‘Mothers should try to understand their own journey for a smoother weaning period’

‘Mothers should try to understand their own journey for a smoother weaning period’

Looking at their own breastfeeding experiences as a baby and relations with their mothers may help mothers during process, says expert

By Merve Berker

ANKARA (AA) – Weaning can be a challenging process for both sides, but mothers can help the process go more smoothly if they try to understand their own breastfeeding experiences as a baby and their relations with their own mothers, said a Turkish psychologist.

With World Breastfeeding Week being celebrated on Aug. 1-7, Anadolu spoke with experts on the matter to understand the difficulties mothers face during the weaning period as well as how to go through an easier process and what responsibilities all sides have to shoulder to be able to do so.

Psychologist Begum Kodalak Bilik told Anadolu that breastfeeding is an experience which pleases the baby as well as providing trust and compassion. She said it is also of vital importance for the mother in terms of reducing their stress level as well as the risk of developing certain diseases, including breast cancer.

She said that mothers who were unable to provide their babies with breast milk should not worry whether their bonding with their babies will be strong enough, saying breastfeeding is not the only way to form this bond.

About the necessary time limit for breastfeeding, she emphasized that both sides should be ready to “quit the dance.”

Warning parents not to take immediate actions to stop breastfeeding, including “making babies cry, distancing babies from themselves, and putting some substances on their breasts to make the babies feel disgusted by sucking, Bilik said these would be traumatic for the little ones, which may have a significant effect on their relationships with other people when they are adults.

To go through a smoother process, Bilik advised mothers to look at their own breastfeeding and weaning experiences.

“Mothers might also have a look at their relations with their own mothers,” she suggested, adding that figuring out their own stories might help them survive this likely challenging process more easily.

Fathers play a significant role in this process by lending a helping hand and being supportive to the mother, she said, calling on them to be an active part of the whole process, including before, after and during pregnancy.

- Freeing themselves from social pressure

Dr. Selcuk Somer, an obstetrician and gynecologist, also shared his experience and thoughts on the matter with Anadolu.

Regarding the benefits of breast milk, he said it has been proven to be crucially beneficial for both mother and baby.

Breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast cancer for the mother, he stressed.

“Even if the mother feeds her baby with only one breast, there would be a risk difference of 25% between both breasts,” he said.

He strongly emphasized that women “have to free themselves from the social pressure they might be facing from their environment.”

“They should not compare themselves with other mothers,” he underlined.

The best way to start the process of weaning is doing it slowly by observing the needs of both baby and mother, which differ in every single family.

“Babies might feel unloved during this period,” he warned, advising parents to “show much more affection and love to their babies to compensate for the absence of breastfeeding.”

- Farewell to breast milk, first step of individualization

Ipek Turcan also expressed her thoughts about the issue in an exclusive interview with Anadolu as both a professional parent guide and a mother of five years.

Saying farewell to breast milk is the very first step for a baby to individualize, she said.

“It also means saying goodbye to a period in which both the baby and the mother are nourished emotionally.”

Whatever the reason for stopping breastfeeding, it is valuable for the baby and the mother to “be ready emotionally and physically, and the weaning process should be spread over a certain period to protect breast health,” she said.

Otherwise, it may cause sadness or anxiety for those who are not ready, she warned.

“The well-intentioned sharing, interventions of women who have had this experience around the mother before and the mother's inability to stop it, the lack of sufficient information, may not be good for the mother during this period when hormones are active,” Turcan noted.

She advised women to protect themselves from misinformation by educating themselves on the matter.

Recalling that this process is not solely the mother’s responsibility, she called on fathers to actively participate in the process to smoothly adapt to fatherhood.

The involvement of the father in the whole process from the very beginning will both physically relax the mother and emotionally nourish her, she underscored.

“The fact that the mother is supported and happy is the first condition for the entire family to be happy.”

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