I recently weaned our daughter and am incredibly proud of myself as I managed to breastfeed for 16.5 months and only decided to give up because she was just losing interest. I had already cut down to a morning feed only and in the beginning of this year she looked like she didn’t even want that anymore either.
As it was such a gradual weaning process, I thought I wouldn’t feel any different once I stopped but I was so wrong. I was fine in the mornings but about an hour after waking I felt like it was 10pm and ready to go to bed. For a few days it didn’t register that it could be to do with no longer breastfeeding her. Also, I’ve been getting a lot more skin breakouts, which is never a good sign. I somehow made the connection and obviously turned to Google for answers and sure enough, I read how headaches (migraines) and tiredness could be common symptoms, also feeling sad and having mood changes. It’s all because of hormonal changes – a drop in prolactin and oxytocin levels. Prolactin, a hormone that is required for milk production, also brings with it a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. Oxytocin, the hormone that is required for milk ejection (let-down), is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone.” So, I’ve come off the “love drug” and no wonder it can have such an effect on my well-being.
I’ve made the following changes:
- Cut down on caffeine. Instead of a cup of coffee in the mornings I now have green tea with honey (I’m not a huge fan of green tea as it’s quite bitter).
- Started taking Omega 3 and B6 and 12 vitamins.
- Mixing maca powder, cinnamon and kefir into a smoothie. Sounds a bit of an odd mix but I love the flavours. Maca is a Peruvian root that helps to balance hormones, increase energy and improve mental function.
One article suggested how it can take up to a month for the hormones to balance again and I think I’m nearly there as I no longer feel the extreme tiredness although headaches are still quite frequent. Luckily I didn’t get mastitis (another possible side effect) as I weaned very gradually – she dropped night feeds first, then I cut back on afternoon feeds, then the bedtime feed as she was wriggling so much and just wanted to lie down in her bed, and finally, as I already mentioned, the morning feed, so clearly this took months and months. I had the opportunity, I didn’t go back to work full time, and had all the flexibility in the world.
Again, I believe my approach of “she’ll do it when she’s ready” has helped me somewhat, I wasn’t going to go cold turkey and just stop breastfeeding all of a sudden one day, but I let her take the lead. Maybe that’s my advice on the topic of “how to wean”. It felt healthy and not dramatic for her, except for my odd mood swings and extreme tiredness but even that is only temporary.