Thursday, September 15, 2011


Just a throw-out for the loss mamas out there.

As most of you know, I recently authored a pamphlet with a lactivist friend on Lactation After Loss (picture it as a trifold, folded up). I have received many requests from hospitals around North America to use the pamphlet (yippee!) to which I say, of course, HURRAY! YES! HAND IT OUT!
They say, I notice there is no copyright. I say, that's because I want you to copy it. I want you to give it to mothers. I want people NOT to be sent home with swollen, dripping breasts and no idea how to feel and what to do.
I am pleased and proud to be able to offer such a thing, it is an honor to me and my daughter's memory if people give this to as many mothers as possible.

Recently, I had a bereavement counselor say that she liked the pamphlet, but felt concerned about the section on milk donation. It was her feeling that we shouldn't include the section on donation, and that if mothers were interested in donation (and we all know that it is the minority who would have this interest) those mothers could simply ask about it and be given the information at that time.

I countered her suggestion that women would ask for the information by saying that I felt strongly that, while indeed the suggestion that one could donate could be a sensitive topic to newly bereaved mothers, it is presumptuous to assume that this information is simply to difficult and to therefore omit it. I have met mothers who have indicated that they wished they had known about this possibility. I also felt that we wrote the section sensitively so as not to make mothers feel as if donating is something they should do.

My take is, the right thing to do is to present all the options.

What do you think? (and feel free to call me wrong, if you wish. This is what I'm asking for)

Please share this pamphlet with your local hospital or support organization.


Hope's Mama said...

I think this is really helpful and I agree, provide all the options and let mothers decide. I think you've done this really well.
In Australia, the standard practice is to give a drug to stop milk production all together. I never had to face this issue as the milk never really arrived. That pill was put in my hand the day after she was born and I was just told to take it, and I never questioned it. I don't know if it was the right thing to do or not, as I was so curious about my milk as I had been leaking the entire second half of the pregnancy, and I continued to leak very tiny amounts after I took the mediation as well. I don't know if I would have donated, but I certainly would have thought about it. I think if Hope hadn't been my first and I had already nursed a baby, then it might have been an easier decision to make. Not being able to feed Hope was one of the cruellest things of the entire experience.

Sadie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sadie said...

Hi Carol,
I was given the option to donate and felt really good about this option. I would never have known about it otherwise. I felt like I worked so hard to pump while Eva was in the NICU because I had so much hope in my heart that she would use it that to throw it away would be just Wrong!! I was able to donate it to a brand new lab that wasnt even open yet. Due to my on medical issues they were not able to give it to another baby but they would use it to test the machinery. I donated over 80 bottles!! I felt that I was doing something to help other babies grow big and strong. I was so grateful for this option. Your instinct and insight is right on. Keep on, keeping on!!

Susanna said...

When my doula suggested a milk bank that I could donate to, it was in a city hours away. I was somewhat annoyed that she wanted me to think about being helpful to others at this time of intense grief - especially if it meant driving for hours to get screened, then give away the the milk meant for my baby.

But we did have dear friends adopting a newborn in a month or so. They had previously mentioned another mother who had donated her extra breast milk to them. When my milk came in, I pumped and saved a moderate amount to give to them as a gift.

I couldn't have anticipated the positive nature of this action beforehand. As I learned about lactation and began pumping, I felt that rather than attempting to stifle my body I was encouraging it to go through a natural process. I was able to nurture my body in some small way.

Of course pumping was also deeply sad on many levels. For me, however, it was a step of grieving for Elsa and for the mothering I was not able to do. On a very practical level, pumping gave me a productive task to do, many times a day. It set a rhythm to the days that otherwise were a nebulous blur of grief.

I think including a sensitively worded section on milk donation in the brochure has the potential to be helpful for many people. The thought may be too intense for many people, and they can ignore that section. For some, though, that same section may plant the seed of thought that could inspire a healing action - not just for others but for the babylost themselves.

Charlotte's Mama said...

Just as an aside, the hospital did contact me and say that they've decided not to use my brochure because they do not want to present the option of donation to their mothers at the time of loss. They then went on to say that they would be able to refer the mothers to the new bank in their city if the mothers came back seeking information about donating after the fact... which I think is highly unlikely. I try to step back and not be opinionated about this but it's hard because I have an opinion!

Rixa said...

I think it's wrong not to include information about donating. I honestly have a hard time understanding why a hospital wouldn't let a pamphlet include that information. Most women don't even know that milk donation exists, so they wouldn't know to ask about it on their own (let alone after they have lost a baby).

Perhaps the hospital will be persuaded if they hear from enough women who have experienced loss and would have wanted to know about this as an option.

alicia said...

I think it's really important to include the donation information in your pamphlet. After pumping for three months while Miles was in the hospital, I never would have known it was even possible to donate breast milk if a nurse had not told me about the milk bank in Raleigh.
As far as "saying the wrong thing" during a mother's grief (and I think this applies to conversation or to information in a pamphlet). When people worried about what was appropriate to say or when they apologized for what they thought was "reminding" me of my grief, I would often say, "Don't be sorry for bringing up Miles. You can't possibly make me any sadder. The worst thing has already happened...Miles is gone. I like to talk about him." I think this applies to the breast milk donation because it's better to talk about than to ignore it...grief stretches in so many ways. So...
Of course I pumped the milk for Miles alone and would have given anything for him to have the milk. Of course I was emotional and appreciated being treated in a sensitive manner. However, I would have hated to pour 1,097 ounces of liquid gold down the drain when I believe it is so critical to babies' health.
I LOVE ways to honor Miles' memory and I view my donation as a gift Miles gave other babies...what a shame if I had not been told that it was possible.

Charlotte's Mama said...

obviously I agree... I think its a crying shame and a disservice to mothers.