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Did You Grieve The End Of Breastfeeding Your Baby?

How did you/do you feel about ceasing to breastfeed your baby? Though it’s normal to feel some sense of relief, it’s also perfectly normal to grieve the end of breastfeeding. As mother of three Laura Doyle writes, this special time can be fraught with emotion:

Breastfeeding my children when they were babies was one of the greatest parts of being a mother for me. It brought me a huge sense of pride, happiness and fulfilment. Some days were difficult don’t get me wrong, but for the most part I loved every second. Giving my babies the very best start in life and the bond I felt with them was incomparable.

My goal with my first daughter was 12 months. I stand very proudly in saying I breastfed her for over 13 months until she self-weaned. We got pregnant on our second daughter when Noa was nine months old. My milk dried up very slowly and I was ready when she weaned at a little over 13 months.

The pregnancy had dried my milk up and she very gradually began to prefer a bottle, after 13 months of refusing one! I had reached the goal I had set in my head and we had planned for this pregnancy. Mentally, I was ready for her to wean whenever she was.

READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About Weaning Your Baby

A Loss Of Milk Supply

Next time around was a different story. On my second breastfeeding journey, I had no goal, no finish line. I would breastfeed her as long as she wanted to be breastfed.

This pregnancy surprised us when our second daughter was 10-months-old. I felt my milk dry up much quicker this time around. Around the 12-month mark (about eight weeks pregnant) Briar began to get very frustrated when feeding.

I was in denial, but I knew in my gut there just wasn’t enough milk to satisfy her. I tried everything I knew of to try boost my supply. I ate more porridge, tried fennel tea, and fenugreek. But I couldn’t boost my milk supply despite how much I wanted to. For some women, a loss of milk supply during pregnancy is just inevitable.

The Guilt

The first thing I felt was guilt. Guilt that I had gotten pregnant too soon on number four and Briar had to suffer because of it.

This was all in my head, I can see that now. Briar didn’t suffer at all, I still breastfed her for three weeks. At every feed, I always offered her breast first and when she still wanted more I then offered her a bottle of cow’s milk, which she absolutely loved. (Again, another little girl who previously had refused a bottle for 12 months!)

She had cow’s milk in food since going onto solids a couple of months before. So, she had no adverse effects to a different type of milk. She was so ready to self-wean, but I was not.

READ MORE: Caring For Your Family While Breastfeeding

The Hormones

I genuinely felt just a little down for the first couple of weeks while Briar was self-weaning. I would have loved to have breastfed her until she naturally self-weaned, whenever that would have been. And I felt very down that this surprise pregnancy had rushed her into it. Rushed us both into it. I felt that I had let her down as a mother.

READ MORE: Breastfeeding Benefits For Mother And Baby

The Post-Weaning Blues

After some research, I discovered that post-weaning blues are completely normal for some women.

One of the changes that occur with weaning is a drop in prolactin and oxytocin levels. Prolactin, a hormone that is required for milk production, also brings with it a feeling of happiness, calmness and relaxation. Oxytocin, the hormone that is required for milk ejection (let-down), is sometimes referred to as the ‘love hormone.’

It makes sense that a sudden decrease in these hormones could influence a weaning mother’s emotions. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the drop in hormone levels. So, what I was feeling was totally normal. And after a few weeks when my hormones began to level, I felt back in control and back to myself.

I am now looking forward to another breastfeeding journey, which is about to start again in just a couple of months!

So how did you feel when you stopped breastfeeding? Delighted, devastated, or somewhere in between?


About the Author

eumom team 

Comments

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Jaclyn Gurule
My first child was breastfed until he was about 21 months old. I was pressured into stopping by family and others. I cried. I wasn't ready and I don't think he was either.
My second child self weaned at 9 months. I think she was responding to the pressure I was under as my marriage was ending.
When my new partner and I decided to have a child, I made it clear with my third that I would feed him as long as he wanted to. And then when he was 22 months old, I fell pregnant. I stopped producing milk around his second birthday. I actually didn't notice for about a week as he continued to try to feed. It began to become painful. I cried and felt guilty that he was being pushed out. Like the author I felt that I hadn't allowed enough time before getting pregnant again.
Number 4 fed until he was 2.5 and would have continued if I hadn't weaned him. I was pregnant with our fifth after a miscarriage the year before. I was tired yet still felt guilty. I think it's just how we feel.
My fifth child is now 3 months old. I knew I would breastfeed her as well. But in the hospital she was having difficulty regulating her blood sugar due to my gestational diabetes. I chose to add formula to her feeding to help and I felt horrible for it. Now though I realise she needed it and I've continued to successfully combination feed. It's given me a level of freedom I didn't have with any of the others.
27/07/2018 23:40:31

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