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Thread: Weaning depression and difficulties

  1. #1

    Default Weaning depression and difficulties

    I have had the worst time weaning my now 14 month old. Every time I dropped a nursing session, my emotions went haywire. It was much more than being sad about losing the bond- it felt very hormonal- angry, depressed, emotional in general.

    The combination of that and my little one seeming ready encouraged me to progress with the weaning. It has now been over a month since the last time I breastfed. The past few days, I felt that familiar "let down" feeling- and realized I am still producing milk. That awful emotional roller coaster is back as well.

    My doctor doesn't seem to have seen this before... anyone else know how long it is truly normal to keep producing milk after weaning completely? Or know anyone else who has had the emotional roller coaster?

    Any advice or support is greatly appreciated

  2. #2
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    May 2006
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    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    It's normal for a woman to produce milk for as much as a year after her baby is completely weaned. If it continued significantly beyond a year, then you'd want to see your doc again. But right now, there's absolutely no need to worry!

    Emotional turmoil during the weaning process is also entirely normal, especially when the weaning happens early. (And 14 months is early, from a biological standpoint!) One reason why this may happen is that when a baby nurses, the hormone oxytocin is released into the mom's bloodstream. Oxytocin has a lot of different functions- including helping to create letdowns- but is often called the "love hormone" because it produces feelings of contentment, relaxation, mood elevation, and bonding. Basically, it makes you feel nice! And when you stop nursing... Less oxytocin means less nice feelings.

    Are you interested in nursing again? No pressure, of course!
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    I very much agree with mommal that it is normal for you to be producing milk at this point, and I also agree I think it is entirely normal to feel sad and even angry during the weaning process. Emotional response specifically at letdown is also normal. It would be a matter of degree as to if this was a signal of something more serious going on.

    I am curious, Had you been feeling these emotions at letdown all through the nursing experience, or more recently? Did they start after the weaning process began or before? Were they as pronounced while your child nursed or less than if they occurred when your child was not nursing?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    Thank you both!! When I feel any sort of let down I did feel worse, but I noticed it at random times and throughout the day. I felt the opposite when I was nursing- it was all positive emotions and relaxed me. It all started at weaning. Every time I "cut" a nursing session, I was sad, depressed, irritable, and just didn't feel like myself (I never get angry- and kept snapping at my husband and couldn't even believe my own emotions!). It usually got a little better each day then started all over every time we went down a nursing session.

    I had problems with depression years ago, so everyone was on high alert for me to have postpartum issues. I had every ingredient- no help, too much on my plate, baby was a terrible sleeper and I was exhausted but I was FINE. I attribute a lot of that to nursing- Oxytocin definitely helped me out!!

    I would definitely nurse future children (and longer next time), but the emotional roller coaster seems to be taking a turn for the better and I don't think I could take going through this again in a few months or a year.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*smileybaby View Post
    I would definitely nurse future children (and longer next time), but the emotional roller coaster seems to be taking a turn for the better and I don't think I could take going through this again in a few months or a year.
    I totally understand! I just want to point out- for next time- that what you've experienced might not happen with baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning usually takes a very gradual course- it might take several years to go from the introduction of solid foods to complete weaning. And as time goes on, nursing sessions tend to get shorter. My guess is that oxytocin levels would also go through a slow and gentle decline, instead of an abrupt withdrawal.

    Just something to think about for your next baby- if you choose to have one.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    Thanks so much for explaining your specific feelings more, I hope I was not being nosy! It’s just that the emotions of breastfeeding, specifically with letdown, nursing ‘older’ babies, and weaning, is an area I have been thinking about a lot lately and it’s something not many folks talk about. I am not sure how this might relate, but I have experienced something interesting (to me) with my third baby I do not recall having as much of with my older two. With my daughter, for many months, and still occasionally, I regularly felt a distinct wave of emotion when I letdown. This became much more pronounced or at least noticeable to me after she was about a year old. I felt this much more if I let down when NOT nursing than when I was, and it was also more pronounced if it was 'past time' to nurse, so the letdown was bigger, if that makes sense. In my case, while this emotional wave would usually bring tears to my eyes, and sometimes even a sob or two, these clearly hormonal episodes were not connected to unhappy emotions. (I have actually been in a very good state of mind generally during my baby's second year, far better than with my first two.) So I experienced this more as a wave of love for my child that would bring tears to my eyes. (And also, more practically, my body signaling me that it was time to nurse.) I have found this an interesting experience, so I am always eager to talk about anything that sounds at all similar. Some mothers experience the hormonal change at letdown VERY negatively, even causing physical pain. You may have read about it. This has been called “D-Mer.’ So I imagine the emotions of letdown are very varied.
    Like all other aspects of breastfeeding, weaning involves both the child and the mother. So it makes sense to me that your child can be 'weaned" but your body is not 'weaned' quite yet. And yes, hormones are why, as well as the fact many mothers feel conflicted about weaning if it was less their choice and more someone else's-even if it was the child's choice! (Ask any mother who has gone through a nursing 'strike'-those can be very painful, emotionally.) Another reason weaning may hit a mom particularly hard is if it was a 'quick' weaning, or, as mommal suggests, an ‘early’ weaning, biologically speaking.
    There is also whatever else may be going on in your life that may be hard. Again, speaking from personal experience, mothering a young toddler, as adorable and charming as toddlers are, can be quite a difficult period.
    I think that now that your child is no longer nursing, your milk production will reduce and you will stop feeling letdowns and the strong emotions connected specifically with that will abate. How long this will take is uncertain, but it is unlikely to be very long.
    If on reflection, you think that part of the issue is that baby has weaned earlier than perhaps you would have liked, you can see if your child will nurse again if offered and encouraged, and go back to nursing your child as much as you both like for as long as you like. I understand that you don't want to go through this again, and I get that! I do think that the older your child and the more gradual the weaning, the less painful weaning is likely to be. But of course this may not be something that appeals to you and that is fine. It sounds as if the weaning was gentle and that your child is doing fine with it, and maybe your body just needs to catch up.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    I am definitely learning that the hormonal influence of nursing is huge and often quite different from mom to mom (and baby to baby). With letdown comes a surge of hormones, so it seems perfectly logical that a surge of emotion would accompany.

    I tried to wean very gradually... even the baby led weaning (like going down from newborn needs to eating solid foods) was tough. any time the sessions decreased, it took a huge toll on my emotions. Hopefully I am at the end of it- knowing that it is normal to still be producing milk for up to a year makes me feel much better.

    Thank you both again. I really appreciate the advice and support!!!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    I am very interested in this too! I have a 16 mo old who has a kind of "take it or leave it" attitude towards nursing. However, I feel like I am emotionally dependent on the oxytocin rush that accompanies my let-down. So much so, that if DS doesn't elicit one or doesn't feel like nursing at our normal times, I generally need to pump, just to get the relief. My husband jokingly calls it "blue boobs"
    For his sake (and my own), I wish I could pump wean and have a more cavalier attitude about our current nursing relationship, so that weaning goes smoothly, when little guy decides.
    I've been wondering what to do about this to help myself emotionally. I've been considering therapy, but don't know if I really have the time or money. It's weird, sometimes i feel like i am continuing nursing more for myself than for my baby. Everyone I talk to said the weaning process was "no big deal", but I find it to be a huge deal, and it's been very slow for us...

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    Sorry, slow in a good way! Meaning that it should be painless and gradual, but it is not, because i am more "into it" than my guy!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Weaning depression and difficulties

    From a biological standpoint, 16 months is really early to be weaning. So it's really not that strange that you feel unready. But I bet you're ready to be done with the pump, and the "blue boobs" feeling. Next time you feel that way, how about hand-expressing just enough milk to get the relief feeling, leaving the breast fairly full? That might give you the relief feeling while still allowing your supply to throttle back a bit.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

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