This might sound weird, but my baby girl just died at 21 days old. I was already pumping, and producing a lot of breast milk. I have a lot stored already, and now I can’t use any of it. But for some reason, I’m hesitant to stop. Pumping makes me feel connected to her, and like if I stop, I’ll lose my last connection to her. Is this normal? Is it unhealthy to produce milk when there’s no baby to feed it to?
You are definitely not alone! Plenty of women have a hard time letting go of breastfeeding or pumping after their baby dies. Of course there are the physical challenges of tapering off your milk supply, but there is also the emotional difficulty.
Breastfeeding can be a very special experience for mothers and babies, and especially when your baby is ill and requires special care, you’ve probably been hearing how important your breast milk is in her care plan. It can make you feel like you’re really contributing at a time when you feel helpless.
So is it OK to keep pumping?
The short answer is, yes. As long as it feels important to you, go for it.
The long answer is also yes, but keep in mind that producing breast milk does require a lot from your body. So, if you do decide to keep pumping, you’ll have to take care of your physical needs. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids and eating a healthy diet.
What should I do with the milk I’m producing?
You can certainly dump out any milk you collect. There is no reason you have to do anything with it if you’re only keeping up with it for your emotional and physical comfort.
Some women like to donate or sell their milk. You can donate for research, or to help sick babies who can benefit from breast milk over formula. You can also sell breast milk now. Learn more about the possibilities here.
What do I do when I want to stop?
Your body may slowly decrease production on its own. Many women find they are naturally making less milk after a few weeks or months. Others may have to make a conscious decision to stop when it feels right.
If you do find yourself wanting or needing to wean off the pump, start by cutting down on the length of your pumping sessions, and extending the time between pumpings. Slowly, you should be able to give your body the signal that it’s time to shut down production.