Milk Stars: Breastfeeding after perinatal bereavement

by Claudia Ravaldi

Breastfeeding is a priority theme in the promotion of maternal and child health, on which there is much debate, often with extremely bright and sometimes confusing and confusing tones.

After a perinatal bereavement, however, the importance of breastfeeding is considerably and improperly reduced: the pregnancy following bereavement, by definition at “risk”, leaves very little room for physiology, even when there would be plenty of space. , because the previous painful loss often engages the mental and emotional resources of both the parents and the operators involved.

Many mothers, who have a “painful” experience of breastfeeding (or whipping milk) behind them can in fact be very frightened and fatigued even at the idea of facing a new breastfeeding with their rainbow baby.

For these mothers, competent support from an experienced breastfeeding worker is often essential and beneficial, not just for breastfeeding as such, but for their entire postnatal period.

We have talked about pregnancies following bereavement on several occasions: here , on my psychotherapy blog, and here , on the CiaoLapo blog.

We have supported families struggling with subsequent pregnancies, we have supported midwives and psychologists committed to supporting families and mothers.

In my recent specialization course in perinatal clinical psychology, and already years ago in the path on affective neuroscience , I was able to deepen the close relationship between stress and psychopathology, with all that this entails in terms of prevention and health promotion.

This reflection, on subsequent pregnancy, adaptation and breastfeeding, is our first response to the complex issue of support in subsequent pregnancies.

We present our work on breastfeeding after perinatal bereavement, of which a freely downloadable pdf flyer is already available in the documents section.

Enjoy the reading.

When a couple faces a pregnancy after a perinatal bereavement, they experience a real “emotional roller coaster “: many couples tell of what it is like intense and continuous comparison between pregnancies, how the sense of emptiness and the lack of the previous child alternate with the joy of the new expectation and how this new experience is in part “obscured “by the sense of fear for what will be .

Very often the new expectations after a loss are full of conflicting feelings (desire, uncertainty, remorse, fear of the future, melancholy); sometimes the tension is so strong that it overshadows the relationship with the new baby (which English mothers call ” baby rainbow “).

Pregnancies after bereavement can be an emotionally exhausting experience for mothers, fathers and the whole family: fears they can leave little room for dreams, fantasies and hope and these nine months can therefore become a real obstacle course .

We erroneously tend to think that with the birth of the child all tensions and pain disappear, that the “new child” repays all the efforts and shortcomings, “putting a stone on” the past.

We know that this is not the case, and we know that this “denial” can inhibit the emotional resources of mothers and hinder a conscious and peaceful path to the postnatal period.

CiaoLapo offers expectant mothers the spaces to discuss, identify strategies to better face the new motherhood, taking care of themselves and their children, near and far.

A good level of serenity is possible, it is desirable and it is useful and beneficial for mother and child .

Failure to breastfeed after loss

Many mothers after the loss of their babies, more often if it occurs in the second half of pregnancy, experience the milk supply. This event is perceived as particularly painful, violent and unnatural and, if not adequately accompanied and sustained, can remain in the memory as a traumatic memory and negatively affect the impact with subsequent breastfeeding (especially if there are no previous serene breastfeeding experiences) .

“I was ready and my breasts too, I couldn’t wait. Jacopo, however, was born dead, my baby of over 4kg. “Madam, you have to take the pills for the suppression of the milk supply.” And I took them, like an automaton. I took a lot but my breasts didn’t seem to want to know, they were swollen, hot, in turmoil, ready to feed those who were not there. In the end he surrendered to the evidence, too. “

“.. Then Zeno was born dead at 24 weeks, and despite having immediately taken the tablets to stop the milk, this arrived … I was one of those lucky mothers who had milk … there was only someone to feed … the milk dripping it was like tears … it was painful, it was instinctive strength to feel the surge after seeing my son for the last time … “

He was dying, and I was pumping milk. I pulled with that noise in my ears, kept every drop. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it “

Rainbow Baby Breastfeeding Experiences .

“When I gave birth to my Rainbow, after two and a half years, I wanted to try breastfeeding. O. attached quickly and well. But despite that, it didn’t increase by an ounce. Only thanks to the operators of the TIN O. she continues to be breastfed. They knew my story, they knew of Sofia’s death .. And they never left me alone. 3 times a week they kept me in hospital for 3 hours. In which I was breastfeeding. In which they gave me security. They supported me. They didn’t make me feel “desperate”. Different. They never gave me an added formula. Nothing. Only love. Support. They encouraged me. They told me it was normal. Which sometimes happens. And that was understandable “

“Carlotta was born at 36 weeks with induced delivery … She was not latching on !! She sucked but little, she slept … And I remember those days as in a glass bowl … Incredulous unaware … Worried !! In the hospital I didn’t have much support, in fact after a day they had already stuffed the bottle in her mouth and infant formula, when I had my breasts exploding !! It was as if she didn’t want to feed, as if the pregnancy made of about 9 months with “the fear of dying at any moment” had marked her, perhaps she was not ready to be born … The fact is that the first month is it was really hard !! But we did it together !! “

Breastfeed Alessandro. it was a natural experience that gave me so much confidence and confidence in my role. After my losses I had imagined every day that I would be a mother and I had very high expectations, I thought that after a loss, with a different awareness of motherhood I should have been a certain way. I recognize that breastfeeding A. has given me confidence in myself, a confidence that I used when I received unsolicited advice.

“I breastfeed Jacopo who was born alive after Lorenzo for 13 months and now I have been breastfeeding Giordana for three months …. What can I say? While breastfeeding it is time for big thoughts of strong emotions. I think about how it would have been with Lorenzo and then I think about the future of my living children. “

“After the loss of the twins, I nursed Alessio for 14 months. I stopped when he made me realize he didn’t want to anymore. Wonderful experience, life that triumphs “

Being able to share the emotional roller coaster that accompanies the birth of a rainbow baby with trained staff and other parents improves mothers’ skills and makes breastfeeding a rich and satisfying experience.

Caring for the new baby will be easier and more rewarding if we have found the right space for the missing baby and if we have enough energy to focus on the new experience.

A heartfelt thanks to all the mothers who contributed by sharing their experiences.

A heartfelt thanks to the operators who accompany listening, one mother at a time, making himself witnesses of each of his children and each of his experiences.

“I embrace you with my hands, I embrace us with words, I embrace the whole sky with its memories”

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