Breastfeeding is like a roller coaster ride for all the women. They all struggle with the supple initially, then they get fed up of constant dripping and then comes the task of weaning the babies. It’s a journey which is different for all women but there are a few common things which happen to everyone while and after they breastfeed.
There is no right time to stop the breast feeding because mothers mostly give in to their gut feeling and breast feed for as long as they want. I have seen mothers who breastfed till six months and there are some who continue till 5 years. Regardless of when mothers stop breastfeeding their children, there is an after math which happens in their bodies. As a woman continues to breastfeed, her body is filled with prolactin and oxytocin hormones which keep the demand and supple cycles up to date.
Here is what happens to you when you decide to wean:
The Moody Monster Return For A While
Since you are a breastfeeding mother, you know how mothers occasionally become the moody monsters. Yes, the same is going to return for a while when you stop breastfeeding. You may feel sad and depressed because you are giving up an activity which made you bond with your baby. Stopping the breastfeeding may give you a feeling of drifting away from your baby but those are just your hormones. You may even feel guilt for stopping it soon. A sense of bereavement also takes over because a golden period in your motherhood has just ended. Just remember that your bond with your baby is unshakable and this feeling of regret will pass very soon.
Some mothers also feel anxious and irritable. A sudden drop in prolactin and oxytocin leads to such feelings. Oxytocin is called the feel good or the love hormone. It gives you a feeling of being ‘high on joy’. When it’s levels drop, you feel sad, depressed and anxious.
It’s always advisable for mothers to wean slowly, so that there is no sudden drop in the levels of hormones. However many mothers who take months to wean also feel mild sadness and anxiety.
Your Breasts Will Not Allow You To Wean
Well, that is one way to put it. The sole purpose of the breasts is to make milk for your little one. After making milk for so long, they kind of forget that they had a life before it too. So they keep on making milk in excess quantities just to make sure that the supply is not compromised.
If you stop the feed gradually, then your supply will decrease slowly. In that case there would be minimal chances of engorgement, blocked ducts or mastitis. A sudden stopping of breastfeeding can however increase the chances of engorgement, blocked ducts and Mastitis.
After you have stopped breastfeeding, if you feel pain in your breasts due to engorgement, then you should remove some milk in order to reduce the chances of Mastitis. Just clear the blockage and let the rest stay inside. If you will remove it all, it will be taken as a sign of demand and more will be produced to keep up the supply.
Return of Menses
Many mothers are blessed in a way that their menstrual cycle doesn’t start till the time they breastfeed. Some don’t get their period till the time they exclusively breastfeed. But after you stop breastfeeding, your body takes it as a sign that you are ready to make another baby and hence, the menstrual cycle appears.
Since there are many changes in the hormones when you stop breastfeeding, your body takes a little bit of time to regularize your menses. You can very easily get pregnant while breastfeeding too but your regular cycles return when you stop.
Drying Up The Mill
The drying up of milk is also something which varies from mother to mother. After you stop breastfeeding, it will be very common for you to find those marks on your bra which suggest that your breasts are still making milk. Normally it takes from a week to a few months for the milk to completely dry up.
As you must already be aware of the fact that the production of breastmilk is very much determined by the demand and supply rule. When the demand will reduce, the supply will gradually reduce too. It makes your body think that your baby is now growing up and doesn’t need milk anymore. However if you stop breastfeeding in the initial months then, body keeps producing huge amounts of milk to support the baby’s growth. In that case breasts take months to understand that milk is not needed anymore.
After the breastfeeding stops and your milk supply stops, your breasts return to their normal pre-pregnancy size. The milk making cells gradually shrink and the fat cells settle down to cover them up and protect them for the next milk making marathon. As this process occurs, your breasts takes a few months to shrink and be back to your normal size. You will be able to use that stacked up lingerie because your job as the mother dairy is finished for the time.
As already mentioned, breastfeeding and it’s aftermath is a different experience for every woman, still it makes it less daunting when you know what might happen when you stop.