If you do your research on weaning, you'll find plenty of signs your baby being ready. Experts tell you look for baby's interest in solid foods, distraction or impatience during nursing, and meeting milestones like sitting up. No one really tells you that you may get signals from your own body, though. Both parties of the breastfeeding team matter, and if one of them can't or doesn't want to continue, it may be time to stop. I know that my body gave me several signs that it was definitely time to wean, and I listened.
I fully intended to breastfeed for the first year of my child's life, but as I would discover shortly after her birth, my body had other plans. I struggled nursing from the beginning, and although my engorgement suggested otherwise, I ended up with low milk supply. We supplemented with formula pretty much from the get-go, and I made combo-feeding work for about seven months. At that point, however, it just became too much of a physical and emotional drain. I slowly started pumping less often and giving more bottles of formula. By eight months, I was done.
There can definitely be some guilt around weaning, but I would encourage you to remember that any breastfeeding is successful breastfeeding. Whether you've made it a week or a year, if your body gives you these signals, it's OK to think about weaning:
My Supply Started To Dwindle
By six months, I was doing what I thought was a full feeding from both breasts, and my daughter was still sucking down a bottle of formula afterwards. The fact that she needed a top-off was a pretty big sign to me that my supply was getting low. I'd tried galactagogues and lactation cookies, but my body just wasn't responding to them anymore.
You can come at me with "perceived insufficient milk" or "formula use damaged your supply," but I don't have to prove to anyone that my breastfeeding struggles were real, and neither does any other nursing mom.
I Was Pumping & Getting Nothing
Nothing like hooking yourself up to a double electric breast pump for an hour and only getting a quarter of an ounce. I never pumped a ton, but a successful session would generally leave me with at least an ounce of liquid gold. Seeing a few measly drops was discouraging and definitely influenced my decision to wean.
I Only Really Wanted To Nurse First Thing In The Morning
Beyond the physical signals that my body wasn't producing enough milk, I just mentally wasn't in the breastfeeding game anymore. Nursing first thing in the morning was a nice way to bond with my baby and get our day started, but other than that, I just wasn't that into it.
I Was Feeling Resentful
Once you become resentful about breastfeeding, I don't think you're doing yourself, or your child, any favors by continuing. I don't have to tell you that your baby is in tune with your emotions. You know that. You can either take some steps to reduce that resentment (like having your partner take on more household duties) or you can think about weaning. I won't judge you either way.
I Was Suffering From Exhaustion
I know. All new moms are exhausted. It's not all because of breastfeeding, to be sure, but I think it was playing a major role in my fatigue. It wasn't just the physical drain of nursing, either. I was also dealing with the emotional fallout and anxiety over feeling like a failure. For me, weaning was in large part a mental health move.
I Felt Ready To Get Pregnant Again
Breastfeeding is a great natural contraceptive (although I am living proof that it's no guarantee). I'm in no way saying you have to wean to get pregnant again, but breastfeeding does make it a little tougher to conceive. We'd planned on trying again once my daughter turned 1-year-old, and with all the other signs from my body, feeling ready to be pregnant again was just another reason to wean.
I Got Sick
I was having trouble letting go of breastfeeding even though I didn't really want to do it anymore, and I'm convinced that my body forced the issue. We had just moved and hadn't even unpacked when I came down with a stomach virus. I wasn't worried about passing it on to my kid (I know it doesn't work that way), but I just wanted to be alone in a pile of blankets with my ginger ale.
Since we were already down to one feeding, it wasn't that hard to drop. After three days of self-imposed mom quarantine and bottles of formula from her dad, my daughter was fully weaned. Nothing about breastfeeding was the way I imagined it, weaning included, but that's how my story ended and I'm not looking back.
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