For some mothers, they find the decision to wean to be a very easy one.
However, there are many mothers who find it much more difficult.
Especially if you have an older baby or toddler, or if you’re feeding the last baby you’ve planned to have, it can be a little more emotionally turbulent than expected.
Throw in a handful or two of hormones, stress and sleep deprivation, and before you know it, you're bearing the brunt of a frustrating stalemate, not know what on earth to do.
Frequent stopping and starting may confuse your baby or toddler too.
So how can you decide what to do, considering both yours and your child’s needs?
Tip #1: Don’t Make Any Decisions When You’re Tired
Baby brain is something many of us are all too familiar with. If you’re not getting quality sleep, no matter who you are, you’re going to be tired, scattered, emotional and confused.
Especially if you’ve had a really exhausting night, it can be tempting to just want to throw it all in. Maybe the time is right for you to start the weaning process, maybe it isn’t. But making a decision after a bad night's sleep or while you're choking in the fog of sleep deprivation could leave you regretting your decision.
The aim is to make a concious decision that you're truly at peace with, so it's better to wait until you’re feeling a bit more alert and focused. Weighing up the pros and cons when you're feeling a bit more balanced will help you to make a better decision.
Tip #2: Don’t Make Any Decisions When You’re Emotional
Guilty! I’ve been there a few times. All of my three babies have been breastfeed into toddlerhood, and toddlers can be particularly strong willed. They know what they want, and they aren’t happy if they can’t have it. Packaged in with being tired and having a toddler paw at me all day, I burst into tears and decided that I had to wean. As soon as possible.
Of course, this wasn’t the most logical decision: you can’t quit gently and easily if you go cold turkey. Plus you put yourself at risk of blocked ducts and mastitis. Thankfully, I realised I was overtired and emotional, and had to give myself some rest, so I could calm down and work out how I truly felt.
I gave myself permission to revaluate how I felt in the morning, and work out where to from there. Every time I went through this process, I realised I was overreacting from being overtired and emotional. I needed to put myself first more so I could give more.
Deciding To Wean Tip #3: Don’t Make Any Decisions Due To Peer Pressure
As your baby gets older, an increasing number of people begin asking you when you’re going to wean. It's so frustrating (and sometimes upsetting) to hear, but it happens. It's so easy for some mothers to give into others personal blueprints of how long babies should be fed.
But what about your blueprint – don't you count? You have to live with your decision, not them. You’re going to possibly live with regret or sadness that you didn’t get to enjoy the full extent of the breastfeeding relationship you thought was right for you and your baby.
Years later, who is going to care? They will forget… you wont. Ignore the naysayers, and look into your baby or toddler’s eyes and feel that abundant, bursting love in your heart. Wrap yourself in that yummy, blissful connection you feel when you breastfeed your baby. Oxytocin gives you that feeling, and it's such a beautiful thing.
Your. Feelings. Matter. You don’t have to wean if you don’t want to.
Deciding To Wean Tip #4: Don’t Make Any Hasty Decisions
When you’re feeling down, tired or any other unpleasant emotion, don’t jump to a quick conclusion. Tomorrow, the next day or even next week, you might feel much better. You might discover that your baby or toddler was teething or coming down with an illness, so all this constant feeding that was going on has slowed down or stopped. Even life changes may result in your little one seeking all this extra comfort, for example a house move, stress in the home or a separation.
If there's one thing I have learnt to trust well, even in my tired foggy head, it's my toddler’s signals. They love to be happy, to play and to be independent, but they also love to be connected to you for a source of love and comfort. It's the one thing they have always known, and always counted on. You can’t just cut that off and expect it to go down well, and not just for your toddler, but you too. There will no doubt be tears and struggles and you may end up giving in, further confusing your baby or toddler.
If you take the time to think logically and with intent, you'll work out what’s right for you, and you can start to devise a plan to slowly wean your baby, with love.
Deciding To Wean Tip #5: Don’t Do It Alone
Making difficult and upsetting decisions shouldn’t be endured alone. Make sure you talk to loving and supportive family members and friends. If you don’t have anyone around you who understands your choices, or if you feel unsupported, you can join the BellyBelly Weaning Support Forum where there are plenty of other gentle, loving mothers just like you who highly value breastfeeding, but are also ready for their weaning journey. You can also contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association for support and advice. But whatever you do, don’t do it alone.
Deciding To Wean Tip #6: Be Aware Of Post-Breastfeeding Depression
Something very important which has just started gaining more awareness is post-weaning depression. I know you may be thinking, ‘oh great, another label or condition that we don’t need’. But the fact is when mothers stop breastfeeding, the high levels of hormones needed for breastfeeding take a significant dive, which may leave you feeling a little blue.
This may not happen to you, but it can. It's another reason why you should set up plenty of support before you start to wean. Inform your family and friends that the decision to wean is a difficult one for you, and you’d like them to know in case it becomes an issue. Read more about post-weaning depression.
At the end of the day, no matter what your decision is, it should be one that you feel comfortable with when you’re in a relatively peaceful place emotionally. Ideally you’ll have loads of support, but if you don’t, please seek it out, because it is there and every mother deserves to be nurtured and supported – especially after the epic journey from pregnancy, to birth and then breastfeeding. Wow, you did all that! Well done mamma for a beautiful breastfeeding journey, no matter how long or short it has been. From one breastfeeding mamma to another, I send you big, warm virtual hugs, and loads of encouragement to follow your heart. Go gently on yourself and your bubba. Good luck, mamma.