October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and a sobering reminder of the grief experienced by families throughout the state and across the nation.
The March of Dimes estimates up to 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. According to the Centers for Disease Control, non-Hispanic Black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are twice as likely to experience stillbirth in comparison to Non-Hispanic Whites, Asian or Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. And the available research indicates a lower quality of maternal health care, socioeconomic factors, and structural racism in healthcare closely connect racial disparities in maternal and infant deaths.
Pregnancy and infant loss is both a maternal/child health and health equity issue and of concern to all of us who work across the perinatal continuum of care.
The nature of our work as lactation advocates means it’s more likely than not that we will encounter families affected by pregnancy and infant loss several times in our careers. Holding space for grieving families is both a difficult and tender task.
The March of Dimes offers several suggestions and resources for families grappling with the complexities of grieving profound loss on their website. Another option is milk donation, an act bereaved donors have referred to as healing and meaningful in honoring the life of their child while helping other vulnerable infants to thrive.
Both UC Health Milk Bank in San Diego and Mothers’ Milk Bank San Jose have bereavement programs to support grieving families. Whether a parent wants to continue lactation and donate their milk or needs support in slowing/stopping milk production and managing engorgement, our state’s nonprofit milk banks can help. What a mother or birthing parent chooses to do with their milk is their choice, and the highly qualified staff at both UC Health Milk Bank and Mothers’ Milk Bank San Jose will support their choices with compassion and without judgment.
For families who want to donate milk without completing the donor screening process, UC San Diego will accept donations for research purposes. To find out more about that option, email firstname.lastname@example.org.