You never thought about nipples so much in your life and suddenly, it’s over. Goodbye nipple cream and breastfeeding pads and pumps and milk bags.
You’re done breastfeeding.
Whether you weaned quickly or it took weeks, you couldn’t wait to be done or you’re devastated, the end of breastfeeding your baby is a big change. It affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now that you’re done putting the baby to the breast, it’s time for a check in on you.
First things first: Go buy some new bras
No more clip downs, no more milk-stained pads–you’re free. Treat yourself to some new bras. Because more than likely, your breasts are not the same size or shape that they were pre-breastfeeding. It may even be worth getting sized by a professional at stores like Nordstrom, Macy’s, or Victoria’s Secret. (Or you can measure yourself using these tips here.)
Reassess your eating habits
Breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories a day– this includes the making of breast milk as well as the act of giving baby breastmilk. When that stops, we can be left consuming more calories than we actually need.
When I was breastfeeding, my appetite was as voracious as a growing teenage boy’s. I was constantly hungry and ate whatever I wanted. But when I stopped breastfeeding my eating habits caught up with me.
Suddenly I felt bloated, my jeans fit tighter, and I constantly felt full. Also, I gained weight. (And yes, I know some people lose weight after they finish breastfeeding –yay if that’s you– but for me it was the opposite.) I had to relearn how to listen to my body and eat when I was truly hungry, instead of eating to keep my milk supply up.
Some questions to ask yourself: am I eating enough protein, fat, fiber, and greens to stay energized, happy and satisfied? Am I snacking endlessly on empty carbs? Am I actually hungry? What makes me feel good?
Say hello to a sexier sex life
Has sex been uncomfortable since you had your baby? You’re not alone. A recent study showed that 61 percent of women have painful postpartum sex at 3 months postpartum.
Many things can affect your sex life postpartum; the scar tissue from tearing during vaginal birth or scar tissue from your c-section, lack of sleep, leaky nipples, and body image issues. But hormones can also affect your sex life.
Prolactin is at an all-time high when we’re breastfeeding. This hormone helps us produce breastmilk, but it also causes low estrogen; the hormone that helps with our sexual desire and gives us that nice, natural lubrication.
“When there’s a decrease in estrogen, there’s a decrease in blood flow and natural lubrication to the genitals,” nurse and lactation consultant Amey Fields, RN, told The Bump. “Because of this, breastfeeding moms can expect some vaginal dryness and increased vaginal tenderness.”
Here’s the good news: once you finish breastfeeding your prolactin levels decrease and your estrogen levels increase. This should give you a stronger sexual desire, an ability to become more easily aroused, and (hopefully) a hotter sex life.
You may have some new cavities
There is a link between tooth decay and moms who breastfeed. Maybe it’s because we’re physically giving away vitamins and minerals through our breastmilk? Or maybe it’s because we’re so busy taking care of our baby that we neglect our health? Either way, it’s never a bad thing to check in with your dentist.
Calcium is an essential mineral for a growing baby, and studies show that babies get calcium directly from their mother’s bone mass. Guess what major nutrient is needed for your teeth? Calcium.
A decrease in calcium levels (and a decrease in dental hygiene) can increase the risk of tooth decay and cavities for us moms. I get it—I’m constantly forgetting to schedule health checkups for myself. Life is busy enough and my kids already have so many appointments. This isn’t a guilt trip, just a gentle reminder: go make a dentist appointment for yourself.
Let yourself feel the change
Whether you are thrilled to finally be done breastfeeding, sad that it’s not lasting as long as you wanted, or anything in between, let yourself feel it. We enter breastfeeding with so many societal and personal expectations, but our own experience is unique.
It’s okay to grieve the end of breastfeeding, to celebrate it, or both.
When we breastfeed oxytocin (the bonding and “feel good” hormone) is released. This hormone makes us feel calm and happy and close to our baby. When you stop breastfeeding, it decreases dramatically, which changes how we feel. The lack of a milk let down means a lack of those mood-boosting hormones.
If you notice yourself feeling a little more emotionally charged with sadness or anxiety, that’s normal. You can still bond with your baby—read books, curl up in a chair while you feed them a bottle of milk (or they drink it themselves).
Also, check in with a friend or family member, talk to a counselor or a trusted person in your life. This can be a big transition. Hold space. Give yourself time. Let yourself feel it. It’s okay.