When I stopped breastfeeding my first child, I was already pregnant with my second (yes, so much for breastfeeding preventing pregnancy!), so it just came to a natural end with no dramatics or painful engorgement. With my second, however, the weaning process has been a completely different experience; after almost four years of being pregnant and/or nursing, I was excited to reclaim my body and freedom to take any allergy medication I wanted (that's right, time to live it up!). Little did I know weaning wasn't as simple as stopping, then going crazy with the antihistamines. In fact, it can be a tough time—for which I was unprepared.
Here are 10 things I wish I had known about weaning:
10. Your breasts can become so painfully hard, that a mere breeze can bring you to your knees.
9. Sports bras will be your best friend for the duration of weaning. Embrace them. Love them.
8. Cabbage leaves, normally used as seating and headwear for babies in Anne Geddes' photo shoots, can be placed in your bra to help diminish milk supply and relieve engorgement.
7. The pungent smell of those cabbage leaves can also clear a room immediately, which comes in handy when you don't feel like waiting in the long line at the coffee shop.
6. Peppermint Altoids are also known to decrease milk supply, so if people don't smell the cabbage leaves coming a mile away, they will surely smell your curiously strong and fresh breath.
5. Your hormones can be thrown totally out of whack. I went into a deep depression, worse than anything I had ever suffered postpartum—an overwhelming feeling of gloom and hopelessness. It wasn't until a friend mentioned her post-nursing depression that I realized my state of mind was way more than just sadness about Amy Poehler and Will Arnett's separation. (Although make no mistake about it: I am sad about that, too.)
4. You will miss breastfeeding when you least expect it—such as when your child wakes up in the middle of the night and you can no longer comfort him with nursing. Or when you see a new mother nursing her child. Or when you crave a piece of chocolate cake and think, "If only I were still burning off 500 calories a day!" (The last one is an especially emotional revelation.)
3. Your breasts can look better after breastfeeding. Don't roll your eyes at me—I'm serious! I happened to be on the more ample side before having kids and got smaller than ever after weaning, which turned out to be a beneficial effect.
2. You may leak for months after you stop nursing. That part is not so attractive.
1. Weaning is like breaking up—there may be tears, and stops and starts, and one party who wanted to end it more than the other, but in the end, everyone will be okay and move on. (Unless, of course, you've perished from fatal cabbage fume inhalation in the process. Tragic, but possible.)