Now that Leela is a year old, I've started the bittersweet process of weaning her from breastfeeding. While I love nursing and really enjoy our time together, I could not be happier to be rid of the pump!! Without the need to pump milk, I suddenly have so much more free time, and the ability to be a bit more spontaneous! I can have more than a glass of wine without worrying, be out for the whole day without feeling any pain, eat as much broccoli as I like, or do the occasional sleeping in while my husband attends to the baby's very early morning needs. The end of breastfeeding is somewhat liberating in many ways, but surprisingly difficult in others. As many of you moms know, breastfeeding is an intimate bonding activity, and when it's going well, it can be challenging for both parties to end it. It's hard to watch your baby grow up, and the end of nursing is a milestone in the same category as walking, starting school, becoming independent.
I am so proud to have been able to feed my baby for this long, and am hopeful that she will reap many of the benefits of drinking her mother's milk. While we are weaning now, I still nurse Leela in the mornings, which is mostly for comfort and security than anything else. I know I've enjoyed the closeness and will miss that physical connection with her... but let me tell you, i will not miss that pump!
When I weaned Jiya, I did it a bit too suddenly (for no reason other than that I wanted my freedom back!), and I definitely experienced a bit of hormonal changes that led to fatigue and mood swings - which totally caught me off guard. This time, I was much more gradual, and felt a lot more prepared for the side effects. Here are some of my tips for weaning:
1) Wean gradually and gently. Drop a feed/pump session a week at a time, and wait for your body and baby to adjust before cutting out more. Remember, its not only hard on the baby, but also on your body - go slowly.
2) Sudden weaning can lead to clogged ducts, breast infection, even mood swings and depression. There are big hormonal changes related to the lowering of prolactic (hormone that triggers milk production), so be mindful and gradual. Prolactin stimulates milk production, but also provides feelings of relaxation and calm, all of which may drop with the lowering levels of the hormone. It's best to be aware and speak to your doctor if you experience any depression.
3) Do not start weaning if there is a major change in your family or environment. Nutrition is only part breastfeeding - many babies nurse for comfort and the security it provides. During a time of change like a move or going back to work after maternity leave, weaning your baby will add to his or her stress and take away from his soothing mechanism.
4) When choosing which feeds to drop, hang on to the comfort time feedings longer, like mornings and nights, and begin by dropping the middle of the day feeds.
5) Cuddle with and show your baby even more affection than before. This will help replace the feelings of closeness and comfort that he or she will be missing during the weaning process.
6) Logistically, to make it easier on both of you - avoid places and positions of nursing, and try to change basic routines to break the habit. That means hubby can do bed time or the morning routine (or both!!), and you can read books or take a walk instead of the evening nursing session.Remember that the physical and emotional symptoms of weaning are only temporary, and are attributable to huge hormonal changes. Hang in there!
In case you're interested, see my Guide To Returning to Work after Maternity Leave, and Preparing a Toddler for a New Baby.