Motherhood, so far, has been a ride filled with joy, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, baby giggles, pride and delight, but most of all - GUILT!! Balance is a universal female goal that remains evasive, as even when we are trying to balance, we are hard-wired to leave a part of our heads (or at least hearts) with our little ones.
Breastfeeding on the other hand, for mothers who are able to make it through the tumultuous beginning, is a source of joy and bonding (and of course, pain, prohibition and frustration as well). However, it cannot go on forever (thank heavens), and everyone does eventually reach a point where they want to move on. Not that we don't all know someone who is, or has nursed a baby for much longer than is medically necessary, but this is a decision for the mother to make when she, and her baby, are ready.
Below are some common fears and hopes about weaning your little one (and getting your life back!), and some myth busters that will hopefully help you feel a little more reassured.
12 common hopes and fears about weaning:
A. Common weaning fears:
1. Will I ever be this close to my baby again?
Physically that (hopefully) is true, but emotionally you and your child will just keep getting closer. They already recognize you and while you may not be the source of their nutrition, you will still be the center of their universe for a while more.
2. How will I comfort my baby without nursing them?
While physically shutting them up with our breasts worked well for a while, you will reach a point where your child is comforted just with your presence or a hug. I am still nursing but no longer have to do so for comfort when my baby is upset. He crawls to me and rests his head on my chest and cuddles on his own accord.
3. Does my baby still need the milk?
Until the age of 1, yes, the antibodies you pass on are helpful to your child. However, once they are eating solids, and have gone past 2 solid meals a day, you are (sorry) no longer has their primary sourced of nutrition. So even if you haven't made it to your goal, and your baby is now on formula, or cow's milk, you can cut back your feeds more and weigh the pros and cons of your decision at this point. But don't fret, you've done the best you can and your baby can still grow up to be strong and healthy even if you stop.
4. Have I done enough to alleviate my cancer risk?
Just by breastfeeding you have. Beyond that, it's all genetics and nutrition.
5. Will I be shamed by other moms?
Possibly, there are definitely moms who think they are superior and brag about how far they have made it, even if you have made it to your goal. However, that's not on you! Know that you instinctively will and have done what is best for your child, and ignore the noise.
6. Don't want to give formula when you have made it to as far as you have
Formula in the USA is often offered as the only option under the age of 1. However, talk to your paediatrician, as it is not the only option. If your child has displayed no signs of allergies and has other milk products, they can be moved to cow's milk directly.
B. Common reasons to wean (and hopes to move on to):
7. You are running out of milk and tired of this entire supply and demand game
It was bound to happen at some point wasn't it?
This is actually the most common reason to stop, and one that it not as much in your control once your baby is having solids.
8. You're ready for your (night) life (i.e., sleep) and body back
You may already have it all back, lucky you! But while you are burning calories while you nurse, you are also a lot hungrier and likely eating a lot more than you did (pre-pregnancy). This appetite diminishes with time.
9. You are tired of waking up to nurse
And then falling asleep in awkward positions which hurt your back, or can hurt your baby. Of losing sleep in the middle of the night, and of being the only one who can do this amazing and yet exhausting act.
10. You are also tired of having the shit (or rather milk) bitten out of you
This is my number 1 reason at this point, almost 10 months, 4 teeth, knows the word 'no' and yet thinks biting (while smiling and watching his mama) and waiting for me to wail, is a really fun game.
11. You are also exhausted of staying awake pumping
Especially now that literally air goes in and out of the bottle, sometimes an odd drop will fly in, but most of the time it's just air. And yet, do we stop and risk dropping our supply more?
12. You just need a drink, like a real one..
Or twelve, in a row. Without counting how many hours it will be before you have to feed, or keeping your milk alcohol test strips out and ready before you leave the house or go to bed after that solitary drink. Not that I'm condoning irresponsible parenting, but I'm also acknowledging that as parents we deserve a night (actually a few hours) to let loose.
At some point, we need to let go of the guilt and fear and make the decision that is right for us, not just as moms but as individuals, executives and as wives too. I'm almost there, and continue to remind myself that I have done all I can so far to nourish my child, but soon enough it will be time to let go and move on. That doesn't mean you're any further from your baby, it just means you are ready to embrace the next phase.
I will also come back with tips on how to wean once I have gone through it completely myself.