Lactation after infant death: an analysis of Australian healthcare agencies’ online health information

Author/editor: Lara Sweeney, Katherine Carroll, Debbie Noble-Carr & Catherine Waldby
Published in (Monograph or Journal): Health Sociology Review
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Year published: 2020
Volume no.: 29, 2020
Issue no.: Issue 1


Lactation is a potent signifier of maternal love and care commonly associated with early motherhood and infant survival. It is common, however, for bereaved mothers who have recently undergone miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death to produce breastmilk. Drawing on a critical feminist lens that seeks to understand how maternal subjectivities and lactation norms are constructed through public and reproductive health information, this article tests whether lactation management options after stillbirth and infant death are comprehensively covered in Australia’s health organisations’ online information. A qualitative directed content analysis was conducted to critique the information provided on 21 Australian websites. Information extracted from websites was compared to a ‘best-practice’ Lactation After Infant Death (AID) Framework developed by the research team for the review. We found a notable absence of comprehensive lactation management information targeted directly to bereaved mothers. Moreover, the most common lactation option presented for women without a living infant was lactation suppression. This dearth of appropriate and comprehensive lactation information curtails maternal subjectivies and diverse lactation practices and further isolates women dealing with the painful contradictions of lactation after loss.

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