There comes a time in your motherhood journey when you have to stop breastfeeding your baby. The WHO recommends that all babies should be breastfed until two years of age. But the actual duration of breastfeeding varies from person to person.
While some mothers feed their baby over an extended period, some might wean off after a few months of feeding. One of the most difficult tasks faced by mothers is stopping breastfeeding.
How to Stop Breastfeeding?
Majority of the mothers stop breastfeeding slowly without causing major discomfort to both the mother and the baby. When the baby takes more solid food, he/she becomes less interested in breast milk and slowly stops feeding the same.
There are two methods of stopping breastfeeding.
Cold turkey (sudden weaning):
In this method, the mother stops feeding the baby abruptly. This type of weaning can be difficult for the mother and the baby as it causes both physical and emotional distress to both. On top of that, it increases risks of mastitis.
The baby might cry for a longer duration when he/she is withdrawn from the breast suddenly. The mother, on the other hand, may develop breast infection, breast abscess, and even plugged duct. The hormone level of the mother will also fluctuate thus leading to mood swing and depression.
In this method, the baby is slowly weaned off from breastfeeding by introducing solids and other nutritious food. This is less stressful for both the mother and the baby as the transition is slow.
The baby’s body slowly adjusts to the decreased supply of breast milk. Similarly, the mother’s body also gets used to the weaning and adapt accordingly.
What Happens When You Stop Breastfeeding?
A whole lot of physical and emotional changes takes place when you stop breastfeeding.
- Pain in the breast: Initially, when you stop feeding, your breast gets filled up with milk. Since the baby does not suck the milk, it gets collected in the breast itself and causes pain and discomfort. One way to reduce this discomfort is to express the milk in small quantity till your body gets adjusted.
- Clogged duct: When the feeding stops, the milk duct in your breast gets clogged thus leading to severe pain and tenderness of the breast. Some of you might even experience fever and redness in the breast. If the symptom is severe, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics to ward off infections. Using warm pads and expressing milk helps to control the soreness to an extent.
- Mood swings: Some mothers might experience mood swing as a result of hormonal changes. If the mood swing is severe and persists for more than a few weeks, then you should consult a doctor. Gradual weaning helps you to manage the mood swings more effectively.
- Leaking breast: Your breast might take some time to dry off completely. This varies from person to person. Till that time, you may experience leaking of milk from the breast. If you have been feeding the baby for quite some time, then it will take a longer time for the milk to dry out. This is because milk production is based on demand. The more the baby sucks, the more milk the breast produce. Thus, the breast will take more time to dry out completely.
- Your menstrual cycle starts again: Most of the mothers may not get their menstrual cycle when they are exclusively breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding is considered as a method of contraception. Once the breastfeeding stops, the mother gets regular monthly periods.
- Breast size reduces: Once you stop feeding the baby, the milk producing cells in your breast shrinks. When this happens, the fat in your breast reduces and your breast size also returns to the pre-pregnancy stage.
- Fatigue: When you stop breastfeeding, the estrogen and progesterone level in your body also changes. This change results in extreme fatigue.
One thing you should remember is that, all these changes are temporary. Once your breast gets adjusted to the decreased milk production, your symptoms will also reduce and you will get back to your normal self.
What Changes Do You Observe in the Baby When You Stop Breastfeeding?
In addition to your physical and mental changes, the baby will also find few changes in his lifestyle which he may/may not accept. If the weaning is slow, then the baby will take it in the right spirit. But, if you have been nursing the baby for long and you resort to sudden weaning, then the baby will become clingier and crankier. You will have to give him extra cuddles and hugs to comfort him and bring him to the reality.
The good about stopping breastfeeding is that now you no longer have to worry about what you eat. Whatever you consume will remain in your body and will not be passed to your baby. Thus, you can gorge on all those delicacies that you have been putting off all this while.