5 Stages of Post-Weaning Depression
As many of you may know, my feeding journey was quite a bumpy one (if you’d like to read more specifics on that, you can do so here). I had anticipated that I would exclusively breastfeed, but in the end, that wasn’t the right decision for our family. After only a few days of breastfeeding and seven long weeks of pumping, I decided to ditch the boob for a bottle and call it a day. I was relieved to finally make a decision that felt like it was the right one for me and my son, but what I didn’t know was the emotional toll that weaning would take on me. Since neither my mom nor my grandma breastfed, I really had no idea what to expect. I assumed that I would just decided to stop pumping and I would wait for my milk to dry up, easy as that. I had no idea that a woman’s hormones go extra crazy when lactation stops causing a whirlwind of emotions that are just as bad, if not worse than the initial postpartum emotion fluctuations I had dealt with a few weeks earlier.
If you have decided to wean your child, do not let this scare you! I am absolutely happy with the decision I made to stop pumping and would make that same decision one hundred times over. However, I would have liked a heads up as to where my mind would be headed in the days following that decision, so I wanted to provide that for you here!
Here are some of the feelings that you might experience once you begin weaning your child:
Guilt | We all know how bad mommy guilt can be, but weaning took this to a whole new level for me. My emotions ran the gamut from I’m not giving my child the nourishment he needs to I’m being completely selfish. I was absolutely wracked with guilt and felt I had no where to turn to find support. Know that if this is you, mama, I absolutely have your back! You’re doing great!
Regret | I quickly began to regret my decision, but for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t that I wanted to continue pumping, but that I felt so guilty that I was pressuring myself to resume something that I hated. I went as far as to contemplate picking up the pump again after I had stopped, just to get the guilt and regret to subside. Of course, I didn’t, and I’m so glad for it, as it would have just reset this entire cycle, but I truly felt helpless and I wasn’t sure what to do.
Shame | I felt so ashamed for ending our “breastfeeding relationship”, even though the whole idea of that was a failure as soon as it started. Breastfeeding didn’t work well for either of us, but because it’s what I felt I was supposed to do, I felt wholeheartedly ashamed to admit that I was stopping. I had many people try to support me by giving me advice on supplements and techniques, but what I really needed was for someone to tell me it was okay for me to give up and move on with my life for the sake of my son and my own mental health.
Sadness/Mourning | As silly as it sounds, the profound amount of sadness that I felt can only be described as mourning for what might have been. I grieved the loss of the breastfeeding experience that I had hoped to have, but would never be able to accomplish. I cried over how unfair it was for so many women to have milk and never want it, but for me, the person who desperately wanted to breastfeed her son, to never have enough to sustain him.
Acceptance | Ultimately, I was able to come to terms with what could be called breastfeeding failure. My unique set of circumstances meant that I would never be able to breastfeed successfully and that we were much happier as a family for relying solely on formula. As horrible as it felt then, I can now look back and be proud myself for having the courage to move on with my life rather than dwell on something I was suffering through purely because it was what society was telling me to do.
Mommies and mommies to-be, know that these feelings are normal and that they will subside. I urge you to do your research and soul searching and to make an informed decision about how you would like to feed your child. When the time comes to wean, whether that be immediately after birth or two years down the road, know that these feelings may sweep over you, but do your best to remain confident in the decision that you made before your lovely hormones decided to step in and interfere. As hard as it is to remember, you are the mama and you have made the right choice for you and your child! Take a breath, relax, and stand tall. You are stronger than you know.
As always, if you ever feel overwhelmed by your feelings, contact a doctor immediately for medical advice.