Breastfeeding and Infant Loss
Chattanooga TN USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 3, May-June 2005, p. 110
I was still breastfeeding my 16-month-old daughter, Miriam, when I found out I was pregnant with my second child. I was immediately worried about the effects of breastfeeding on my unborn child, but after talking with my midwife and La Leche League Leaders, I decided to continue breastfeeding my toddler. At that point, I was looking forward to tandem nursing and welcoming another little bundle into our family bed. I was also planning to try for a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC).
When I was 30 weeks pregnant, I was referred to a perinatologist due to my baby's small size. After a recommended amniocentesis procedure, my son was diagnosed with Trisomy 13, an extra 13th chromosome. I was told that if he made it through the birth, he would live only a matter of hours or days. My world came crashing down as well as my dreams of tandem nursing and bringing my son into the family bed.
One thing I was so grateful for was that I had made the decision to continue breastfeeding my daughter. Nursing brought me comfort and physical closeness with her, which I needed. I also knew that, once my son died, Miriam would be able to relieve some of my breast pain from engorgement. I began to create a birth plan. One of the most important things to me was to be able to nurse him, even if it was just once.
Within days of finding out the bad news, I went to see a lactation consultant. I knew that I could have difficulty breastfeeding due to my son's problems and wanted to discuss what could be done. The lactation consultant was wonderful and volunteered to be there to help with breastfeeding no matter what time my son was born.
At 39 weeks, my son, Josiah, died in utero. That same day, my daughter stopped breastfeeding due to a bad cold. Josiah was stillborn by VBAC four days later. We spent one day in the hospital and he was buried two days later. My milk came in the day after he was born and I had to pump for two days to help with the engorgement. Miriam showed great interest when I was pumping and the night after Josiah's funeral, she asked to nurse. I was very happy to oblige.
Right after the loss of my son, she began breastfeeding almost like an infant, which allowed me to deal with my new milk supply. I felt really odd breastfeeding a two-year-old so often, but I was getting the emotional and physical comfort I needed and so was she. After a few weeks, we began to slowly decrease our nursing sessions.
I tried to look for material on breastfeeding a toddler after the death of a baby and could not find anything, but my La Leche League Group in Ringgold, Georgia, USA was very supportive and helpful with ideas on slowing Miriam down. Now, seven months later, Miriam is two-and-a-half years old and still breastfeeding. While my dreams of tandem nursing and four in the family bed were not realized, I was able to continue my nursing relationship with my daughter in a natural way that satisfied both of our needs.