Although weaning your child becomes necessary at some point, the post-weaning period can involve a few difficulties. Understanding the weaning process and its potential problems is your best defense; you can prevent most problems by weaning properly.
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If you wean your baby too quickly, your breasts continue to fill with milk. Because the baby is no longer nursing, your breasts may hurt and become swollen. To prevent engorgement, wean your child gradually.
Plugged Milk Ducts
The large amount of milk building up in the breasts puts pressure on the milk ducts, causing them to become plugged. A plugged duct appears as a tender, warm, reddish lump in your breast. To avoid plugged ducts, wean slowly; to treat them, apply wet, warm washcloths and massage your breast gently, advises Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Because it takes time for the breasts to cease milk production, you may experience leakage after weaning. This problem can last for weeks after you have stopped breastfeeding, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
During the breastfeeding period, the breasts swell as they fill with milk. After weaning, when the milk ceases to fill the breasts, the breasts may sag. After a few menstrual cycles, the breasts may return to their normal, pre-pregnancy state.
The hormone changes that occur when the mother’s body stops producing milk could cause depression, warns the Texas Children’s Pediatric Associates. To minimize the likelihood that you will face post-breastfeeding depression, stop nursing gradually rather than quickly. If you experience depression, tell your doctor and ask your family and friends for support.
Breastfeeding uses about 500 calories per day; hence, when you stop breastfeeding, you will retain more of the calories that you consume. Unless you decrease your daily intake of calories, you may gain weight after you wean your child, La Leche League advises.
Effects on Baby’s Health
Consuming breast milk enhances your baby’s immune system and provides significant health benefits. When you stop breastfeeding, your child is less protected from illness and infection. The protective benefits of breastfeeding will aid your baby’s health throughout childhood, even for years after weaning. But the anti-infection effects protect the child much better while he continues to breastfeed, explains La Leche League.
Effects on Baby's Mood
Your baby may feel deprived and sad when you stop breastfeeding, especially if he associates nursing with comfort. He may not feel fully comforted unless he gets to nurse. This effect can also occur if you nurse your baby almost every time you hold him, warns Amplatz Children’s Hospital. After weaning, the child may feel that cuddling is inadequate without breastfeeding. You can prevent these complications before you wean your baby, the Hospital notes; use nursing only for feeding, not for comforting.