Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey: No matter how long it lasts.
Whether you are pumping or feeding your child directly from your breast every mom’s breastfeeding journey is different. They last for different time frames and end at different times. But they are all beautiful. I am currently in the process of weaning my second child and I will be honest this time is more difficult. With my first, I was an exclusive pumper, and for my oldest child, it was easier. It was easier for both of us. Haha!
This second time around I feed my youngest from the breast, and both she and I are finding it to be a lot harder. Haha! So, as a mom who has been there twice, pumping and from the breast, here are some tips on how to wean either way. Disclaimer: Haha! I am not a medical professional. I am just a mom who has been there before, but every person and situation is different. As always I recommend you speak with an IBCLC if you have questions.
How to know you are ready
This is the biggest question, and also the hardest because weaning is a personal decision, and a lot of times either the mom is ready, and the child isn’t, or it’s the other way around. If you are lucky you both will be ready at the same time, and it will go a lot smoother. Haha! With my first, I had been exclusively pumping for almost 10 months. I knew how much of a freezer stash I had, and how long it could last.
I was still pumping every 4 hours 9 months in and I was tired. That’s how I knew I was ready to wean my first, but when I eventually did stop pumping I still had enough of a frozen stash for another 4-6 months. So, the transition for my first was a little easier. If you would like to read about my pumping breastfeeding journey with my first you can click HERE.
Now, on the flip side, I am currently weaning my second and she is not ready, but again I am. I have almost made it to two years breastfeeding my second, and I am personally ready to have my body back. (FYI There is no shame in weaning because you want your body back. There is no shame in wanting to wean because you don’t like breastfeeding anymore. Just remember if anybody says something to you about weaning…Your boobs, your body, your business. Haha!) In the end, YOU will know when it is time to wean. If you are unsure and keep going back and forth take however long you need to make your final decision.
Weaning from Pumping
Like I mentioned above I exclusively pumped for almost 10 months. I started out pumping every 2-3 hours and then by 9 months every 4 hours. For me, I put together a weaning plan. I calculated how long it would take me to wean if I started to reduce the amount of time I was pumping every day, and extending the amount of time in between pumps. So, for example. When I started my weaning process I was pumping 30 minutes 6 times a day. I started to drop my pumping time a little every week.
The first week I dropped 5 minutes from my time and pumped for 25 minutes, but I also added 30 minutes to the time in between my pumps. So, a 25-minute pump session with 4.5 hours in between. I continued to do this every week for a month and a half. Then I was done. It was systematic and I think that is what made it easier for me personally. Now, if you are an over supplier I highly recommend you seek the guidance of an IBCLC lactation consultant to form a weaning plan.
Weaning from the Breast
Weaning from the breast I am personally finding more difficult because some breastfed children, like mine, find their comfort in mom’s boobs. Haha! So, it can be a little bit more challenging for both mom and child. Depending on your situation you can do a number of things. You can wait till your child weans themselves, slowly wean, or depending on the situation wean cold turkey. (This last one I suggest you definitely talk with an IBCLC to make sure everything goes smoothly.) I decided to go the slow weaning route and have been doing something similar to how I weaned off the pump.
I was feeding on demand so I started to drop a feeding every day for a week. Then the next week I dropped two feedings, etc. Now I am down to 3 feedings a day, morning, nap time, and an hour before bedtime. Over the next month, I hope to slowly eliminate those feedings as well. When my child asks for milk now I nicely tell her no, but let her know I can give cuddles instead. I also offer a different form of liquid such as water or cows milk. (What you offer instead is totally up to you.)
Physical and Emotional Aspects of Weaning
Of course, there are other things that come along with weaning. Physically, your body has to adjust to no longer producing milk. Your hormones will be affected so it’s not uncommon to feel sad or slightly depressed while weaning and afterward. You will also no longer be burning as many calories so you may gain a little weight back. (I gained 10 lbs after weaning my first, and I am headed that way with my second.)
Your breasts might become full of milk or hurt depending on your weaning situation. The goal is no clogged ducts or mastitis. If you start feeling uncomfortable you can use ice or even cabbage leaves. Again, consult an IBCLC and they will be able to help with other ways to relieve any discomfort. Also, don’t be surprised if a year or so after weaning you still sometimes find yourself leaking. Just take note of it and if you are concerned contact your Doctor.
The emotional part of weaning is the hardest part. I know it sounds funny, but it’s like a bad breakup. There will be tears from both sides, but eventually, it will get better. In between, you may find your child trying to tear your shirt off, sticking their hands down your shirt, and running after you if they see your boobs. Give them lots of cuddles, love, and give yourself grace. Take time for yourself when you need it, and remember weaning doesn’t last forever.
Tips for Significant Others
Weaning is hard, and while you are not technically the one weaning you are apart of it. Be there for mom, and be there for your little one. Give your little one and mom cuddles. If mom needs space give her space. Help out with the little one especially at night which most times is the hardest. If you would like to learn more about breastfeeding and weaning the website Kelly Mom is very informative and is written by a certified IBCLC. Knowledge is power, and when you are not the one going through the physical things still knowing what is going on can be a big help.
When it is all said and done, and you have accomplished your goal of weaning give yourself a huge pat on the back. You did it! Are you currently weaning your little one or have weaned already? I would love to hear about your experience. Let me know in the comments.