Every mum is different and will experience the weaning phase in her own personal way. There are some things which all mums may recognise:
Expect Mixed Emotions
This may occur through sadness or grief like feelings from stopping breastfeeding itself. But also the lack of the breastfeeding hormones Oxytocin, and Prolactin in particular can make some mums feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster for a while, maybe feeling anxious at times or even irritable.
Play and cuddle with your baby and practice baby wearing or having some skin to skin time together if baby is too big for wearing. This will boost the Oxytocin hormone which is known as the “love” or ‘feel-good’ hormone and can help you feel more balanced. Usually you will feel back to normal after a few weeks but if you feel like your mood is very low it is important to contact your GP or maternal child health nurse. You will find more information here.
About Your Menstrual Cycle
For nearly all women their period will not return until they stop exclusive breastfeeding. But some women may not get their period until they have fully weaned.
Breasts and Milk Supply
If a mum has breastfed for several months then it is likely she will still be able to see milk leaking or coming out if she squeezes her breast for many weeks to months. Each woman will dry up her supply over a different amount of time.
The best way to wean is very gradually over several weeks so the body has enough time to slow and stop the supply. Even so for some women they may find their breasts feel very soft and empty for a while after stopping but then one day they wake up and their breasts feel full again.
The more the breasts are stimulated the more milk will be made so it is best to avoid expressing, massaging or standing under a hot shower front on. It is still important during this phase to keep a close eye out for any signs of redness, heat, or pain and to contact your GP if you think you may have a blockage or mastitis.
Once you stop breastfeeding you may find that your breasts look and feel very empty. The size of the breasts will likely return to your pre pregnancy size but may look quite different. The fatty part of your breast will come back over time to make the breasts look fuller and plumper again. This can take 6 months to a few years.
The changes which have taken place right from the beginning of pregnancy through to the milk coming in and then breastfeeding are huge, so much movement and change in the size of your breasts so it’s no wonder they have a little rest once you’ve stopped breastfeeding and take a while to get back to “normal.”
As with your tummy, your breasts take some time to get back to their old selves, so give them a break and be amazed at how awesome they were!
What was your own experience with weaning your baby? What advice would you like to offer to other women who may just be starting their breastfeeding journeys? For more information join in the conversation over on our Medela Australia Facebook page.