Why I Regret Weaning My Daughter
I was pretty lucky when it came to the trajectory of my breastfeeding journey. I had no issues with supply, my daughter’s latch was perfect from the start, and I had plenty of supportive people applauding and praising me for my decision to breastfeed.
I breastfed exclusively for six months before slowly introducing solids. During those first six months, my daughter wouldn’t even take a bottle. Every feeding was spent with our bodies intertwined, gazing into each other’s eyes, with oxytocin buzzing between us like electrical currents powering our love.
We continued to do this sacred dance for months- me feeding on demand and her demanding often. There would be morning feeds, night feeds, bored feeds, scared feeds, sick feeds, and playful feeds. Every situation and circumstance I engaged in revolved around my responsibility to breastfeed. I was proud of myself, my baby, and my body for making it work as well it did. I knew I was one of the lucky ones.
But around 18 months, my luck began to run out. What was once easy, effortless, and emotionally enlightening soon began to feel like a burden. Suddenly, I found myself constantly feeling touched-out, testy, and irritated. Furthermore, I was starting to feel as though my constant nursing was taking a toll on my health.
Prior to weaning, I had unintentionally dropped 20 pounds in a matter of months, and my hairline rapidly receded at least an inch. Doctors told me that the cause was both hormonal and dietary, and suggested that my constant nursing was exasperating my nutritional deficits. They recommended that I promptly wean, falsely citing that my baby no longer required my breastmilk to thrive. Sadly, I listened.
Suddenly, my daughter and I started a new dance- a dance in which she cried for my breast, and I cried while refusing. I thought I was doing the right thing, that I was reclaiming my health and my body. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come.
Sudden weaning took a huge toll on my health that extended far beyond hair loss and a more skeletal physique. Suddenly I started experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety, sensations that had been foreign to me up until that moment. I cried as my breasts became engorged, and my baby cried for the comfort of her mama. Those days still haunt me, because, in hindsight, I realize that neither of us was ready.
There is so much emphasis on breastfeeding and doing what feels right for you, but I think that weaning needs to have a more prominent seat at the table when it comes to these conversations as well. So many women wean too early or continue breastfeeding despite so desperately wanting to wean, and yet it’s seldom spoken about.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to weaning. After all, any amount of breastmilk is a gift to your baby. My only hope is that one day, there will be more resources, help, and support for women who are faced with making this difficult decision.
I wish I had someone to hold my hand, look me in my eyes, and let me know that the hair, the weight, the freedom; it would all come back. That my concerns weren’t frivolous, but that weaning wasn’t necessarily the only solution. At least not for me.
So if and when you find yourself facing this difficult decision, do not take it lightly or let other people decide for you. Weigh the pros and cons. Seek professional advice from a certified lactation consultant. Get a second opinion. Do some soul searching. Dig deep. And remember, no matter which decision you land on, you’re still doing a great job.