Breastfeeding can be physically painful; irritated nipples, sore breasts, and back pain are just some of the side effects. But despite the discomfort, the act of breastfeeding also triggers a whirlwind of emotions, connecting a mother and her baby in a unique and powerful way. Now, one mom is revealing just how hard it can be to break that beautiful bond for good.
Last week, Instagram influencer and mother-of-five Brenda Stearns shared what it feels like to stop breastfeeding. Stearns, who regularly opens up about her experiences as a mom on her page, posted a close-up photo of herself breastfeeding her youngest son.
“I have been looking forward to this moment for so long when I’ll finally have my breasts all to myself,” she wrote in her caption. “I have been breastfeeding nonstop for over 8 years... including tandem nursing, and I have craved the days when I wouldn’t breastfeed, I’d dream about wearing whatever I wanted because for eight straight years I’ve wore what makes my breasts more accessible for my babies.”
But now, as she begins to wean her youngest son, the idea of losing that emotional bond is scarier than she imagined.
“Now I’m not sure I want it, I’m not ready. I don’t feel ready to let go, to not be needed anymore,” she wrote. “I didn’t think it would be this hard. How do I get past the grief? Does it get better? I thought I would be celebrating this moment of weaning but I’m not celebrating, I’m grieving that this just might be one of the last times I’ll breastfeed.”
Stearns' experience isn't uncommon; her post received comments from other mothers sharing similar feelings about giving up nursing.
"I felt the same way when I weaned," one commenter wrote. "Guilty, sad, feeling like I was going to lose that one on one time. I literally cried at the thought. Then once I did I was surprisingly ok. You’ll always be their momma and that connection will always be there regardless of whether your nursing or not."
The strong emotions women experience during breastfeeding are actually backed up by science. Production of the so-called "love hormone" oxytocin is ramped up when a woman breastfeeds. Oxytocin helps create a stronger, more intimate psychological bond between mom and baby, according to the American Pregnancy Association,
As for Stearns, many commenters reassured her that weaning herself away from nursing isn't easy and takes time.
"I cried the first time my baby had a bottle. I cried the first time someone else fed my baby with milk. It was hard but someday, don't now when, I woke up and it was OK," one mother wrote on her post. "So, yes, it does get better."
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