In my earliest days of breastfeeding, all I could think about was weaning. In fact, most days I breastfed I thought about weaning. For me, weaning was as mysterious a concept as figuring out how to breastfeed in the first place. Despite my uncertainty, however, I was pretty confident that, based on reading I’d done and stories I’d heard, I’d definitely be dealing with some of the things no breastfeeding mom actually likes about weaning. How does it work? How will I know what to do? How will my son handle it? What will it do to my body? Would I miss breastfeeding? Would I be so glad to be done that I'd end up feeling guilty? In the end, I really had no way of knowing until I did it.
Turns out, for me, the experience of weaning mirrored the experience of learning how to breastfeed. I didn’t know what I was doing, I probably overthought the situation, my kid seemed to care far less than I expected, and I relied on my phone — as a source of information and comfort — way more than I thought I would. Just like anything else that comes along with motherhood, I was learning as I went.
Weaning my son was a slow and steady process that happened over the course of months, so my own physical side effects were fairly limited. In other words, I think it's important to acknowledge that my own experience was less painful than it can be for other women, but I see these other women and I want to acknowledge their experiences, too. On that note, and even though every woman's weaning experience is different, here are a few universals I'm fairly certain every breastfeeding mom dislikes:
I wish there was a way to practice weaning before you actually have to start. You know those CPR classes, where you can use a dummy and get a semi-realistic sense of the process? They should offer those for weaning. Oh, and breastfeeding. Actually, pretty much every aspect of caring for a young child, but definitely weaning and breastfeeding.
The Vague Timing
By the time my son and I were totally done breastfeeding, he was well past 2 years old. However, I’d technically been phasing out feedings since he started solids when he was 6 months old. So, by some definitions, weaning was a long, long process for us. I never quite got used to dropping feedings, though, since I’d never dropped that specific feeding session before, and each subsequent feeding that was dropped meant I was one step closer to being done with breastfeeding entirely.
By the time my son and I were just down to one feeding a day (right before bed), I actually appreciated not knowing which feeding session was actually going to be the final one, since not knowing saved me from being extra emotional about it.
As I mentioned, other moms deserve more credit for this one, since my (somewhat accidentally) slow and steady approached cut down the painful side effects I know other moms deal with. Still, if the engorgement and blocked ducts I experienced at other parts of my breastfeeding experience are any indicator, it’s not a pleasant time for one’s body.
The Shift In Your Identity As A Mom
As a new mom, I lacked confidence in a lot of areas. Eventually, being able to breastfeed my son for as long as I did was one of the few things that helped me grow into my roll as a parent. I hadn’t known myself as a mom who didn’t breastfeed, so I was scared to let go of that persona.
Spoiler alert: everything turned out fine.
The Look On Your Kid's Face When You Say "No"
I can’t with toddler puppy-dog eyes, you guys. I seriously can’t. Yes, I’m aware this weakness has the potential to be my downfall as a parent. However, no matter how hard I try, that look tugs at my heartstrings. I never got used to saying no when my son would tug sweetly at my shirt.
The Changes Your Body Experiences
I’m not talking about the discomfort you experience when you’re in the middle of weaning. I’m talking about the oh-so-fun surprises that strike afterwards.
For me, it was issues with my weight that I wasn’t expecting, which admittedly aren’t super important in the big picture. However, important or not, it still threw me off and messed with my head a bit. I thought my body was done with all the changes associated with pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding, but nope. It needed to have the final word once I had successfully weaned.
Like most aspects of breastfeeding, weaning is mostly on you to handle it. Not that my partner didn’t try to help as much as he could, because he totally did, and he was awesome about it. It's just that he couldn’t really do much when it came to the biological functions of my breasts, and figuring out how they met (or didn’t meet) my son’s needs.
The Decrease In Snuggles
Hi, my name is Dena and I love to snuggle. Nursing was one of the few guaranteed times I knew I could count on cuddling with my active toddler son, so losing that snuggle time slot was one of my least favorite things about weaning. Thankfully, he’s still small enough that he'll willingly climb into my lap to read books, or nuzzle up when he’s tired, so I didn’t have to go totally cold turkey. Still, it was a struggle.
The Free Time
Ha! Just kidding. That’s the best part of weaning, hands down. The hours and minutes that suddenly return to your day are nothing short of a generous miracle.