Forced Weaning Due to Pregnancy
I have been avoiding writing this post. Honestly, I hadn’t even spoken the words out loud to anyone until I finally broke down and sobbed to my husband the other night and admitted the truth that has been weighing on me since week ten of my pregnancy:
My breastmilk is gone.
There was a big part of me that was simply in denial. I subconsciously thought, “maybe if I don’t talk about it, it won’t be true.” Or “maybe if I ignore it, my milk will come back.”
But it’s still gone, and despite the More Milk Two that I bought shortly after I could no longer express any breastmilk, I don’t think anything is coming back until my body starts producing colostrum.
Emotionally, this is a pretty tough time for me. I always wanted Kieran to have the choice to wean naturally, and forced weaning due to pregnancy is not what I had envisioned.1 My perceived “failure” to produce breastmilk has sent me into a mini-depression. As I lamented to my husband in the dark hours of the night, I have not been able to form a bond with the baby currently developing inside my body, because I almost feel resentful that I am pregnant. Of course it’s not the baby’s fault, and I know that logically, but these pregnancy hormones can do funny things.
I also know (logically) that I am not a failure – I have given Kieran 3.5 years of an incredible nursing relationship, and if he had weaned naturally at this point, I would never feel that I had failed. It’s merely the fact that the option was taken away because of my own body chemistry.2
Slowly but surely, though, I am coming to terms with the fact that our nursing relationship is changing. Maybe even coming to an end.
So what has losing my milk done to Kieran’s nursing habits?3 Well, so far, he hasn’t completely “weaned.” That is, he still nurses – he just doesn’t get any milk. For any of you pregnant mamas who just cringed at that last statement, I must admit that nursing has not been painful for me during pregnancy. I was slightly more sensitive immediately before I got the positive pregnancy test, but since then it really hasn’t affected me.
I have noticed a difference in his latch, and if he’s still dry nursing by the time my milk comes in, I have a feeling he won’t remember how to nurse effectively (in other words, how to move his mouth correctly to get any milk). He only nurses to fall asleep (he was only rarely asking to nurse at any other time even before my milk dried up), and he’s actually starting to fall asleep without being latched on – he’ll nurse for awhile, roll over, and fall asleep snuggled up next to me. That is a major change from my dedicated nursling of even three months ago. So when he does nurse, it is for shorter and shorter periods of time.
Most surprising to me is that Kieran has made few comments about the changes. When I first noticed my milk drying up, I asked him several times if he was still getting any “mama milk.” Most often he would say yes, but a few times he said no.
Several times over the last few weeks he has randomly come up, given me a hug (while burying his head in my chest), and said “oh mama milk, you are so precious!” (And now here come the tears again!) And then there was the one time where he latched on, said “gross!,” giggled, and ran off. I know that some mamas have said their milk turns almost salty during pregnancy, but that was after I thought my milk was gone, so who knows if he really did taste something “gross,” or whether he was just being silly.4
So this has been my struggle for the past four weeks. I’m ready to share and hear from mamas who have walked this path before me.
If you were forced to wean your toddler/preschooler earlier than expected, how did you and your child handle it? Any tips or wisdom to share?
- The technical term is actually “influenced” weaning – see Weaning and the Ways it Happens. ↩
- For an awesome post on a related topic, read what Michele wrote so eloquently in her own post-weaning depression post on The Daily Momtra. ↩
- This isn’t necessarily a habit, but it is making me sad: coincidentally or directly related, Kieran has been sick for the past three weeks. I can’t help but think that it’s partially due to the loss of all the naturally-designed health benefits my breastmilk gave him. ↩
- He’s also been playing with the word “disgusting” lately, so he might have just been trying out a new word. ↩
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"Forced Weaning Due to Pregnancy"
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