In the world of new mommies, breastfeeding is a popular topic, especially in the beginning. Lactation specialists will arrive unannounced at your hospital bedside, advising and aiding in latch-on methods, milk production tips, and pump problems. By the time weaning winds around, much of the transition talk has faded. The truth is, however, that hormonal and milestone changes can bring a mixture of transition when you board off the breastfeeding train.
The decision to wean comes more easily to some mothers than others, but it’s rarely stress-free. Depending on how long and how regularly you breastfed, the quantity of milk your body is still producing will vary. Here are six things to keep in mind as you navigate the weaning process.
You May Not Be as Ready as You Think
Many mothers experience some level of regret or emotional guilt when they stop breastfeeding, particularly if weaning was premature or for reasons they weren’t ready for. Returning to work without pumping, buckling to the pressures of others, or pushing their child to wean too soon developmentally are all examples of reasons mom can later regret the transition. Once you stop producing milk, the process cannot be reversed, so make sure the weaning is ideally happening at a time that works in the physical and emotional favor of both you and baby. If that isn’t possible, understand that bonding and maternal love are not solely dependent on the factors of nursing.
Your Baby May Not Be Ready
Being the source of such valuable nutrients and emotional bonding for your baby is something hard to let go of. It makes it even harder when your child doesn’t want to wean. There are many no-cry solution books to transition through this process. No one knows your child better than you do, so trust your instincts. Remember not to play the comparison game. What worked for your friend or your mother-in-law with their babies may not be the same thing that you and your baby need. Be flexible and consistent, and give yourself and child plenty of grace through the transition.
Ignore Most Opinions
People love to give new parents advice. Not all of it is bad; not all of it is good. Opinions on when to wean may come flying at you from every direction. Be polite, but firm, about weaning when it works best for you and your baby. Whether the duration is shorter or longer than what other people expect, keep the bottom line about what you discuss with your pediatrician and your partner. It’s your body and your baby. Don’t let the opinions of others weigh on you emotionally or physically. No one but you and your child are living with the changes.
You May Feel Sad or Crazy
Mothers are hardly prepared for the flood of emotions they experience during the weaning process. You may feel really, really sad. You may cry for absolutely no reason in the middle of the day. You may experience loss and loneliness as your scheduled cuddle time with baby dwindles. But don’t worry. You are not crazy. These emotions are natural. Think P.M.S. on steroid overdrive. Mood swings, baby blues, nesting bug; it can be difficult to think your way out sometimes. When you know what to expect, it can be easier to handle. Make sure you have someone safe to talk to, and if you are experiencing more severe depression or extreme conditions, talk to your doctor and/or professional. Post-weaning depression and anxiety are real, but should pass with time. If you find your moods, stress, or sense of loss deepening or getting worse, don’t isolate yourself. Seek help without delay.
From Drying to Crying
Whether you are ready to wean or not, when your milk finally does dry up, it can be a roller coaster. Ranging from bittersweet nostalgia to relief with freedom can occupy your days. Some mothers have their milk dry up before they are ready, some within a day, while some go on leaking for several weeks after weaning. On one hand, your breastfeeding bond can be hard to move past, on the other, you can celebrate tossing aside your nursing bras and pads. Just remember that hormonal changes are playing a large part as well. The cycle of relief-guilt-relief is normal. During nursing, high levels of oxytocin surge, and the let-down of those levels as your production dries up can require some adjustment.
Keep the Connection
Focus on new ways to bond with your little one, and remember that weaning doesn't means you’ve lost the cuddle time with your kiddo. Make a special point during the mornings or evenings to continue affectionate time together. The biggest factor in weaning regrets are mothers afraid of losing their connection time with their baby. Build in available moments to continue these important bonding opportunities with your children for years to come. Bedtime stories with snuggles, wake up hugs and mid-afternoon lap time are all great ways to keep those ties strong. Enjoy the blessings of the next stage and chapter.