Most mothers enjoy the unique experience that is breastfeeding. It comes with its share of hard work, but it is totally worth it. Weaning is a term that indicates the termination of breastfeeding for an infant. Often child-led weaning means that the mother continues feeding the baby until the baby no longer desires breastmilk. This can continue beyond 24 months and varies from baby to baby. Some mothers choose to wean earlier due to a range of reasons.
Are There Any Side-Effects of Ending Breastfeeding?
Notwithstanding what the reason is, weaning can present side effects for both the mother and the baby. All mothers experience some discomfort accompanied by another effect when they stop breastfeeding. The reduced levels of prolactin and oxytocin cause hormonal changes which also lead to physical discomfort. Here, we discuss a few of the effects of quitting breastfeeding.
Effects on Mother
Weaning can be a difficult time for both, the mother and the baby in more than one way. The weaning effects for mom are more in number, though. Discussed below are some of the side effects of weaning.
1. Mastitis and Plugged Ducts
A plugged duct can cause extreme tenderness in the breast that is fairly localized. If it remains untreated, it can cause mastitis, a breast infection that causes severe pain, fever, and redness. The breast becomes tender and warm to the touch. Mastitis can be treated by using warming pads, expressing the milk and a dose of antibiotics.
2. The Fullness of the Breasts
3. Physical Illness
Some problems after stopping breastfeeding include headaches, nausea, and mood swings. These can be the effect of hormonal changes that are a result of stopping breastfeeding. Sometimes these symptoms mimic early pregnancy symptoms. Consult your doctor before you decide to wean.
4. Increase in Fertility
The hormones secreted in the body during breastfeeding reduce the chances of ovulation. These hormones change when the mother stops breastfeeding. She may have her period within 6 weeks of weaning, meaning that ovulation has begun once again.
5. Depression Occurring Post-Weaning
Weaning effects for mom include mild to severe depression. This, again, is associated with hormonal changes in the body when the infant stops suckling, or milk is no longer being expressed. Prolactin, the hormone responsible for lactation, can also create a feeling of calmness and joy for the mother. With the reduction in prolactin, the mother may begin feeling sad, and she may associate this with the end of bonding between her and her baby. Seek help from a medical practitioner if you’re experiencing depression.
6. Extreme Fatigue and Tiredness
The progesterone and oestrogen levels in the mother’s body are trying to rebalance, and this causes extreme tiredness and fatigue. Discontinuing breastfeeding may not reverse normal sleeping patterns, inducing further fatigue in mothers.
7. The Feeling of Shame About Eating Well
When nursing, mothers are advised to consume sufficient calories to sustain breastfeeding. Women have been known to eating a lot while feeding without gaining weight. When a mother decides to wean, she may find it difficult to cut down the food intake as it is habitual. This makes some mothers feel guilty about eating more during mealtime. Hormonal changes make this feeling of shame pronounced for some mothers.
8. Issues of Attachment with An Infant
Reduced oxytocin and bonding, make some mothers feel a slight estrangement from their children. Also, the mother may feel less proficient at soothing the child without breastfeeding. Finding other ways to bond, like playing together, cuddling during sleep time etc. can help mother and baby bond better.
9. Palpitation and Anxiety
Anxiety may surface in plenty of ways, such as the mom being too snappy, worrying and overthinking, dreading little things that shouldn’t matter, and so on, accompanied by palpitations.
Some mothers find it hard to get a good night’s sleep even though feeding is no longer required through the night.
11. Skin Changes
Weaning an infant can bring in a lot of skin changes due to a surge in various hormones. Dryness, acne, stretch marks and other breakouts are common when breastfeeding is stopped.
12. Increased Stress for Mother
The inability to comfort the baby or the anxiety, sore breasts, and headaches may cause some mothers to become very stressed out mentally and physically.
Effects on Baby
Babies, too, can face some problems when breastfeeding is stopped. Here is what happens with the little infants:
- The risk of infection increases as breastmilk contains antibodies which fight off infections.
- The protection offered by breastfeeding on mental health reduces, especially if the mother is depressed.
- The bonding that is characteristic of nursing is over, and the closeness that the baby has with the mother reduces.
- The nutritional advantage of breastmilk is lost and dependency on external nutrition increases. This may be a problem if the baby doesn’t take to formula or solid food easily.
Speaking to a lactation consultant before weaning your infant will aid in fighting the effects of weaning. Ice packs, warming pads, sage tea, and a good bra will go a long way in helping to prevent engorgement and mastitis. Whatever the reason for weaning, listen to your body and do not feel pressured by unsolicited advice coming from different corners. As the mother of the infant, you should be free to decide what suits you both best.
Also Read: Tips to Stop Breast Milk Production