There will come a time when every breastfeeding or pumping mum decides it is the right time to start weaning off. This is a very personal choice, and the experience is different for everyone.
For me, it was very much a love-hate relationship. Part of me was happy that I was weaning off, so my boobs no longer dictate my timetable. On the other hand, I felt sad and guilty that I was weaning off so soon. Everywhere you read, they tell you breast milk is the best thing for your baby, so of course, as a mother, you want to do it for as long as possible to ensure you are giving the best to your child. So I do feel guilty that I started weaning off around 5 months.
Why I decided to start weaning off
Being able to breastfeed is very important to me. It was something I wanted to do from the start, and I have wanted to do it for as long as possible. My original plan was to do it for two years (I know crazy); however, reality usually differs from how you have always imagined or hoped it will be. Five months in, I have started weaning off.
This was a tough decision for me as this decision is partially voluntary, particularly not. After our Singapore trip, my milk product dropped significantly because I wasn't able to pump when I needed to, and Joshua refused to breastfeed. With flight delays and constantly being on the go throughout the trip, I wasn't able to pump during my normal hours. Looking back, I guess my body took it as a sign that I was ready to wean off when I wasn't.
When I came back to Hong Kong, I did try to boost my milk production again by pumping more often and trying to eat things that could help. Unfortunately, it never went back to what it was. I was very upset at the beginning, but then Joshua started to lose interest in breastmilk, making the decision to wean off easier. (I mean there is no point pumping a fridge full of breastmilk when your baby refuses to eat it.)
How to prepare yourself mentally
I have read that there are two triggers in a new mother's life that depression can hit you hard. The first is baby blues (right after birth), the second is when you are weaning off. (Of course, postnatal depression can hit you anytime, but those two are the most common.)
I was lucky that I never got the baby blues. I was tired and frustrated at times, but I never got depressed. However, weaning was a different story. I was lucky enough to catch myself feeling depressed, so I was able to do something about it. When I started weaning off, it was the saddest I have felt since giving birth.
Partly, it was because I wasn't mentally ready for it. Seeing your milk supply drop is depressing, especially when you barely have enough to feed your baby in the first place. You feel like you have failed your baby and question why your body isn't producing as much anymore.
I felt if it were my choice to stop pumping as often, it would have been easier to accept. I can mentally prepare myself that my milk production was going to drop. I was also unprepared for how quickly it can drop. I went from being able to pump 180ml on average to 60-80ml, which hit me really hard.
However, after trying various ways to boost my milk production and failing, I came to terms with it. I set myself an end date when I will stop pumping, so I have a goal to work towards. I found having a goal (mine was before flying back to England for Christmas), really helped me accept and embrace weaning.
Another thing that helped me embrace weaning was when Joshua started teething. When he got tired or no longer wanted to breastfeed, he bit my nipples really hard, making breastfeeding unbearable. After multiple times, I was so ready to stop altogether.
Looking on the bright side
Even though I was sad about the decrease in my milk production, I definitely did not miss pumping every four hours and engorged breasts. This was the part I loved most about weaning. My life was no longer ruled by my boobs! Yay!!!
Suddenly I had so much more time on my hands, and going out is less of a hassle. As I was mainly a pumping mum, going out with Joshua felt like I was going camping every time. The amount of stuff I had to bring with me just made me want to stay at home and skip going out altogether. I usually had to carry two bags with me, one for all his stuff and one for mine (including the pump.) It was so heavy and cumbersome that I just hated going out.
When I am out, I am constantly trying to find a nursing room or the toilet so I can pump. It also limits the places you can go. Whenever I do go out and meet up with friends, I always have to find out if the venue has somewhere I can pump and change the baby.
Midway through weaning was when I found the sweet spot. Where I am still producing milk, so I can soothe Joshua if needed, but I can also go without pumping for around 6-7 hours, making my life ALOT EASIER.
Coming out the other side
Now that I have stopped breastfeeding and pumping, I feel like a new woman.
During the last month of weaning, I was so happy, because I didn't need to pump anymore, whenever I felt my boobs getting full, I popped Joshua on my boob so he can breastfeed for a bit, but the minute he pulled away I stop, as I worried he would bite my nipples. (It was so painful, I cannot even describe the pain.)
I also stopped feeling guilty about weaning once we introduced solid food to Joshua because he LOVES solid food, much more than milk. I really enjoy making food for Joshua, especially when the Béaba Babycook makes it so easy to do so. So now I am just feeding Joshua in a different way, but still giving him the best of my ability. (In my next blog, I will be sharing with you my first cooking experience with Babycook, so stay tuned.)
I am glad I got to experience breastfeeding and was able to provide breastmilk for my baby, but I am also SO GLAD it is now over. Now when I go out with Joshua, it is a lot more convenient. I only need to bring one bag, and as long as the bathroom has a changing table, it is ok. Sometimes if I really cannot find one, I just change Joshua when I find a flat surface.
So if you are having a hard time weaning off, don't worry, you are not alone. It can be upsetting at first, but at the same time, there are also a lot of benefits of no longer breastfeeding too. Hello Caffeine!!! I can now enjoy coffee again, hallelujah!
Good luck with your weaning journey. Just do it at your own pace, and it will be a happy experience.
Sending you love and positive thoughts,