Weaning is a very individual choice that is either led by the mother or the child. It can be done at any age and for any reason. However and whenever you choose to do it, is ultimately up to you and your comfort level. Once you've determined your own readiness and your child's readiness for weaning, you'll want to keep in mind some important things; the process may take longer or shorter than you anticipated and it may be harder or easier than you imagined. There are also some things your weaning body will do that may freak you out a bit.
I weaned because of my general dislike for breastfeeding. I wasn't producing a good supply due to a previous breast surgery, and I was constantly upset about my inability to adequately feed her with breast milk. Nursing was frustrating for me so when it came time to wean, I was elated. Even though I was happy, that doesn't mean I wasn't a little taken back by some of the changes that happened pretty immediately to my body (not just the obvious changes to my boobs).
Whether you're excited to move on from nursing, or nervous about it just know all of what you're feeling is valid. It's also very normal to feel trepidation about the body changes you'll experience. Thankfully, a lot of them are bizarre and awesome at the same time. Here are nine changes to keep your eye out for, and possibly even embrace.
1You May Have Late Or Irregular Periods
Missed or late periods tend to freak out a lot of women for varying and obvious reasons. If you're weaning, you might want to stock up on pregnancy tests because your period may be unpredictable for some time.
"After weaning, depending on the duration, a mother can expect her period to return more regularly," Aubrey Richardson, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) tells Romper. "Once weaned it may take several months for a regular period to return."
This is also a good time to remind you that you can get pregnant while weaning, so if you don't want another baby, a method of birth control will need to be utilized.
2Your Bones Will Get Bigger
Parents noted that a women's bones lose calcium while breastfeeding, because it goes into her milk. But it all comes back. How freakin' cool is that?
"Within six months after weaning, calcium is returned to mother's bones that was depleted during breastfeeding and given to baby via milk," Richardson says. "Studies show that a breastfeeding woman will have the same or more calcium in her bones once breastfeeding has finished and the bones re-calcify."
3You Might Get Plugged Ducts And Even Mastitis
When you wean, your breasts are still going to try to produce the same amount of milk. This can lead to breast engorgement, blocked ducts, and even mastitis, as explained on Belly Belly. All of the above are reasons to freak out because they are painful. Thankfully there's a way to minimize the risk.
"Weaning should never be done quickly as this is a top cause for mastitis," Richardson says. "One way to successfully wean is by shortening feeds by one or two minutes per day."
4Wetness Will Come Back. . . Down There
When you've been as dry as the Sahara down there for possibly months on end, a surge of wetness in your vagina might freak you out a bit. (Or it could help you get your freak on.) Joking aside, your new found lubrication is attributed to some serious hormonal shifts occurring in your body when you stop breastfeeding.
"With the drop in prolactin, the hormone that is responsible for milk production, there is a rise in estrogen and progesterone," Dr. Jaime Knopman, fertility expert and gynecologist tells Romper. "The increase in estrogen and progesterone will put an end to vaginal dryness and hot flashes."
5Your Boobs Will Look Different
When I breastfed, my boobs were as hard and large as watermelons. When I weaned they slowly deflated getting closer and closer to my pre-pregnancy size. According to Baby Center it's normal for a woman's breasts to be less firm and get softer after weaning. The change in size will depend on how much weight the mother gained during pregnancy and whether or not she lost any of the weight. The shape your breasts take after nursing is unique and varies woman to woman.
6Your Milk Might Not Go Away For A Long Time
A year after I stopped breastfeeding I was still leaking. When I brought my concerns to OB-GYN, she told me it was very normal and nothing to freak out about. According to Kelly Mom, galactorrhea, or unexpected milk production and even nipple discharge is normal in the weeks, months, and even years after breastfeeding. As long as you're not producing the same amount of milk as you were when you were actively breastfeeding, you should be OK. As also explained on the site, any stimulation from intercourse, friction from a bra, etc. can cause lactation.
7You Will Leak Less Pee
"With the return of cyclical estrogen and progesterone, ligament laxity (aka being super flexible) and urinary incontinence should also return to normal," Knopman says. This is a reason to throw a freakin' party (and maybe do a non-leaky celebratory jump or two).
8You May Gain Or Lose Weight
Some women report experiencing weight gain after weaning, while others report weight loss. There is a lot of discussion on this topic on online threads, but no scientific answers given the available resources. Regardless, it's important to listen to your body. I was starving all of the time when I breastfed, so I ate. I didn't eat junk food every time, as I was trying to eat as healthy as possible to keep my energy up.
If you must count calories, studies show that most healthy breastfeeding women maintain a good milk supply while consuming 1800 to 2200 (or more) calories per day, according to Kelly Mom. One could assume that during weaning you'd need less and less calories, and therefore should make diet adjustments based on your own weight goals.
9You May Feel Sad, Happy, Or Everything
Your mood and emotions will be on a roller coaster ride and it might freak you out a bit. The shifts in hormones are assumed to be the culprit for the extreme ups and downs you may experience during weaning, as explained on Kelly Mom. Beyond the body's natural response, you may be consciously relieved nursing is coming to an end, or kind of bummed about it. This is all normal, but if you find yourself really down during weaning or even depressed, it may be time to seek out some help from a medical professional.
No matter what changes you face be assured that they're all very normal. The weaning experience will ultimately vary from mother to mother. Thankfully, doing what's best for you and your baby is always the right path to follow.