What You Don’t Know About Weaning: Sadness, Rage, and Hormones

A postpartum client recently reached out with an important question: Why did her emotions feel so jacked up after weaning her baby? She found herself uncontrollably crying one minute and raging at her partner the next. She felt completely out of control and had no idea why. The only thing that had changed recently was her breastfeeding relationship with her baby, whom she had just recently weaned.

So what in the world was happening to her?

One word: Hormones. Hormones are happening to her. Specifically, the fluctuation of hormones that happens when breastfeeding comes to an end.

During breastfeeding, so many hormones come into play - oxytocin, prolactin, estrogen - and our bodies have to adjust to that new normal. Once we stop breastfeeding, our bodies have to adjust again. And this adjustment time can really make people feel like they are riding some horrible emotional roller coaster.

And the worst part of that emotional roller coaster: it’s a surprise.

That’s right. I have found that so many breastfeeding parents have no idea what awaits them after weaning. They have been prepared for the baby blues and maybe even the onset of postpartum depression in those early months, but no one talks about the possibility of postpartum depression and other mood and anxiety disorders following the end of breastfeeding. But they should.

In addition to the possible physical side-effects of weaning, such as plugged ducts or mastitis, there are emotional and mental side-effects as well. Of course, ending that breastfeeding relationship with your baby comes with so many feelings and that is completely normal.

But if you find yourself experiencing symptoms like sadness, crying, anxiety, loss of interest in family or activities, loss of appetite, insomnia, or mood swings that persist, you could be experiencing postpartum depression or some other mood or anxiety disorder. Even if your baby is older than 12 months.

Yep, that’s right. These things can appear even after the first year postpartum, especially when weaning. So if you have recently weaned your baby and you feel like something is just not right, please reach out to your provider. If you are experiencing symptoms of a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder, you do not have to suffer in silence.

Ending a breastfeeding relationship comes with big changes but when these changes seem too overwhelming, help is here.