Folks after 20 months I can officially say my daughter is done nursing. TWENTY MONTHS. I think it’s something like 600 days, but who’s counting (I am). When I was pregnant with Ella, my goal was to nurse her for 12 months. I was naive and figured that when she turned a year she would say “Ok, thanks mama, I’m done nursing.” and she would magically wean herself. Well, her first birthday came and went and she was still going strong. At 16 months I figured I was likely going to college with her because she had no intention of stopping nursing.
I was having such an internal battle; I loved nursing my child, but I was also craving freedom and having my body be my own again. I wanted to stop nursing, but I felt so selfish stopping because of my own desires. I really wanted it to be her idea to wean. So we continued on.
So how did I do it?
I didn’t. She did. Ella got a really bad cold and couldn’t breathe through her nose at all. She was a total snot factory. She would latch for about 5 seconds then shake her head “no”. So I’d give her a cup of whole milk and she would happily drink it. At this point we were nursing between 3-5 times a day. During the days she would ask to nurse but once she latched she would just come off. I was totally shocked. Usually when she is sick she wants to constantly nurse for comfort.
A few days of this went by and we just kept going with the milk cup and voila- Ella weaned herself. It’s been about a month and she hasn’t asked to nurse since. One time when I was getting out of the shower she pointed at my boobs and said “Nummy!” but then went back to playing with my makeup.
So where is the darkside you ask?
I knew there would be changes in my body after nursing, but I expected them to be more physical than mental. About 5 days after then last time I nursed I started feeling really anxious, tearful and had wild mood swings. I would cry randomly, my self esteem went out the window and I constantly felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I felt unhappy, I felt worthless as a mother, as a wife. I could feel myself slipping into a dark place. I didn’t neccesarrly feel sad about ending our nursing relationship, I was happy Ella weaned herself. It just felt deeper. I knew this wasn’t my normal so I took to the internet. I was sobbing when I read stories from other mothers who had felt the exact same thing after weaning. It felt good to know that there are A LOT of other women who have felt this way. I shared this with my husband and felt a bit lighter. After about 10 days, maybe two weeks, I finally felt like myself again. I felt happy, laughter came easy again.
There is a TON of information about post partum depression, but, there is very little research on the subject of post weaning depression. It is believed that all the hormonal changes are to blame. One of the changes that occurs with weaning is a drop in prolactin and oxytocin levels. Prolactin, is a hormone required for milk production, it also brings a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. Oxytocin, the hormone that is required for milk ejection (let-down), is often referred to as the “love hormone.” So it makes total sense that a sudden decrease in these hormones could have an effect on a weaning mother’s emotions.
It is believed that the more abrupt or faster you wean the more likely you are going to feel these negaitive emotions. But even if you are ready to wean, and wean in the appropriate amount of time, you could still feel some significant ups and downs. Breastfeeding your baby is the most wonderful, bonding feeling. I always felt so incredibly relaxed after I nursed Ella. It’s normal to feel sad and miss that time.
If you are feeling this way after weaning your child, talk to someone! Sometimes just acknowledging your feelings and saying them outloud is incredibly helpful. And remember that no matter how alone you feel, you are not alone. You are strong, important and so loved. You have an amazing baby who thinks you are the most special person in the world. I think you are great. 😍
Here are a few sites I found helpful:
Did you feel this way after weaning? I’d love to hear your story.