5 Things That Happen Once You Stop Breastfeeding

Six months of exclusive breastfeeding is a must for the health of the mother and child. After that, the ‘right' time to stop breastfeeding or to wean is more or less a personal affair. Regardless of when weaning occurs, the experiences some mothers encounter when stopping breastfeeding can be quite unexpected. For some mothers, the end of their breastfeeding relationship with their baby can be a time laden with emotional changes. You should prepare for some physical changes also during your post- breastfeeding phase.

Unfortunately, for many mothers, especially the new ones, these changes are unexpected and are ignorant of the fact that these experiences during weaning are quite normal. Here are 5 apparent physical and emotional changes during post-breastfeeding phase to be aware of:

#1: You May Experience Mood Changes:

When the breastfeeding phase ends, most of the mothers do experience an "emptiness" to some extent. Most of the mothers are reported to experience mood fluctuations (intensity varies, though) after they stop the process of breastfeeding. Some mothers get upset, weepy, frustrating or anxious. Thus, when the breastfeeding ends, it is quite normal for a mother to experience sadness. More often than not, these feelings come to an end after a few weeks. However, if these feelings are too intense, or continue beyond a few weeks without any change in the severity, seek advice from your gynecologist.

Cause: It's believed that these mood changes are caused due to hormonal changes. Once you stop breastfeeding, there will be a significant drop in prolactin and oxytocin level. Do you know that the prolactin assists with feeling calm and relaxed and oxytocin are commonly known as the ‘feel-good' or ‘love' hormone?

Tip: Slow weaning may help to cope with the mood swings. When the weaning is gradual, hormonal changes also occur more gradually over time and so give your body a chance to get used to them.

#2: It Can Take A While For Your Milk To Fully Dry Up:

It's not unusual for mothers who have weaned, continue to spill out breast milk when they hand express. How much period it takes for the breast milk to dry up fully after stopping the breastfeed varies from mother to mother. If you breastfed frequently over a long period of time, it could take weeks to many months for the breast milk to dry up completely. Breastfeeding is a supply-demand process, i.e., the more often milk is drained out, the more milk will be produced and vice versa. By any chance you stopped breastfeeding when your breasts are making lots of milk, obviously, it will take quite some period for your breasts to eventually reduce and finally stop producing milk. On the other hand, if you stopped breastfeeding when your breasts aren't producing much milk, your supply is likely to reduce and stop more quickly.

#3: You May Develop Mastitis:

Sudden weaning paves the way for breast engorgement, blocked ducts or mastitis. Stopping breastfeeding gradually, on the other hand, allowing your breast milk supply to reduce gradually will minimize the risk of engorgement, blocked ducts or mastitis.

How to deal:

It is a fact that once trying to stop the breast from producing milk you should remove as little milk as possible. As explained above more milk removed, the breasts tend to produce more milk. However, if you develop a blocked duct, temporarily removing the milk to clear the blockage is important. Or else, plugged ducts very soon will lead to mastitis. Likewise, if you develop mastitis, temporarily removing milk to clear the milk stasis is more important to bring down the possibility of the mastitis turning into an abscess. Once the blocked duct or mastitis has cleared, you can stop draining the milk. However, you should closely monitor your breast. In due course, your supply will decrease and finally, your milk production will cease.

#4: Your Menstrual Cycle May Return:

More often your monthly period will not return when you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby. In fact, exclusive breastfeeding is a well-known form of birth control (Still, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding). However, when you start weaning, it's more likely your menstrual cycle will return soon.

#5: Your breast size may return to its pre-pregnancy state

This is the most welcoming thing that may happen during your post breastfeeding phase. Once your baby starts weaning, the milk-making cells will eventually shrink. Fat cells will be laid down and your breasts will return to their pre-pregnancy size. This may take several weeks. But if you gained a lot of weight during your pregnancy, and didn't lose it all by the time you wean the baby, your breast size will not change significantly.