Breastfeeding is a beautiful bonding time between you and your baby, but like all good things, it must eventually come to an end. Although you get your body back and the freedom to eat and drink what you want when you stop breastfeeding, the experience of weaning isn't all good. From depression to irritated vagina syndrome, discover the side effects of weaning from breastfeeding.
What is weaning?
Weaning occurs when your little one is ready to stop breastfeeding and start using a bottle, cup or solid foods. Weaning can be both a physical and emotional change for both you and your baby, so you may experience conflicting feelings as well as some changes to your body.
When to wean
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least the first year of your baby's life. However, each baby, mommy and circumstance is unique.
Many babies lose interest in breastfeeding when they learn to crawl or walk, which is a sign that your baby may be ready to wean. However, some babes do not stop breastfeeding until they are in their toddler years. There is no right or wrong time to wean, so choose a time when you and your child are ready to wean, preferably during a time when there is little or no stress in your household, like a new tooth or a big family vacation.
Side effects when you stop breastfeeding
During pregnancy, and continuing with breastfeeding, you're a raging ball of hormones. So when you stop breastfeeding your hormone levels changes, causing your body to sometimes react. According to the La Leche League, abrupt weaning should be avoided as much as possible. A gradual weaning may not only be less emotionally traumatic for your baby, but could also reduce the chances that you'll experience physical discomfort and potential health complications.
You may not experience side effects at all when you stop breastfeeding, but a few nursing moms are not so lucky. Here are some ailments you may experience when you decide to wean, whether gradually or abruptly:
- Depression and mood swings: Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates milk production, but also produces feelings of calm and relaxation. When levels of prolactin drop, you may discover you're feeling the blues. Be sure to talk to your health care provider if you think that you're experiencing depression.
- Mastitis: HealthyChildren.org defines mastitis as a condition when an area of the breast does not drain sufficiently and bacteria begins to grow, causing an infection. "If mastitis does occur, a woman should contact her obstetrician or midwife," advises Kelly LaChance Guertin, Bellani Maternity. "Antibiotics combined with pumping until comfortable each day will also lessen the chances of mastitis reoccurring."
- Fatigue: Experiencing symptoms of extreme tiredness after you stop breastfeeding may be a sign that you are iron-deficient or that your thyroid levels may be off. Ask your doctor to check your levels.
- Sore breasts: When weaning, your breasts will still want to produce the amount of milk it is accustomed to, which can cause breasts to become engorged. Gradual weaning can help minimize the effects, but the change takes time for your body to adjust.
- Acne: Similar to post-pregnancy acne, your changing hormone levels can take center stage on your face in the form of pimples.
Other physical discomforts for mom during weaning, such as headaches, PMS-type nausea and irritated vagina have been reported by weaning mommies as well, which can be mainly attributed to huge hormonal changes. Most symptoms are temporary. So, although you're uncomfortable now, you can take comfort in the fact that physical symptoms of weaning from breastfeeding will soon pass as your body chemistry returns to normal.
More on weaning
Weaning help: Breast, bottle or pacifier
Breastfeeding and weaning