Extended breastfeeders beware; there are secret side effects of weaning that no one has told you about. Why our friends, doctors, and other mothers have kept mum on the subject is beyond me. Perhaps they assume we’re too dried up to notice, pulling out our boobs only to satiate our toddlers' need to use us as human pacifiers. But, oh, how the milk still flows after all these years (in my case nearly two)!
Maybe they’re uneasy with the exhibitionism we’ve had to display at times, providing actual nutrients in lieu of responsible kids' menus at popular restaurants. But just as everyone has their own set of reasons, every mother has her own set of breasts.
In other words, we’re all different and might experience the physical and emotional withdrawals of weaning differently. To varying degrees of intensity, here are some side effects you could experience.
Mastitis and Plugged Ducts: All that extra milk has to go somewhere before it's reabsorbed into the body, which in my experience has taken about two weeks.At first my husband thought it was all very exciting to see my cups overfloweth once again. I swiftly remanded him, sometimes physically, if he came into adoring contact with them because even the slightest contact sent my painfully engorged breasts into a rage.
If I had to describe what my body went through in those initial days, I would start out by saying it felt like hot rods had been implanted into my boobs. As the days went on, it felt like a combo of 100 bench presses after the hot rods had been removed. And then one morning, they felt engorged but manageable. By the end of that same day, po, they were totally back to normal. Or as normal as they’re going to be from here on out.
Oh My God, I’m Pregnant! Pregnancy Scare: Naturally, the swelling made me recall that innocent spring day in 2008 when I took five pregnancy tests to confirm that I really was pregnant. Rather, I took three. I made my husband take the other two to make sure I was doing it right.
I also had extreme fatigue and listlessness; really it felt like that first trimester fog all over again. Or was it something more sinister?
The hypochondriac and worrywart in me battled it out for dominance. Hypo said, “You’re clearly dying.” Mrs. Wart said, “You’re obviously pregnant.”
I can now confidently confirm that I am neither dying nor pregnant.
“I Think I Might Kill My Husband” Mood Swings: In those early days of pregnancy, there were certain times that I really did want to inflict physical harm on either my husband or the world at large.
Being a pacifist, I inwardly seethed instead. As a weaning mother, I took the luxury of spending a quarter of an hour here and there crying into my pillow. What was I crying about? Oh, the weather. Laundry. Being pregnant. Dying.
Vomiting: It could have been a bug I caught from my son, but conveniently enough vomiting did occur on day four.
Maybe it’s a girl, I thought between trips to the bathroom. Or maybe it’s dysentery.
Separation Anxiety: Through the mood swings, vomiting, crushing feelings of mortality, and mixed emotions, the hardest part has been the separation anxiety. And I’m not even talking about how my son felt about the whole thing. He certainly found the weaning process unpleasant, though we’ve been at it for quite a while.
It’s just that when the time came to say goodbye to the breast at last, his dad swept in to distract him with games, walks, and cuddles. I’d join in, too, but not without a pang of … something. The honest to goodness truth is, I liked that my son needed me when he nursed. He still needs me, of course, and I’m here for him. Only now I’m wearing a bra with lots of built-in support.
I shall miss our nursing relationship more than words can say, just as I will surely miss the natural buoyancy of my breasts.
Okay, come out with it! What are some of the weaning side effects you’ve experienced?
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