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The End of Breastfeeding: Depression After Weaning

I snap at my husband when he tries to use a certain coffee cup. I grit my teeth at my kids when I hear them fighting with each other. I look at my baby drinking whole milk out of a sippy cup and I burst into tears. It is 6:40 a.m. on a Monday and it has been two days since I quit breastfeeding.

It was days away from my son’s first birthday and I began to wean him. I took plenty of time and started by just dropping one feeding a day. About three or four days later, I dropped another one. The transition was very smooth. It was easier to stop breastfeeding my son than I thought it would be. I wasn't expecting that it would be worse for me than him.

It was sometime around when I started dropping feedings that I felt different. I was sad and I didn’t know why. I was irritable and seemed to have less patience than usual. I finally admitted to a close friend how I was feeling.

She told me that I was not alone and she had also experienced sadness shortly after her baby’s first birthday. After talking to her doctor, she found out that it was common for women to experience some depression after weaning due to a shift in hormone levels.

It feels like the worst PMS that I have ever experienced. Emotionally, I feel like I did right around the time when I became pregnant. As I researched this topic, I found that it was more common than I knew. Every entry, blog or question on this topic sounded just like what I was experiencing. It is helpful to know that I am not alone.

If you recently quit breastfeeding and seem to be experiencing feelings like this, TALK TO SOMEONE. Remember to take care of yourself as well as your children.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Add a Comment22 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

i had terrible depression while i was pregnant that pretty much cleared up when i gave birth. now, i have been weaning my 21 mo. old and am down to just one feeding a day. just yesterday i started feeling like hell. super depressed, weepy and anxious. i just can't bear the thought of going into another depression. i'm already on an anti-depression medication so i don't know what to do. it's been a month since i started the weaning process, so i'm not even sure if i can attribute my recent moods to weaning. any insight?
thanks,
LEL

June 12, 2011 - 8:15am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

thats exacly where im at right now, very irritable, snap easily, very very sad and down! i been wondering what was wrong with me, its been going on for 2 -3 weeks now, lately i havent even been able to stand myself but than it dawned on me that maybe its because i suddenly stopped nurning my 10 1/2 month old little less than a month ago. so..... i went on here and looked into it, so thank u for sharing! nobody ever told me what happens after u stop nursing, especially if u stop suddenly. my son started to bite and my 3 1/2 yr old neice had just passed so i decided to stop suddenly instead of slowly weaning, but maybe the grieving has some to do with the irritable and depression as well. hpe this passes soon!

May 5, 2011 - 7:33am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I am having similar feelings and I just stopped breastfeeding my 14 month old son. I also have a 3 year old son. The problem is that my anxiety began a few days before I stopped breastfeeding. I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 4 years and I have only had two cycles (at the very end of nursing). Do you think my symptoms are still related even though they started a few days before?

September 8, 2010 - 10:16am
Susan Schade (reply to Anonymous)

You may have started feeling anxious because you knew the time to stop breastfeeding was coming. Also, by dropping feedings, your hormone levels could have started to change. I would pay attention to how you are feeling over the next couple of days and consult your doctor if you continue to feel the same. Don't be reluctant to talk about it and take care of yourself!

September 8, 2010 - 11:55am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

it was really helpfull to read all these comments. I weaned my 16 month old 4 weeks ago and have been feeling depressed and withdrawn periodically ever since - not wanting to see people and hide in a corner. Very unlike me. I also have a 3,5 and 7 year old and have been either breastfeeding and/or pregnant for the last 7 years and 9 months so maybe this has something to do with the depression. It is really hard to explain how I feel to my fabulous husband as he just thinks it will pass and I shouldn't worry. Should I see my GP or just wait a bit longer. Sometimes I feel like my normal happy self but around mid-cycle and period time I feel awful. Any suggestions?

August 25, 2009 - 2:49am
Susan Schade (reply to Anonymous)

I would talk to your doctor and let him/her know how you are feeling. I think that it is good that you recognize that you are not feeling like yourself. I felt even worse when I would "pretend" like nothing was wrong in front of others, especially my husband. It made me feel very alone. My hope is that your doctor can offer some suggestions (you might even want to call you OBGYN). If you don't feel like you getting what you need, talk to a different doctor or someone that specializes in this area. It looks like you are a busy Mom and deserve to be feeling your best. If my child came to me and said that he was feeling very sad and didn't know why, I would call his doctor instead of waiting for it to pass. You deserve the same attention. Good luck! I would love to hear from you again with an update.

August 25, 2009 - 11:30am
Susan Schade

Thanks for writing! My son also refused milk at first. (Regular whole milk) I continued to give it to him every day and he finally began drinking it. He never drank it from a bottle. I tried several different sippy cups and found that he really likes drinking from a straw. I also would put it in his cereal (baby cereal and Cheerios, etc). That helped to get him used to it. You may also want to see if your pediatrician has any good tips. Best of luck and hope you are feeling better soon!

August 9, 2009 - 8:30pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Wow ... I'm glad I found your site today. I'm actually sitting here crying my eyes out as I read these posts. I quit nursing my 14 month old 3 days ago but I didn't attribute my feelings to the weaning. We were on our way to church with my Mother - In - Law and I actually asked my husband to turn around because I wasn't feeling good. After they left I just sat here and cried! We were only nursing for a few minutes at night so it wasn't an abrupt weaning or anything. I had felt like I really needed to get back on my ADD medicine so I thought now was a good time. Of course I feel guilty for stopping nursing for "myself" (the Concerta). Last night my son pulled on my shirt and sort of fussed when I didn't nurse him but that was it. The last two days I have felt weird! I have been feeling worthless and ill tempered ... everything you guys have been describing! I also had a thought that I was going crazy or something because I had all these depressing thoughts and I couldn't seem to shake it. I have two other children who I weaned at 13 months and 17 months. I honestly don't remember feeling like this before but I'm glad to hear that I am not alone. I just had to write this because already I'm feeling relieved that I am not going crazy :-) I also have a question for you ladies and the milk thing. He hates milk! He never used a bottle so he won't take formula but every time I put milk in a cup he makes a face and throws it down. I've tried adding a little chocolate or strawberry syrup (just a tad) to make it sweeter and it doesn't help. I've also gotten some of those carnation instant shake things and he doesn't like those either. What did you guys do to get your kids to drink milk?
Thanks everyone for letting me ramble!

August 9, 2009 - 8:33am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

After reading these comments, I feel a little better. I had to stop nursing my son on his first birthday for medical reason two days ago. I am so sad! I felt like it was silly to be so depressed, but when I look at my baby refusing milk and formula I start to cry. It's good to know that I am not alone.

July 22, 2009 - 5:15am
Susan Schade (reply to Anonymous)

My son did the same thing. He threw his cups of whole milk on the floor and looked at me and cried as he gave me the baby sign for milk (nursing.) He got over it and now LOVES whole milk. It may take a little time for your baby to get used to because it is new. Best of luck!

July 25, 2009 - 12:52pm
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