Infant Journal
for neonatal and paediatric healthcare professionals

Talking about lactation – the importance of shared decision making in antenatal anticipatory care planning

When discussing lactation management as part of an anticipatory care plan, healthcare professionals should impartially discuss the choices available to families without personal judgement or bias to support families to come to their own informed decisions. This article outlines how the Milk Bank at Chester has been working collaboratively with the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice and loss families to co-develop a leaflet to educate and support families on their lactation choices following an antenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition with a shortened life expectancy.

Rowen Emmett-O’Toole
Milo’s Mummy and Advanced Clinical Practitioner

Laura Atherton
Bereavement Lead – Memory Milk Gift Initiative, Milk Bank at Chester, Countess of Chester Hospital

Sara Balmforth
Perinatal Midwife, Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice

Emmett-O’Toole R., Atherton L., Balmforth S. Talking about lactation – the importance of shared decision making in antenatal anticipatory care planning. Infant 2023; 19(4): 134-38.

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lactation management; antenatal choices; life-limiting diagnosis; antenatal palliative care; milk bank; milk donation
Key points
  1. Loss families are being failed by not having all lactation choices offered to them, or not honoured.
  2. Some lactation choices can support families with memory making, which can assist in their grieving process and the mother’s perinatal mental health.
  3. There is a need for healthcare professionals to embody and embed the culture of shared decision making into their everyday practice.

Also published in Infant:

Management of lactation following the death of a baby
The death of an infant is a profound, emotionally complex time in a new mother’s life. She grieves for the baby she has lost, the life she imagined and her role as a mother. Compounding this emotional distress is the physical pain associated with engorgement and milk secretion. This article discusses the physiology of lactation and practical advice to give to bereaved mothers to help them through this time. Ways to suppress lactation are discussed as well as the concept that continuation may be the right pathway for some mothers.