.
    • If engorgementoccurs a warm shower or heat packs will enhance the let down and relieve pressure in the breasts before expressing.                               
    • If lumps and sore or redspots occur then you must express and massage the lumps while expressing. This may result in completely draining the breast but it must be done to avert mastitis.
    • Cold compresses after expressing may relieve pain and reduce swelling.
    • If there is no mastitisthen minimal stimulation of the breasts is advised, i.e. no massage.


    It is important to recognise signs of mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue.  There is usually a red painful area on one breast, fever, tiredness and aching all over as if you have the flu.  You should consult your Doctor immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms.  An antibiotic will be prescribed for treatment.

    Support Services

    Support is available through the lactation consultants at the hospital, your maternal and child health nurse and the Breast Feeding Association.  You may find the following organisations helpful:





    Developed by the RCH Bereavement Committee.  This factsheet not accessible through the Kids Health Info website.  First published Feb 2007.


This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.