“The reward you get for overcoming your last challenge is your next challenge.” -T.D. Jakes
Photo by Gui Spinardi
My start to breastfeeding was difficult. I dealt with latching issues, low supply concerns, lack of education, and lots of negative emotions (self-doubt, guilt, etc). After overcoming all of those things, I managed to offer my daughter a supplemented supply of breastmilk, even though I wasn’t prepared for the journey physically or emotionally.
While I pleased with the progress I had made with breastfeeding, I got to a point when I decided that my nursing and pumping days was ending. I never imagined that weaning would come with its own set of challenges.
If you’ve ever had to wean or are currently in the process, then you know it isn’t easy.
You ask yourself…
- Is now the right time?
- How will my baby handle it?
- Is this engorgement pain for real right now?
- Are all these feelings and emotions normal?
- Why didn’t anyone warn me about this moment?
I get it. You aren’t alone.
There are tons of guides and breastfeeding courses, but where is all the information about weaning (the final unlatch)?
Well, mama… here are six things to know about weaning or the journey to stop breastfeeding.
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6 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU STOP BREASTFEEDING
1. YOU + BABY ARE IN CONTROL OF WHEN WEANING HAPPENS
Every child is different and while many reputable sources have recommended timelines for when to stop breastfeeding, you get to decide when to stop breastfeeding. You shouldn’t be shamed into weaning or made to feel like you failed for not persisting longer. You can and should be proud of any amount of breast milk you were able to provide for your child.
“Human milk, even in small amounts, contributes to your baby’s nutrition and health for as long as your baby receives your milk.” – La Leche League International
When I stopped breastfeeding it was in part due to my struggle to produce enough milk from the beginning and when I went back to work my milk supply took another hit. I pumped exclusively for a bit and finally stopped with the breast milk altogether when pumping produced less and less milk.
2. WEANING WILL BE UNCOMFORTABLE
Weaning is a big transition therefore, the process can be uncomfortable for mom and baby. Moms may experience a variety of symptoms that are physiological…
- Painful Engorgement
- Body aches
- Mood swings
Many of these changes are a result of our good ol’ hormones. If you experience any of these things, don’t hesitate to reach out for medical or therapeutic support.
Children also have to process and grow through the change and will have their own reaction to the weaning process.
When I stopped breastfeeding, I had feelings of sadness and guilt. In fact, I felt like a failure for not making it to 12 months. I also had body aches and cramping as my cycle wasted no time to reclaim her place in my monthly routine.
3. WEANING CAN BE DONE GRADUALLY
There is no rule that weaning has to happen cold turkey. Gradually decreasing the number of times you breastfeed a day can help make the transition easier.
Some moms choose to begin by limiting nursing to specific times of day like in the morning or at night. You can try postponing feedings and using the distractions as a technique to limit the number of daily feedings. Creativity will be key.
4. SOME FEAR & ANXIETY IS NORMAL
As moms, we always want to do what’s right. But what’s right for my kid may be different for what’s right for your kid.
We can get paralyzed because we don’t want to make the wrong move but we can’t be afraid to trust ourselves to know what is best for our kiddos.
- If you are a new mom going through all this for the first time it can be overwhelming.
- If you have more than one little one, then you know that what worked for one kid may not work for another.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you trust to get information or a hug.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you trust to get information or a hug; although it feels like it sometimes, you aren’t going through this alone. Find your community (locally or online) and grow in it. Also, always do your own research and consult a doctor before accepting medical advice.
5. SELF-CARE IS NECESSARY
While I’m a firm believer that self-care isn’t just spa days and bubbles bath, I will agree that these things can help us relax as we manage mom life. So. Take time to be aware of how your body is changing and find safe ways to elevate your mood, relax, and soothe any pain or discomfort you experience.
If you are dealing with painful breast engorgement, here are some common remedies:
- Warm baths
- Breast massage with warm oil
- Cabbage leaves placed on the breast (in bra)
- Hand expression
- Cool compresses
Take care of yourself and commit to doing so without guilt. You are worthy.
6. COMMITMENT WILL GET YOU TO THE FINISH LINE
Choosing to wean can be an emotional decision but it is a decision.
- If you have a partner, include him/her in the process as much as possible.
- Try to be consistent.
- Stick to it (says the mom who never wants to see her baby cry).
Sticking to it doesn’t mean you won’t give in a few times (you may). Just continue trying and start each day brand new.
JEANNETTE OGDEN SHARES HER EXPERIENCE WITH WEANING
If you have Instagram you should definitely consider following @shutthekaleup.
The mom behind the gram is Jeannette Ogden and she recently shared her experience with weaning. Jeannette doesn’t hold back when she shares the challenges she faces while trying to wean and how she feels about it. Read her post below:
- shutthekaleup this is us at the moment. it ain’t glamorous i’ll tell ya that. purple cabbage is what’s up tho 💜
things no one tells you about weaning..
we’re all different and not one story is identical. here’s MY experience so far, day 7. the first three days were painful, uncomfortable and my boobs were engorged which led to clogged milk ducts. taking hot baths with peppermint + lavender oil, massaging, hand expressing, sunflower lecithin supplements and wearing a tight sports bra with cold cabbage leaves helped big time.
feelings: guilt, sadness, super sensitive, annoyed, exhausted and on top of that i’m experiencing nausea, body aches, headaches and lots of cramping.
thoughts: will we have the same connection? will he feel neglected? will he continue to ask for it? do i give in? does it mean i failed if i give in?
i’ve nursed him for 2 years + 3 months and i’m thankful my body allowed me to for this long but he tugs, pulls and bites so i’ve been feeling like it’s time.
he asked for milk as soon as i got home on friday night and my instincts were, i should *gradually* wean because it’ll help with this intense hormonal shift as well as any changes bub is going through. we’d ease into this transition instead of it being so abrupt like it’d been. i’m new to this, not an expert whatsoever so i’m going with what feels right for me and my boy. i’m also sharing because no one ever talks about this. i want other mamas to know they’re not alone and shouldn’t be afraid.
i was in pain/engorged coming back from hawaii so i nursed elliott but not for long since my milk supply had significantly dropped. he asked for it the next day and told him i couldn’t til bedtime so i had to work hard to distract him. aj flew out 5am saturday morning for work so it’s been a bit more difficult to be doing this on my own but sure enough, we’re down to just one feeding before bed.
welcoming change and being proactive. this doesn’t mean i failed at weaning, i’m actually WINNING 😏 small changes go a long way!
gonna continue to go through the motions, show myself extra TLC and self chill the hell out because this is the process for growth ✨
Post quoted and shared with permission from @shutthekaleup
I knew I would need to learn how to breastfeed, I didn’t know that learning how to stop breastfeeding is just as complicated. I thought weaning would break a special bond I had with my daughter but that wasn’t the case. She handled it better than me.
What was your experience with weaning? Did it happen smoothly?