Moms stop breastfeeding for many reasons, including the nuisance of pumping at work, children struggling to latch, or a kid being old enough to ask for “noonies.” Deciding when to stop breastfeeding is as much an emotional and personal experience for women as deciding to breastfeed in the first place. But while the breastfeeding journey affects women physically, psychologically, and emotionally, so too does stopping. Which means moms and dads both should expect things to get a little weird, and dads should expect to help.
What Happens When you Stop Breastfeeding
“If a woman abruptly stops breastfeeding, she will likely deal with engorgement for the first few days,” explains Olivia Anderson, a registered nurse, and mother of two. She notes that leaking is also very common with going cold turkey. “If you slowly wean over time, your breasts will lose the fullness they experienced while breastfeeding and will change shape a bit.”
Mother of two Candice de Beer, says she experienced a change in breast shape after she stopped breastfeeding. In fact, she needed to buy entirely different bras.
“The base of my boob is broader, while the top has lost all fullness. I need a bra that has a wider base otherwise I look like I’m spilling out of the sides of the bra,” de Beer says. “Two years later, and if I squeeze my breast what looks like a teardrop of colostrum oozes out.”
Since breastfeeding burns so many calories, when Amber Nash stopped breastfeeding her two children, she found it was much easier to put on weight — an expected outcome of the hormonal shifts women go through during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and weaning stages. Also, because of the decline in bonding hormones like oxytocin after she stopped breastfeeding, Nash recalls her baby fever going away entirely.
“I had pretty much constant baby fever while breastfeeding,” she says. “I don’t know if it was the breastfeeding hormones or the act of bonding with my baby several times a day, but now that I’m no longer breastfeeding, my desire to procreate is practically nonexistent.”
All three moms were able to stave off extra sagging and discomfort with some small lifestyle adjustments and home remedies. These included increasing exercise, changing diet, buying newer more supportive bras, adding collagen powder water, and interestingly, using cabbage as a cold compress, which can also decrease extra milk supply.
Depending on if women stop gradually or abruptly, hormones should return to pre-pregnancy levels within six to eight weeks. Dr. Angela Jones, an OBGYN and Astroglide’s resident sexual health adviser, explains that when this happens, women can expect their bodies to return to normal once regular periods resume. But the declines in oxytocin and prolactin can leave some mothers sad and anxious as their physical symptoms lessen.
“It can be downright depressing for some women,” Jones says, noting that it’s temporary and a patient and supportive partner can help a lot during that process. On the upside, when women stop breastfeeding and their hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels, they may start to enjoy sex more. “Breastfeeding tends to keep the vagina in a low estrogen state, so not only will their vaginas feel better when they stop, but sex will too.”
That can be great news after a post-baby dry spell, but it’s important to note that regular ovulation resumes during this time as well, making it a lot easier to get pregnant again. For couples who are not looking to get right back on the roller coaster, it’s important to take the proper precautions.