Providing Lactation Care Following Stillbirth, Neonatal and Infant Death: Learning from Bereaved Parents

Debbie Noble-Carr, Katherine Carroll*, Simon Copland, Catherine Waldby

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objective: The study aimed to identify how, from the perspective of bereaved parents, hospital-based health professionals can better meet their lactation care needs. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 17 mothers and 7 fathers bereaved by stillbirth, neonatal death, or older infant death. Participants were recruited from three large hospitals in Eastern Australia including two with human milk banks. Qualitative thematic data analysis identified bereaved parents' lactation experiences, needs, and how parents wanted lactation care to be provided. Results: Participants experienced lactation after infant death as hard and challenging, while at the same time they received limited lactation care. The negative impact of lactation, however, could be mediated by anticipatory guidance, assistance to make sense of lactation, support to make decisions from available lactation and breast milk management options, and support with breast care for as long as required. Bereaved parents explained lactation care was best provided by health professionals they had come to know and trust rather than by a particular professional role. Care should be provided with compassion, in a manner respectful of individual circumstances, inclusive of partners, and supplemented by quality written information. When bereaved parents felt supported to manage their lactation in a manner consistent with their unique needs, lactation for some could have a positive impact on grief. Conclusion: Bereaved parents have demonstrated that comprehensive lactation care is critical to their health and well-being. Such care should be more fully incorporated into hospital-based bereavement care policies and practices.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)254-264
    Number of pages11
    JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


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