When I had my first baby, breastfeeding threw me for a loop. Something that was supposed to come so "naturally" to mothers was painful, challenging and beyond time-consuming.
But as the days and months passed by, breastfeeding got easier. My daughter began eating on a fairly regular schedule, the pain went away and we found our groove. My baby was thriving, and I felt like I might never wean her off of breastfeeding.
And then...we hit month 10, and I was d-o-n-e. I was tired of pumping in a closet at work. I was sick of stressing about whether or not I was producing enough milk. I wanted my body to belong to me again. I was two months away from my goal of one year, so I pushed through to my daughter's first birthday and gradually began the weaning process. I had finally reached the promised land, or so I thought.
Here are the five biggest lies I believed about weaning.
1) That I wouldn't feel guilty about stopping if I made it to the one-year mark.
I assumed if I achieved my goal of making it to one year, I would effortlessly part with my breastfeeding days. In reality, while I was proud of how far I had made it, I felt bad about stopping.
The first morning I didn't nurse my daughter when she woke up left me in tears. Instead of bringing her into my room to breastfeed, I brought her into the kitchen to eat a banana and drink some water. She looked at me, confused, but didn't cry. Once I sat her in her chair, she happily munched on her banana, while I turned away, my eyes welling with tears.
Even if both you and your baby are ready to transition, the reality of being done with breastfeeding might hit you right in the feels. The act of feeding your child with your body—and the connection you build in being able to do so—is incredibly special, and it may not be easy to say goodbye to that.
2) That it wouldn't hurt.
The initial days of breastfeeding are hard: Your milk comes in; you're engorged and leaking, and your baby is cluster feeding on a less-than-predictable schedule. While weaning wasn't as difficult, it was still painful.
My body was used to producing a certain amount of milk each day, and removing pumping/nursing sessions was a challenge. Those dreaded clogged ducts came back, and one very early morning, I woke up with a fever and pain in my breast. Several hours and a trip to Urgent Care later, I was sent home with a mastitis diagnosis and a prescription for antibiotics.
Weaning has to be done slowly and thoughtfully, and there may be a few clogs—err, bumps—in the road.
3) That my boobs would go back to their pre-pregnancy state.
Ha! Call it naïveté. Call it wishful thinking. Call it what it was—a complete fallacy.
While some very genetically blessed and lucky ladies may perk right back up, my breasts took on a new look that is all too familiar to breastfeeding mamas. (We'll call it "gravity-influenced.")
Pregnancy changes your body; nursing and pumping change your body. Roll with it, embrace it and invest in some good bras. Your body created and sustained life. Cherish it.
4) That I wouldn't be a hormonal mess.
While pregnancy and postpartum are one big, albeit expected, hormonal roller coaster, the ride isn't over until after your breasts stop producing milk.
As someone who suffered from postpartum anxiety and a broad spectrum of postpartum emotions, I assumed the mood swings were behind me once I weaned my baby. Not quite. When you're breastfeeding, your hormones are still not what they usually are. Your hormonal levels shift to encourage lactation, so when you wean, those levels begin to change again.
And as a result, I was reminded of those early postpartum hormone-induced emotions—crying at commercials and randomly feeling sad or "rage-y" for no reason. Don't worry—it does pass, and much more quickly.
Remember that you can always seek help from a mental health therapist to support emotional challenges along the way.
5) That my menstrual cycle would return immediately.
I was one of the "lucky" ones whose period didn't return while breastfeeding. As I gradually decreased my milk supply and eventually stopped completely, I assumed my cycle would return right away. Wrong.
It took a few months for my period to come back, and once it did, it took slightly longer for it to regulate. Again, breastfeeding impacts your hormones, so it may take a while for things to balance out, both emotionally and physically.
That said, breastfeeding has been one of the most fulfilling times of my life. Providing my babies with "liquid gold" nutrition, the connection we built in the process, and the moments that are forever imprinted in my memory were worth every obstacle and misbelief. And weaning, like breastfeeding, has had many benefits—I have more time, more freedom, and my body finally belongs to me again.