Milk donation after losing one's baby: Adopting a donor identity as a means of coping with loss

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Abstract

This is a study of bereaved mothers' donation of human milk to nonprofit human milk banks following their baby's death. Whereas much has been written about the biological and medical aspects of milk donations in times of loss, much less attention has been given to the psychosocial aspects of this phenomenon. I build on research of motivations for philanthropic giving in times of crisis and loss, and focus on the role of donor identity for explaining bereaved mothers' milk donations. Through a content analysis of 80 bereaved donors' personal testimonials, I demonstrate the role of a donor identity as a transformative identity in these women's process of coping with their loss. Taking on a temporary milk donor identity helped the women in this study reconstruct their shattered identities as mothers and healthy females and served to enfranchise them as bereaved mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112519
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume238
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Bodily gifting
  • Donor identity
  • Milk donations
  • Philanthropy and loss
  • Transformative identity

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