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When Breastfeeding Ends: The Aftermath of Weaning Baby

As soon as I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to be a breastfeeding mom. My goal was one year and I made it, but just barely. I imagined our last nursing session to be an emotional surrender, a lasting memory, one last truly primal bonding experience between my daughter and I.

When Breastfeeding Ends: The Aftermath of Weaning Baby

My daughter, on the other hand, had other plans. Without time to prepare, physically or mentally, our nursing relationship came to end. One afternoon she nursed just fine, that very same evening she wanted nothing to do with my breasts. It was just one week before her first birthday. Without warning, it was over.

Nothing could have prepared me for what followed:

Nipple Biting

There’s no other way around it, it’s how my baby girl showed me it was over. As I got settled to nurse her before bedtime, she looked me straight in the eyes and went for the kill. After checking my milk supply, changing sides, gently telling her it hurt me, still the biting continued. Reluctantly, I defrosted some milk from the frozen stash and carried on. The next day, it was the same thing. Back to the nipple biting, back to the turning her head away from me. I had to face the fact, we were done.

The Pump Must Go On

Who knew I still produced so much milk?!? I dealt with engorgement that very next day, even though I pumped the night she abruptly let me know we were over. My breasts were sore and hard. So, out came the pump to relieve the pressure. I know, I know, “The more you pump, the more you produce,” but this milk NEEDED to come out. Plugged ducts are painful enough. Been there, done that. Over the course of a week, I went from four pumping sessions a day to none. Each session shorter than the previous. Some women need a bit longer period to wean.  

When Breastfeeding Ends: The Aftermath of Weaning Baby

Welcome to the Hormone Roller Coaster

The real surprise was the constant mood swings for the next few weeks. Hormones, I’m blaming you for this one! It was like having outer body experiences all day long. I would feel angry, sad, happy, or unfocused, without being able to take control over what I was feeling. Once my body realized what was going on and regulated itself, my good-old self was back.

Depression, We Meet Again

Dealing with the lack of a physical bond was tough. Finding where I fit into my baby’s new world was hard. Maybe it was some postpartum depression. I felt lost. While my husband entertained her during bath time and made her laugh without any effort, I needed to find a new way to bond with my daughter. The void created would take time to heal. My baby would no longer look to me for nourishment. The most important role that had defined me for the past year was now obsolete.

To her, nothing was different, she still loved me the same. I was the one who needed to adapt. It took a bit of time, but we found our way. It helps that she now knows how to hug, say “mama,” blow kisses, and snuggle. Our bond was never broken, it just evolved.

When Breastfeeding Ends: The Aftermath of Weaning Baby

Hello, Sweet Freedom!

A huge chunk of my life was mine again. It’s amazing how much of a sacrifice breastfeeding truly is. Without realizing it, we give up so much for our babies. No more hauling the pump around. No more worrying about milk storage. Beer? Wine? Yes, please. Goodbye to all the teas and pills that kept my supply up. Bye-bye wearing a bra at night. Adios to sterilizing EVERYTHING. Midnight pumping sessions, definitely not missed.

When Breastfeeding Ends: The Aftermath of Weaning Baby

The end of our breastfeeding journey was a lot to handle in the short period of a week or two. I was proud of the fact that I was able to provide the best nourishment I could for as long as I did. On the other hand, after a year of sharing with my daughter, my body was solely mine once again and it felt great.

We are now developing our relationship in different and exciting ways. Instead of seeing me and trying to pull my shirt down, she’ll now give me a hug along with some never-ending babble. Although the past year was full of sacrifices and the weaning period was both rough and unexpected, we can look forward to our future together.

Instead of mouth-on-boob, we can now walk hand-in-hand.

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4 Responses to When Breastfeeding Ends: The Aftermath of Weaning Baby

  1. Susan R April 27, 2017 at 7:15 am #

    Thank you for writing this piece. This EXACT same thing happened to me last week. Three days after his first birthday, my son abruptly decided that he is done breastfeeding. Like you, I had imagined the last time would be more ceremonious. After nearly a week of trying everything to get him back, I am beginning to accept the fact that this is just the end, and I am dealing with the same emotions and fears regarding out bond. I really needed to read this today!

    • Paola Ayers
      Paola Ayers April 27, 2017 at 8:03 am #

      I’m sending you a million hugs! It’s tough and it will be for a little bit, but you both will get through it. Funny thing is, they act like it never happened, so no need to worry about him. Congrats on making it to a year! You’ll enjoy this next phase of bonding just as much, I know I am!

  2. Jessica May 7, 2017 at 10:23 am #

    Hola Boricua! Is so fascinating that you think that the baby is the only one that is going to struggle with the transition but for our surprise! We do too!

    • Paola Ayers
      Paola Ayers May 8, 2017 at 8:40 am #

      Hola! Part of being a mom is worrying when we really don’t have to and the kids are just fine!