This post is for all you breastfeeders out there (dudes, you might want to skip it). I’ve had some trouble finding resources that provide the nitty-gritty details about what weaning a toddler from breastfeeding feels like.
As you know if you’re a regular here, Jax self-weaned on May 12 after 2 years and 9 months of nursing (a lot, up until age 2). Since then, I’ve had issues with anxiety, soreness, and insomnia. I can’t say whether those issues are definitely related, so take this post with a grain of salt. I am simply sharing my experience these past 6 weeks.
First, let’s talk anxiety. I’ve detailed previously how I have severe PMS occasionally that makes me feel like an emotional basketcase. Because Jax weaned very close to my period in May, I’ve really had only one full cycle since weaning, and the lactation consultant I spoke with last week said that it could take several cycles for my hormones to “level out.” Probably every other cycle, maybe every third cycle even, I have 1-2 days (about a week before my period) where the anxiety is relentless. This past cycle–the first full cycle post-weaning–was the worst. My anxiety started a full 7-8 days before my period. I can deal with a day or two of having to skip coffee and sugar, take an extra bubble bath or two, and generally take it easy. But a week?! I’m a full-time working mom with a hectic schedule. Let’s be realistic–I can’t practice extreme self-care for 7 or 8 days! So that was a tough week. But it passed & I haven’t had any anxiety since. I’m staying off the caffeine permanently, though (so I say now).Thank god for decaf & herbal tea!
As far as sadness or depression–I didn’t feel sad about weaning, oddly enough (to me). I had expected to be upset at the end of nursing. But guess what? I’m not! Perhaps part of it is that I’d been thinking about it for months before it happened. Part of it is that Jax initiated it & hasn’t asked since. The biggest reason is that 2 years and 9 months is outstanding, and I’m really proud of that achievement. I set my breastfeeding goals low initially–I was hopeful to nurse my newborn during my maternity leave. Then, once that was going well, I aimed for 6 months. Then when we hit that, I aimed for a year. After the year mark, I stopped making goals until, I admit, I becamed determined to have him weaned by age 3.
So, the little sadness I have felt the past 6 weeks snuck up on me and surprised me. It has been difficult for me to determine whether it’s a hormonal post-weaning thing or whether it’s part of the strangest grieving process I’ve ever had, given the situation with my dad (who died in May, only 4 days after Jax weaned). I’ve had a few random days that felt like major PMS–weeping at other people’s bad news, commercials and tv shows, sad songs, you name it. I keep telling myself that it is normal and will pass–and it definitely seems to have resolved (though I’m afraid to say that out loud & jinx it!).
Second, the soreness. Ouch, the soreness. For the first month after weaning–yes, an entire month–my boobs felt so sore! You know how toddlers are with their heads, bashing you with them constantly, right? Well, every time Jax bashed his big ol’ head into my chest, I winced and/or yelped. Fortunately, that feeling has subsided and toddler headbutts aren’t as painful anymore (unfortunately, I think my boobs have shrunk a little!). I spent so much time the past month feeling for clogs that didn’t happen (if I have a peeping tom, I’m sure I made him happy, haha). My advice to those in the middle of weaning? Use ice compresses, sleep in a bra, and be vigilant for potential clogs.
Third, the insomnia. I’m not sure what that’s all about, actually. A quick Google search of “weaning and insomnia” brings up plenty of results, which is kind of reassuring. I appreciated what Ask Moxie said about weaning and feeling down, including having sleepless nights: Get 15 minutes of exercise plus a 15-minute massage and an omega-3 supplement daily. Sounds good to me! I do notice that I feel better on the days I walk during my lunchbreak, and I always take an omega-3 supplement anyway. Just have to figure out how to get that daily massage!
In short, every woman will have a different weaning experience. Mine has included a little anxiety, a smidge of sadness, a lot of soreness, and insomnia–no walk in the park. But I’m optimistic those symptoms aren’t my new normal, and I’m knowledgeable how to cope with them if they get to be too much.
If you weaned your baby or toddler, I’d love to hear about your experience!