Many women expect that preparing for their babies will be daunting enough. Preparing to breastfeed can eb one of the most epically challenging and difficult things to mentally and physically prepare for. As women wait for a tiny bun in the oven to be fully cooked, they anticipate how everything will go down. There are so many questions, potential challenges and things to prepare for in terms of what to expect and what could possibly go wrong. Let’s now take all of those fears and challenges and apply them to what weaning our baby from our delicate breasts will be like.
Weaning our cherubs comes with its own set of challenges and frustrations. Often, we become obsessed with making certain that our baby is filled with our special mommy’s milk nutrients.
We hope our babies are getting enough from our consistent feedings. It is difficult to anticipate weaning, especially when we are just finally getting the hang of breastfeeding. For some of us, our weaning is baby-led and for other mommies it is self-led. Depending on our lifestyles, as well as many other factors that play a role in this process, babies begin weaning as early as a few months and as late as toddler-aged or older.
Sometimes the pain of weaning a baby from nursing comes in the form of a physical price tag. The bottom line is that nursing our babies is a free source of food. We do not stress about how we will pay for the expensive formula that our child requires or spending more money on an organic formula. We have the expense of diapers as it is, so the decision to primarily breastfeed is one that provides a bit of relief at the expense of raising a child.
If we decide to wean, whether it is baby-led or self-led, we have to anticipate the higher cost of nutrition. This can be evident through purchasing formula on a regular basis or through supplementing with more food, all of which allows for an increase in our grocery bills.
We know when we are pregnant, hormones are wild, pinging around within our bodies and causing us irrational outbursts. Then we give birth and there they go again! Some of us are unfortunately the victims of postpartum depression symptoms. One of the things many of us do not anticipate is the hormonal backlash that we experience during weaning.
Along with breastfeeding and producing breast milk, hormones are abundant and doing their thing inside us. Then we take away this natural production due to our decision or our child’s lead and our hormones can go more out of whack. If we can prepare for this influx of hormones, we will definitely be able to anticipate how we can take care of ourselves during these sometimes-challenging times.
One of the things that can make mommy-led weaning extremely difficult is the mix of emotions that our babies experience. Little ones may begin to feel alienated or confused at first. They may be used to feeding on demand and getting to nurse any ol’ time that’s convenient for them.
This can be emotionally painful as they attempt to work out their feelings in the only way they know how: using their emotions and body language. As a result of our babies not yet having the language to communicate, they cannot express that they are confused and feel like we are pushing them away. They may become angry as they try to pull down our shirts to nurse only to find that we are not able to meet their needs.
When we fantasized about our perfect nursing moments, we did not anticipate how difficult things would become. Our bodies, although resilient in and of themselves, sometimes develop infections and may respond accordingly. When we develop blocked ducts, which can be common for some women, our nipples can become infected and mastitis ensues.
As a result of this sometimes-unbearable pain, we have difficulty functioning. If our work lives are demanding and we are not able to pump as much, weaning may be the natural next step. This may not have been planned. Maybe we did not want to wean so soon, but the pain was too much. The physical pain we experience can be substantial in comparison to just trying to get an infant to latch for the first time.
Nursing creates a beautiful and lovely bond between mom and baby. It becomes a comforting ritual and routine for both. During nursing, the emotional and physical bond only continues to become stronger and allows for both parties to participate in a beautiful experience. When a baby begins to wean, this bonding time decreases and it can become emotionally and psychologically painful to lose that time together.
This is not always something that moms anticipate as so much goes into creating and nurturing this bond in the first place. It can be startling to a mom when she realizes these feelings of emptiness and loneliness can crop up during the weaning process. It is helpful to keep in mind that these feelings of loneliness can be countered by creating new, loving and bonding routines.
Sometimes, to our sadness and dismay, our baby decides that it is about that time. This has nothing to do with us, as moms. It is not about our womanhood or anything that we did or possibly did not do correctly. Infants have their own little biologically-driven timelines and it may be time to pull away.
As they begin to experience a newfound sense of independence and it appears they do not require the consistency of their regular feedings, our babies may decide they are too busy. They may even lose interest in nursing at particular times. For these reasons, we are sometimes unprepared for this and our supply begins to diminish a lot quicker than we thought. It may feel like our little ones are breaking up with us!
How does a toddler articulate and express himself? He expresses himself in an age-appropriate way and as adequately as he knows how. Well, it does not take much deep contemplation to know that the answer to his frustration is often through temper tantrums and overcharged emotions.
This is a frustrating time for everyone involved. While mom knows how to express her feelings and label her experience, a baby feels agitated as he tries to adjust to this change. Family members feel helpless. He is accustomed to seeking not only milk but comfort, love, and bonding from his mom and generally on demand. The weaning process decreases that time and our little ones do not know how to ask for what they need to continue receiving the benefits of our time together.
Most families benefit from structure and routine. We thrive on a schedule and after our little one is born everything we knew about time-management and organizing our lives goes straight out the window. It takes months before we finally reorganize our lives and develop new routines and schedules.
Everything is now based on our new little boss’s life and schedule as he dictates our every move with his new baby needs. We work to get this schedule down until it becomes second nature. Then, weaning enters the picture. Our normal routines are, again, out of whack. This can create a bit of havoc when we strive for a carefully managed life and routine. We must trust that it will take time to settle into a new routine that works for all involved.
As soon as our baby begins growing inside our bodies, we begin to feel a new sense of purpose. Our biological clock has been ticking as our life’s purpose comes into focus. We feel like we were meant to be moms and our lives are slowly becoming complete. As we collect books and sign up for classes on how to best care for our growing little one, we begin to feel more complete.
We are now existing primarily to care for another human. Becoming more selfless, we are now working tirelessly for our children; however, it feels rewarding. When our baby begins to wean from nursing, we may begin to feel that our life’s purpose is being lost. This can definitely cause us pain and anguish.
Another frightening concept that we work hard to come to terms with during the weaning process is the realization that our babies are growing up. As they become more self-sufficient and independent and do not need us in other areas of their lives as much, they develop their own, little, unique identities.
These epiphanies make us sad. We experience irrational fear that they will not need us anymore. We work through a series of emotions and wonder how we will ever get through the mourning process of our newborn growing into a toddler. We do not want to say goodbye to nursing, yet weaning is just one of many developmental steps that babies take to become more independent and grow into the self-sufficient little humans they were meant to become.
Our breastmilk is chock full of nutrients and vitamins that babies need to survive and thrive. The very act of weaning means that we will have to supplement this nutrition in other ways. This is something we obsess about, especially since we have convinced ourselves that the best milk is our own milk.
In addition to our baby needing additional nourishment to stay healthy, we are now forced to decide on a new source of milk. Do we go with formula for a bit and then transition to cow’s milk? Depending upon the age of our baby, this may be the best option. Since this is 2018, we now have other choices: almond, hemp, cashew, soy, and rice milks in addition to other animal-based milks such as goat milk, which is the closest animal milk to human breast milk and a much healthier source of fats than cow's milk.
It is strongly recommended by professionals and other moms alike that weaning be a more slow and gradual process. We do not want to make this transition any more difficult than it already feels. Diminishing the stress and pain of weaning is ultimately the goal, as we know weaning is inevitable. Gradual weaning, whether baby-led or self-led, is likely the sanest choice.
Abrupt weaning can cause us lactation issues, mastitis, and other physical complications. Psychologically, we may be ready for a straitjacket with all of the mixed emotions. Weaning already comes with a wide variety of hormone-based emotions and psychological stressors. Making sudden changes can create undue stress for all involved. Abrupt weaning does not provide us the luxury of time needed to sort out these feelings and our family’s needs.
Long live the days when we could casually whip out our breast to feed our baby. As we begin to wean, the reality that our baby is going to need more sustenance and nourishment hits hard. We no longer come with a deluxe feeding package. Before, we did not have to worry about packing as much to get through an afternoon out or a visit to a friend’s house. This saved us precious time.
Now, as we are weaning, we have to plan meals and prep food accordingly. We need to make sure that the supplementation of what we are weaning away is sufficient. We have to ensure that what we are providing in terms of supplemental milk and additional solids are replicating as much of the nourishment as possible for our ever-growing baby.
You contemplate this. The age-old question of starting a college fund enters your mind. During the stress of weaning, a college fund takes the back burner and your thoughts are on therapy. We are constantly analyzing our choices and how they will ultimately affect our baby. With all of the choices and all of the stressors that undoubtedly affect everyone, we begin to really think that we messed up our kid.
We wonder if we are making the wrong decisions or causing a vitamin deficiency. Our minds race as we try to think of how we can ease the stress of weaning and how it appears that our child has now developed a host of new behavioral issues. We begin to earnestly ponder whether our 18-month-old toddler may benefit from psychological help.
It’s not easy asking for help with anything at all. When it comes to our babies, we believe, beyond all reasonable doubts, that we are the best caregiver, nutrition provider and know the best way to raise our children. We think, as mothers, that we need to do it all and be super great at it.
One thing that will help ease this burden that we seem to put on ourselves all too often is to ask for help. When we begin to ask for help from our partners, family, and friends, we humble ourselves and our shoulders begin to lower and our furrowed expressions soften a bit. We come to the realization that as painful a process that weaning can sometimes be, by not going through it alone we can save our sanity.