Mere moments after Jack was born, there were nurses and lactation consultants manhandling my body for the sake of breastfeeding. I felt awkward and unsure of how to do any of it. It had been referred to at length as “the most natural thing in the world,” yet I had so.many.questions.
How often do I breastfeed? How do I know how much he’s getting? How do I know when to switch sides? When do I start pumping, and how often should I do it? How much alcohol can I consume before I have to worry about it affecting the baby? So on and so forth.
Once I got it down and felt like we were in a groove, I had the panicked thought of, “How do I stop?!” I scoured the internet only to find extreme advice and weird message boards. Nothing seemed to answer the simple (seemingly stupid) questions that I had.
So here’s an in-depth look at how and why I stopped nursing. I stopped “cold turkey” but I feel like most of this can apply to any mother who is considering discontinuing breastfeeding.
Here we go!
I got this question more than once. “WHY would you stop?!”
This is an extremely personal question and an equally personal decision, but I stopped breastfeeding because I knew it was time. I hesitate to say I stopped for selfish reasons, because any woman who offers rent space in her uterus for nine months is anything but selfish, but I did have my own self in mind. Jack loved nursing, and as a result, had little to no interest in solid foods or a bottle. It was draining. I lost a lot of weight, I was constantly tethered to the baby, and I felt like I wanted my body back.
There were other considerations surrounding Jack, but my reasons were the major ones.
The how (cold turkey)
Most of the advice I read about (or was given) suggested dropping one nursing session per week until it was completely phased out. I knew that wouldn’t work for us, mainly because Jack refused the bottle, and I had no interest in fighting him on it for over a month. No thanks.
I also knew it wouldn’t work for us because I was so emotional about it. I don’t like to draw that stuff out, so for me, I knew it had to be all-or-nothing.
After I spoke with Jack’s pediatrician at his 9-month check up and she assured me that he’d survive (and thrive), I made the decision to stop the following day. The pediatrician suggested having other people bottle feed Jack, which sounded great, but as a stay-at-home-mom, I knew it posed a challenge.
I’m convinced that this was able to work for us because I 100% subscribe to the “village” mindset. There is no way Cory and I could have been successful with this endeavor without the help of my mother-in-law who ended up taking Jack for the entire first day. My mom said “if he’s hungry enough, he’ll eat” and as always, she was right. He wasn’t the happiest baby on the block, but he survived. By the end of that day, he had started taking a bottle, and I felt like I had witnessed a miracle.
The first week was rough. He didn’t drink much (which caused me to call the pediatrician more than once), he woke up throughout the night, and was cranky during the day. That was one of the longest weeks ever, and I cried almost every day. BUT the subsequent weeks have been so much better. He’s now taking bottles like a champ, eats solid foods, and sleeps through the night even better than before. (I was most concerned about not nursing him to sleep at night, but it honestly hasn’t been a problem at all.)
I read a lot of about this on the internet, and saw conflicting advice left and right. I had mastitis when Jack was a few months old, and my main concern was that this weaning process would cause a second bout of it. Thankfully, I made it through with the common engorgement and pain, but nothing more serious than that!
Jack’s pediatrician gave me basic pumping instructions, which I adapted to the following schedule:
Day 1, I pumped every 5-6 hours
Days 2-3, every 6-8 hours
Day 4-5, once a day
Days 6+ I simply hand expressed in the shower.
When I was pumping, I was only doing so for a few minutes at a time.
If we’re being honest, it. was. painful. The the cabbage-in-the-bra trick helped, as did taking ibuprofen every 4 hours. I was majorly engorged for about 4 days, and my milk was gone within a week or so.
The emotions and side effects
You all know that I was a total basket case for a few days. The guilt was overwhelming, I feared I would lose my bond with Jack, and I was terrified that I was making the wrong decision.
Now that I’ve made it through to the other side, I can ASSURE YOU that it’s harder on the mother than it is the baby! I know stopping cold turkey gets a bad wrap, but other than being annoyed about having to take a bottle, he wasn’t phased in the slightest.
The most negative side effect that I’ve experienced is the hormonal acne. I’m honestly so embarrassed about the current state of my skin. Like, it’s to the point that I don’t want to leave my house (I do leave my house, it’s just mortifying.) I’m praying to the Good Lord that these hormones balance out sooner rather than later, because my chin (and my pride) can’t take this much longer!
While I was breastfeeding, I was hungry ALL THE TIME. I don’t even want to estimate how many calories I consumed on a daily basis because it was crazy. I was concerned that it would be difficult to return to eating like a normal person, but that hasn’t been the case. I’m not overly hungry, and I don’t feel like I need to go on any sort of diet to get myself back on track. I’ve gained a much-need four pounds since stopping, and I’m extremely pleased about that!
Formula or Breastmilk?
If you recall my freezer stash from this post, then you know that I was good and ready to feed Jack breast milk for a while after I stopped nursing. I spent so time and effort pumping and freezing my milk, all in the name of doing what was “best” for my baby.
Welp…he won’t take breastmilk from a bottle. Nope. Not happenin’. Not if it’s warm. Not if it’s mixed with formula. Nothing.*
Sooo, we’re doing formula and it’s working out great! Beside the cost – woof.
And there you have it! If there’s anything I didn’t cover, please leave a comment or shoot me an email!
*I do not want to throw away this breastmilk, so I’m researching where and/or to whom I can donate it. If you have any recommendations, please share them!