The Lactation After Loss Commemorative Quilt launch intended to be an evening of commemoration and reflection of the often hidden and overlooked issue of lactation after infant loss. The launch was also a call for action to ensure health care practice and policy enables comprehensive lactation care for bereaved families.
The launch celebrated the collaborative process that stands behind the conceptualisation, design and making of the commemorative quilt. The speeches were opened by Dr Katherine Carroll from School of Sociology and Chief Investigator of the “Lactation After Infant Death” ARC Discovery grant, and she described the key findings from the body of published research work produced by her research team that inform both the design and purpose of the commemorative quilt.
Katherine portrayed the silence that continues to surround the issue of lactation after loss, and highlighted the variability of lactation experiences of bereaved mothers that the research uncovered and are shared on the quilt. Pointing to the presence of breastmilk in the quilt itself, Katherine explained that breastmilk retains great value to most bereaved mothers after infant death and that all bereaved mothers wanted choice in how they manage their lactation.
Lucy Irvine, researcher and artist (SOAD) then spoke on the value of trust in the transdisciplinary research collaboration and the design rational for both sides of the quilt. The deliberate layout of the text printed on the quilt shares mothers’ lactation experiences in a way that enables people to gather round, touch, hold and read the quilt as a form of slow participation and taking in of the information contained on it.
Researcher and artist Dr Rebecca Mayo (SOAD) also spoke of the methodology of care underpinning the manufacture of the quilt, and significance of the use of plant color which reminds us of the connections between all of life. Research Fellow Dr Laura Klein from Red Cross Lifeblood travelled from Sydney headquarters to attend the launch. In her speech she thanked the anonymous milk donors who consented to their milk - which was not able to be used to feed babies - being used instead for the quilt research project. Laura also expressed her support for both the research project and the purpose of the quilt itself, which will make its way into various health services to assist facilitated conversations with health professionals about how to optimise care for bereaved families.
The quilt launch is a demonstration of the creative research practices, outputs, and genuine engagement generated through caring collaboration between multiple research disciplines and across academic and health sectors.