Feeling down after weaning? You’re not alone!

Feeling down after weaning? You’re not alone!

"When I stopped breastfeeding I had a few weeks of almost a depression where I didn't want to soothe my little one or do much of anything. After my normal hormones took back over and everything was balancing back out it all went back to normal."

"I kept thinking that it felt like the postpartum depression I had with my first, but it didn't kick in until I stopped breastfeeding. It was awful because I wasn't expecting it and had never heard of anyone else experiencing it. I'm glad to see it being talked about. This would have helped me a lot."

"I wish more people knew and talked about this more. After my oldest weaned, I went through this for a few months and had no idea what was “wrong” with me. It was awful. I finally got through it, but it was ugly…I am so thankful, every day, that I have such a loving husband that worked through it with me and didn't give up. Thankfully I didn't really experience it much with the next 2!"

"I thought it was in my head, but have experienced this too when I stopped breastfeeding! I'm so glad your putting this out there!"

- Comments from our Facebook page

Your breastfeeding journey has come to an end. So why do you feel so terrible?

While there is very little research examining mood changes at weaning, it's apparent that some women experience feelings of sadness around this event. It is “certainly plausible that losing [these hormones] is going to make people feel physically bad, independent of any cognitive sadness they’re experiencing,” says Dr. Alison Stuebe, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina.

The theory is that the loss of the hormones of breastfeeding may contribute to mood disorders. Oxytocin and prolactin, the two key hormones of breastfeeding, drop during weaning. Prolactin is known for causing feelings of calm and relaxation. Oxytocin is nature's love potion, inducing feelings of attachment and warmth toward others. When the levels of those hormones decline - particularly if it happens abruptly - some women may experience mood changes. In addition, some women, even those for whom breastfeeding has gone well and is ending in a satisfactory way, feel sadness at the loss of this relationship.

What can you do?

If possible, wean gradually to avoid a “crash” in your hormone levels.  If this isn’t possible or doesn’t work (even mothers who wean gradually may experience these feelings), check out this page of comfort measures for moms during weaning. If possible, consider doing some skin-to-skin or extra snuggling time with your child - this kind of closeness can raise your prolactin and oxytocin levels even if you aren’t nursing. 

And if you are concerned that your mood may be depressive or otherwise troubling, be sure to seek help from a health care provider. You may also want to explore the use of herbs and supplements for postpartum mood disorders.

This information is provided for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please see your healthcare provider for care related to your individual concerns.
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