When we first become mothers, we have to decide whether or not we’ll be breastfeeding. If we go for it (and are able) we also need to decide when to finally call it quits. For some, it’s an easy decision. Perhaps their youngster decided to wean themselves, or you’ve just finally had enough of the whole thing. For others, though, it can be an emotional decision. Those in the latter category could probably benefit from this list of things every mom can do for her mental health while weaning.
I had multiple challenges when it finally came time to attempt breastfeeding my son. For one, he was taken to the NICU a half hour away shortly after he was born. In those first few hours, I was so depressed and anxious that the thought of trying to pump was just low on my priority list. I was also taking painkillers and anti-anxiety medications, and was later told I might have insufficient glandular tissue, so the little bit I did produce would probably be it for my supply.
Still, I was diligent about breastfeeding my son as a supplement for the first four months of his life. Eventually, I opted to give it up, as I was too stressed from pumping every three hours. I only wish that I’d known these tips that would have, without a doubt, made the transition a bit smoother.
Go As Slow As You Need
There is no weaning competition here, folks. Once you make the decision to stop breastfeeding, feel free to start by skipping a feed here and there. Granted, it’ll mean your body continues to make milk for a time, but it might be easier on everyone involved if it’s not a drastic, overnight change.
Talk About How You’re Feeling
Many moms have a tendency to bottle up their emotions. I’m here to tell you not to. Let it out and let anyone and everyone know how it makes you feel. Write it down. Tweet it. Whatever. It will help.
Believe People When They Tell You It's OK To Wean
Hopefully, when you decide to wean, you’ll have some supportive people in your corner. These people will assure you time and again that you’re making the right decision. Choose to amplify their voices in your mind. It will help.
Ignore Anyone Who Criticizes Your Decision
That said, you’ll probably also encounter a few folks who want to push you to keep breastfeeding (or trying to breastfeed). There might even be folks who shame you for your decision, saying you’re not "trying hard enough" or that you’re selfish. Don't listen to those people. Drown them out.
Establish A Positive Routine When Bottle Feeding Your Baby
The act of breastfeeding and formula-feeding are honestly not all that different. You are still nourishing your child. Make sure that you don’t tie any negative feelings to your formula-feeding or bottle-feeding experience. Settle down in a cozy chair, maybe listen to some soft music, and relax while you enjoy feeding your child. If your child is older, make this new process special for them. Allow them to pick out their bottles or even decorate them.
Explain To Your Child Why You Need To Wean And All The Fun, New Ways They’ll Be Eating
If your little one is old enough, you might want to explain why you’re weaning now that they’re older. Explain that breastfeeding was a special and temporary process, and that they’re old enough to try new things. Make it exciting for them rather, than painting it as some sort of failure.
Seek Out A Therapist If Your Emotions Related To Weaning Are Overwhelming
If you find yourself experiencing a lot of stress, anxiety, or depression, seek out mental health care. You don’t have to endure it alone. You can seek relief by speaking with a therapist or counselor.
Chat With Friends Who Have Weaned Already
If you’re not quite ready to speak to a professional, you can always rely on good friends who have already been through what you are going through. Ask your friends how they coped with ending breastfeeding. Even better, ask them about how their life has gotten better now that they are no longer having to breastfeed all the time. Their answers may surprise you.
If It’s Important To You, Obtain Breast Milk From Others If You’re Weaning Due To Lack of Supply
If you’re weaning simply because you couldn’t produce, but you’d like your child to keep enjoying breast milk, you can always seek out donor milk. There are plenty of places where you can obtain donor milk to feed your child. This might alleviate any stress caused by the idea that breast milk and formula or whole milk provide a different set of nutrients.
Treat Yourself While Someone Else Feeds The Baby
Now that you don’t have to be attached to your child for them to get fed, you might want to pass more of the feeding responsibilities to a partner or other co-parent. Take advantage of your newfound freedom. Make an appointment at the salon, hit the library, go for a hike, or simply do whatever makes you happy. You deserve it, mama!
Buy Yourself Some Nice Tops Or Bras To Celebrate Your Boobs
Not only should you treat yourself to something fun, you should also treat your breasts and thank them for a job well done. They served you well, and now it’s time to give them a little individual care. Now that you won’t be leaking all over the place, consider investing in some cute bras and tops. I mean, really, how often do we thank our boobs, anyway?