After months of trying every tactic I could find to wean my toddler from breastfeeding, I was down to my last option: cold turkey. Not being a mother who has ever attempted to let my children cry it out, or any other form of withholding, the idea of going cold turkey made me very nervous at best.
At first, when I realized that this would be my final plea to reclaim my body and to train my child to self-soothe instead of using nursing as a comfort tool, I was sure that it would only be hard for the first couple of days. I hadn’t a clue of how tough it would ultimately prove to be. In fact, if I had to do it over again, I would have wished that someone could have warned me about these 10 surprising things that will likely happen when stopping breastfeeding cold turkey.
1. I Leaked Everywhere
For the first week, I soaked through so many shirts that I was having flashbacks to when I had just given birth and my milk was coming in. Remember those days? When your nipples are raw and the milk floweth?
2. I Ate Everything
My hormones crashed and with that came an undeniable urge to eat my way through the pantry every night. It was like one part emotional eating and two parts hormonal eating. Whatever it was didn’t matter; I was smashing chips on pizza slices or toasting bagels at 9 p.m. every night in the beginning of cold turkey weaning.
3. I Cried All the Time
TV commercials, PBS Kids, the scent of my child’s hair, those small chubby fingers, the pile of laundry, my husband’s deer-in-headlights-look—they all made me burst into desperate tears. It was almost embarrassing. Almost. Until I reminded myself that my hormones had crashed and I was a legit wreck, but that was OK. I would get through it.
4. My Child Was Fine and Then Not Fine
I had not expected that at first my kid would be totally OK with this new plan, but that on day five he would experience heaving panic attack-like crying fits while screaming, “Mad, Mad, Mad at Mama!” Talk about smashing my heart and cracking my resolve to do this cold turkey thing!
5. I Hit a Dark Place
Depression began to creep in in small ways after stopping breastfeeding. I was having trouble sleeping, trouble feeling upbeat, and then I started to wonder if my hormonal crash was making me feel the blues. My body was hurting, and my brain was sad, and my heart cried. I reached out to friends and family, and they caught me in a trust fall of support so that I could ride this natural low without letting it eat me alive.
6. But It Was Temporary
Just like my hormonal crash would turn out to be temporary, so too did this stage of feeling depressed. I began to feel like I was in control, doing the right thing, and looking forward to seeing this through. My emotions were on a wild ride but at least I was beginning to see that that was all it was: a wild ride.
7. Cabbage, Hot Water, Yoga, and Sleep Really Are Your Best Friends
Seriously, though, stuff that cabbage into your bra, use those hot water heating pads, get all the sleep you can, move your body, and don’t beat yourself up for eating all the carbs. By stopping breastfeeding, you are literally changing the chemistry of your body! And trust me: It is weird—and hard.
8. I Inexplicably Wanted Another Baby
Hormones do funny things. Just like when you quit smoking and your brain tries to trick you into smoking again, so too will your lady hormones. For a streak of three days, I swear to God, I was in heat! I wanted a third child like no one ever wanted anything—ever.
9. I Wanted to Give Up 389 Times Before Lunch
It’s true. The look of disappointment in my kid’s eye, my ridiculously sore boobs, my wet shirts, my empty junk food drawer, all were telling me to give up. But I didn’t. I struggled through it—for better, or worse, but mostly better.
10. Having to Rethink Naps and Bedtime Routines
Had I had my wits about me at all then it would have occurred to me that the times of day when I nursed were generally when my child needed sleep. So obviously, I would need to rethink sleep routines. How would I get this child to sleep without the boob?! It turns out I would have to try 3,485 things until we figured that out together.
I would never recommend that anyone try to quit nursing cold turkey. But for me, it was my last-ditch effort after trying every solution I could find and after seeking help from a lactation expert. Despite the sometimes painful, sometimes uncomfortably wet obstacles, this was the best decision I could have made. Although nursing may come to a natural end with grace and ease for some mothers, it didn’t for me, and yet my bond with my child is stronger for it. I won’t lie, though, I am truly sad to see my era of breastfeeding end.