Of all of the parenting challenges I have faced, weaning is among the most difficult. I was one of those lucky people who caught on to breastfeeding pretty quickly, but weaning? That knocked me on my ass. Fortunately I was weaning on my own terms (I didn't have to stop, I wanted to stop), had access to helpful information, and, best of all, I had an incredibly supportive partner to help me through. Truly, my dude is a grown-ass man, and there are things all grown-ass men do for their partners who are weaning.
These things aren't heroic. Neither are they, really, anything one shouldn't expect to help their partner through. They definitely aren't something only cisgender male partners in straight relationships can (or should) do, either. If you're a partner of a breastfeeding woman who has decided (or has to) call ti quits, these things should just be things you do. Regardless. Support is support is support, my friends.
However, and unfortunately, many guys will callously assume there isn't a role for them in this process because "I'm not the one with the boobs." Well, yes, the fact that this process only directly involves your partner and your baby limits your ability to dive in and take the lead. However, "leader" isn't the only important role one can have. Think of yourself, in many ways, as your partner's pit crew. You're not driving, but you're working with them and making sure they have everything they need to cross the finish line.
They Support Their Partner's Decision
A grown-ass man doesn't try to talk their partner out of this decision by saying things like, "I think you should go for a little bit longer," or a more passive aggressive, "Didn't you say you wanted to continue for at least another six months?"
Sure you can discuss things to see where they're coming from, but the final decision rests solely with the nursing parent in question, and a grown-ass man knows that. Now is also not the time to breathe a sigh of relief and say, "Finally! I get the boobs to myself again!" Not cool, bro. Now is the time for encouragement and support.
They Research Weaning Strategies If Necessary
While, in my experience, weaning is something a parent sort of figures out for themselves (since specific circumstances can vary tremendously from person to person or even from one baby to the next), there are some helpful tips and guidelines that can make this process run just a little bit smoother. That said, there's a lot of information out there, so it's extremely helpful to have an eager strapping lad around to help sort through all the articles, books, and message boards.
They Don't Judge How Their Partner Decides To Wean
So now that you, as a true mensch, have done the research, you may find your partner deviating from some of the advice. However, you know better than to interject what you think they should be doing. Oh, you can offer counsel or make gentle suggestions from time to time, but you don't undermine your partner's confidence because you know they are the one in charge of what's happening to their body.
They Step Up During The Night
Let's be honest, even the most willing, helpful, feminist, grown-ass man is likely getting off light in the nightly wake-up duties compared to his partner. When a child is breastfed, and they're usually waking up to breastfeed, it's the lactating parent who has the answer the call in most cases. It's cool and we get it and we're not holding it against you.
However, now the playing field has been leveled and this aspect of parenting can be pretty damn close to 50/50. Of course you don't mind: you're an upstanding guy. You've got this.
They Help Prepare Healthy Foods For The Family
Now that your child is no longer breastfeeding, the actual food they eat is all the more important. (And that's to say nothing of your partner, who is going through a lot of hormonal changes at the moment and will need a nutrient-rich diet to see them through.) That's why you're ready and willing to work with your partner to ensure that everyone is getting everything they need through finding out your weaned child's nutritional needs and finding and preparing nutritious and delicious meals.
They're Understanding Of Potential Mood Changes
Remember when your partner was pregnant and they would cry over a really adorable baby duck for half an hour? Yeah, weaning deals with a lot of those same hormones, and they're all in flux.
As such, mood swings, while not guaranteed, are not atypical for those who are weaning a child. So, while you don't sit back and allow them to mistreat you in any way (even hormones don't excuse that), you understand that their bodies and brains are going through some pretty big changes right now and you are patient as things settle into their new normal.
They Regularly Check In On Their Partner's Physical And Mental Health
Because of the aforementioned hormonal changes your partner can expect, this can take a toll on their mental health. While not often discussed, post-weaning depression can occur in some people and can be helped if addressed.
Moreover, ending a breastfeeding relationship can also lead to some physical issues, including plugged ducts and mastitis. Now, chances are, this whole process will go off without any major hiccups, but a prepared and cautious man is a grown-ass man, so you are both prepared and cautious.
They Help Their Partner Get Away If Necessary
Separation from your child might help the weaning process, or may sometimes be necessary for your partner to successfully wean. (Trust me, actively denying a crying child can be downright torturous.) Additionally, your partner might need some space to deal with this weaning craziness: maybe a run to help bring up some of those hormone levels, or just an hour or so to gather themselves. You get it, so you step up.
They're A Proud Cheerleader
Because they think the world of you, it means a lot to know that you're in their corner and proud of them. Besides, weaning can be physically and emotionally really hard, and it always helps to have a steady stream of positivity and encouragement.
They Thank Their Partner
For any amount of time they nursed your child, for the role they continue to play in the little one's life, and for all they do to keep your family happy and healthy. A little thank you goes a long way, and in the spirit of that truth:
Thank you, grown-ass men. You're the best.