What happens to a mother when she stops breastfeeding?
Weaning a child can be confusing, frustrating and very distressing. The process is more manageable when a mother knows what to expect. These are some of the internal changes a weaning mother will face.
Pain Is Normal
When a mother decides to stop breastfeeding, the body doesn’t immediately stop producing milk. The glands of the breast will continue producing milk for a few days or weeks although a baby is no longer drinking the milk. When this happens, the breasts become engorged, or swollen, with milk, which can be painful.
The severity of engorgement can be decreased if weaning is done gradually, but there is no guarantee that this symptom can be avoided. During this period, the mother should wear a supportive bra and avoid rubbing or needlessly touching the breasts, which will only exacerbate the issue. An ice pack and pain relievers are the best way to handle the discomfort.
Depression Is Common
As long as a mother is breastfeeding, her body produces hormones like oxytocin and prolactin. These hormones are responsible for milk production, as well as all of the “warm and fuzzy” motherly emotions that make a mother feel happy. When breastfeeding ends, these hormone levels slowly drop down to zero, and hormones like FSH, progesterone, and estrogen increase. These hormones are often associated with the menstrual cycle.
The hormonal fluctuations can cause feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Feelings of detachment are common since breastfeeding is also a bonding time between mother and baby.
You’re (Probably) Not Pregnant
Hormonal changes can make the mother’s menstrual cycle infrequent and marked with unusually heavy periods. Being “late” at this time doesn’t necessarily signal another pregnancy.
Weaning causes physical and hormonal changes, and they are not always pleasant. That’s perfectly normal! Be patient with your yourself during this delicate process.