Post-weaning Blues

Several months ago, I stopped nursing baby C for a number of reasons but primarily because it was growing increasingly difficult and stressful to try to fit my pumping schedule into my full-time work schedule. I was able to breastfeed C through his first 10 months of life and it’s honestly one of my proudest accomplishments thus far, but the weaning process brought with it some unexpectedly dark days.

For months, I had been eagerly anticipating all of the wonderful things that could happen once I finally stopped breastfeeding: No longer having to drag myself out of bed at 2:00 AM to pump, the freedom of being able to eat meals without referring to the food guide pyramid taped to my fridge, finally being able to indulge in a glass of Riesling at dinner, and of course, reuniting with my beloved Keurig and enjoying guilt-free sips of Wolfgang Puck’s Hawaiian Hazelnut coffee each and every morning. Woo hoo! I simply could.not.wait!

I was totally unprepared for the adverse effect that weaning would have on my emotional well-being which I attribute to my temporary hormonal imbalance. Although I don’t believe that I actually suffered from full-blown Postpartum Depression (PPD), almost a year after my child was born, I experienced many of the symptoms of late onset PPD, including a sudden sense of emptiness, chronic low-level anxiety that I had never felt before, and persistent feelings of guilt and regret. I became very critical of decisions that I had made in the past (things that I now see as inconsequential) and worried that they might have detrimental effects on my son’s future. In general, I grew intensely worried about the baby. I am an overprotective mama by nature so this just brought me to an extreme. I felt like I had to protect him from every little person, place, or thing that we encountered.

Many of the medical professionals that you see right after childbirth, from your OB to your child’s pediatrician, inquire in one way or another about whether you are experiencing any symptoms of PPD. All eyes seem to be on you watching like a hawk for any possible signs. But after several months postpartum, assuming you show no signs of distress, everyone seems to stop asking about it.

In general, there seems to be very little awareness about late onset PPD and very little information available to the parenting community about the possibility of developing it after weaning. I chat with some of my most experienced mommy friends on a daily basis and have never heard any of them talk about this going through this before. I read about 8 pregnancy books when I was expecting (yes, I tend to overdo it) and don’t recall reading about this once. Surprisingly, even a Google search doesn’t yield much information from reliable sources on the topic.

For me, just being able to identify and have a label for what was going on in my body/brain was enormously helpful. I talked about how I was feeling with my hubby so that he could lend extra support and I felt comfortable confiding in my very best friend who I knew would never pass judgment. I made a concerted effort to try to occupy my mind with exciting short-term projects such as planning C’s birthday party and work-related events. After a few months, my hormones seemed to have leveled themselves out and thankfully things have gone back to normal.  

In writing about this, I’m not hoping to gain sympathy, attention, or anything of the sort. I’m just hoping that perhaps someday this post might be informative or helpful to another new mama going through a similar experience.

Has anyone else dealt with symptoms of late onset postpartum depression after weaning?


5 comments

  1. Hi Judy, I always appreciate candid looks into the difficulties of motherhood because sometimes ppl will portray it as all daisies and sunshine. I think that PPD is a very serious and I can believe that onset PPD also occurs in many. Mom’s hormones are changing once again, and maybe Mom misses that connection with baby during breastfeeding. First off, bravo to you for breastfeeding for 10 months! You are an inspiration for me, for my next baby (whenever that is ;) ). Second, like you, I probably didn’t have full-blown PPD right after birth, but I sure had my ups and very low downs. A lot of it was due to stress of a newborn, stress of a move, and stress of a job change. Since then, the hubs and I are constantly working on our stress levels (especially since we also just moved). I think that, for me, the depression was more about the husband-wife relationship than parenting hardships. I think we are in a “happy” place and so I haven’t been “depressed” for a while. Long comment short, I think you are brave for acknowledging and publicizing your struggle with last onset of PPD and I think you will help a lot of moms out there. Hope some breastfeeding mommies can chime-in with their experiences!

  2. I would imagine that anyone who places such an important emphasis on something (such as breastfeeding for as long as possible) will experience some sort of emotional imbalance when it ends. It’s been such a major part of your life for the past (~) year, surely it’s hard to fill that void. Also, it sounds like circumstances were a large reason why you stopped breastfeeding, rather than a child who is no longer interested … and of course that plays into guilt of not doing it long enough, guilt of being a working mom, etc. I think it’s really courageous of you to be open enough to talk about it.

  3. kathy says:

    this post hits close to home because i suffered from severe late onset of PPD that lasted close to two and a half years simply because i didn’t know what was going on and also because people were always telling me “it’ll pass” or “it’s normal”. at least you knew what was going on and did something about it before it got out of hand. mine didn’t occur because of breastfeeding; it just sort of built up from the frustration of first-time motherhood and crazy hormonal imbalances.

    as for breastfeeding, that was part of you and your child’s bond for so long that it’s normal to miss it and feel a little sad to see it end. however, that bond will always be there and will be further enriched with the things you do with your baby as C grows. in my mind, we do what we can for our kids the best way we know how. while we do what we can for them, sometimes it’s also for *us* and there’s nothing wrong with that. i stopped breastfeeding when my daughter was only 3months old because i was SO incredibly miserable doing it (she took SO long to feed – about 2hrs EACH TIME) and i was so unhappy and exhausted. i decided to stop and pump instead and/or give her formula but i felt tremendous guilt over it; like i was denying her my milk when my body is designed to give her the best nutrition there is. because of that thought, i felt like a horrible mother. but then my sister set me straight – she told me that as long as kayla is healthy, happy, fed and loved, who cares if she is given milk directly from my breast, with a bottle or formula?!

    i guess when you’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to see things in perspective and what she told me was just what i needed to hear to set things in perspective. in the grand scheme of things, our kids won’t resent us for not breastfeeding or stopping breastfeeding. it’s not like they’ll say “you don’t love me because you didn’t breastfeed/you stopped breastfeeding me!!!!!!”. all those negative thoughts and scary things we fear over many things about parenthood is mostly in our heads.

    i’m glad you found someone to talk to. that really does help clear your mind.

    • TalkingThirty says:

      thanks so much for sharing your experiences, kathy. although i’m very sorry to hear that you experienced severe late onset PPD after kayla was born, i’m glad to hear that you had the support of your sister to get you through. my older sister also played a big role in getting me through, helping me to see that the thoughts of guilt and remorse that i was feeling over certain incidents in the past were somewhat illogical and unfounded.

  4. Hi,

    I am so happy you have shared your experience. I recently wrote about my experience. I went looking for other women with similar experiences and I found many, including your wonderful post.

    After weaning my toddler, who is 2 and a half, I experienced mild post-weaning blues. This is my fourth child. I never experienced this with my other children. I have never experience PPD in any form.

    Some of us do not experience anything like this until we have weaned our child, sometimes years after childbirth, as in my case. I do not consider my experience late onset PPD. I believe the issue of post-weaning blues deserves its own research. There are many women out there with my same experience who have nursed for well past 2 years.

    I believe strongly that so many areas of women’s health get short shrift. We need more research into these issues. We need better understanding of how our complex bodies work.

    Again, thanks so much for sharing your personal experience with the rest of us mamas!

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