So much of motherhood is overlooked and undervalued and that’s especially the case with today’s topic of weaning depression.
While this is something many moms experience, there is little scientific research into it which is exactly why we’re diving into this important conversation.
If you’re a mom experiencing this challenging season or a provider supporting your clients through it, you are not alone.
In this episode, I am sharing:
- What common symptoms women experience with weaning depression and how it differs from postpartum depression.
- Why weaning depression occurs including hormonal changes, emotional adjustment from infancy to toddlerhood, and shifts in identity as a mother as your baby grows and changes.
- How to seek support and use copy strategies including self-care and local support groups to gain insight, find community, and find validation.The most important thing I want you to take away from this episode is that this is a very real experience for many women and if you find yourself going through it or supporting someone going through it, there are resources and support available to you.
Read the transcript of this episode:
Depression, anxiety and autoimmune symptoms after birth is not how it’s supposed to be. There is a much better way, and I’m here to show you how to do just that. Hey, my friend, I’m Maranda Bow er, a mother to four kids and a biology student turned scientist obsessed with changing the world through postpartum care. Join us as we talk to mothers and the providers who serve them and getting evidence-based information that actually supports the mind, body, and soul in the years after birth.
Welcome to Postpartum University Podcast. Maranda Bower, here, your host, and we’re going to get into a conversation here today in regards to weaning depression, which is a topic that I feel is so underlooked and often I see it pop up over and over again. Actually, the majority of my clients who’ve come to me are going through the process of weaning depression. I really want to have this conversation, particularly because it’s one of those things that we are just not talking about in the least bit.
Very recently, I added a completely new space within our professional membership. In this space is our research database. I’m not kidding you. We literally created a research database. We have a whole research board, an entire team who’s gathering data. We have, over right around 700 different articles regarding postpartum nutrition, postpartum autoimmune conditions, postpartum gallbladder everything related to postpartum everything that we have ever studied and created for the pro membership is now within a database that you can actually search. Every single article is vetted. There’s a rating scale. Everything is very transparent so you can see where it was rated, why it was rated. It’s absolutely incredible. Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because, when it comes to weaning depression, there’s so little evidence on the topic. It’s very frustrating to me to see that actually having this database and being able to share this with all of our members, all of our professionals, it’s been really eye-opening because we can see the gaps there are in postpartum care and the gaps we have within the science and the community at large. That is why one of the reasons why we created it one, to see those gaps, and two, to be able to provide others with access to this information. I am going to be sharing with you everything we can, but please note, there’s really not a lot of science on this topic. It’s really frustrating to hear that we don’t share this information enough and we don’t value it enough to actually have some sort of research done on this topic.
I want to share with you. If you are a mom who’s gone through this, or maybe you’re a professional and you’re seeing this within your clients, note that you are absolutely not alone. Weaning depression exists, it is a thing, and we need to have this conversation. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about what weaning depression even is. It is the feeling of depressive symptoms when you are weaning your baby from breastfeeding, and it can happen at any time during that weaning process, whether that’s within the first year. Oftentimes I see it at the two or three-year mark when that weaning has begun. It could be a baby lead wean or a mama lead wean, however it is. It often appears and it’s the exact same as postpartum depression. We have intense sadness. We have feelings of not being good enough, not meeting our own needs and our own goals, feeling as if the world is crumbling down and not wanting to get out of bed, crying uncontrollably. Sometimes there’s rage and anger. That’s a very large sign postpartum depression. We are experiencing this because of the weaning. We didn’t have these symptoms. Previously, they were non-existent, and then, all of a sudden, we’re beginning to stop the breastfeeding process and these are coming up. I know for myself. I had experienced this immensely after my third baby And I didn’t exactly know what it was, even though I had been in the field for very many years. And I see this all the time with my clients, many of them who are professionals. This is not something that you’re trained in, right, and so you could be two years postpartum and I often hear this but how could I have postpartum depression? And it’s like, well, actually there might be this thing that this correlation with weaning depression, and so recognizing that this is a valid concern, this is a recognized experience within a very small group of individuals who we are recognizing you, we see you, we understand that this exists and we’re here to help you. So I want you to know that this is not the same as postpartum depression. The symptoms are the same, but it’s, and it’s caused by some very similar things. It’s not baby blues or even though sometimes we hear it’s post weaning blues. Sometimes it can feel really, really difficult and not be something that feels minute in any way shape, form, or fashion, and these symptoms that arise during this process of weaning comes up for many reasons, and I’m gonna share a couple of points with you that we commonly see.
First and foremost, which might be the really obvious reason, is the hormone changes. We are in the process of weaning, which involves a decrease in prolactin and oxytocin, and those are hormones that are associated with not only breastfeeding but also your brain and your mood. So prolactin and oxytocin keep those are the lovey, feel-good hormones and those shifting within your body can contribute to that emotional change within you. And it potentially impacts that mood and that feeling of well-being. And really oftentimes I feel like this is one of those things that I mention often and it’s something that I need to share with you here as well. These hormonal changes are a biological normal. However, the feelings that are associated with it, the intensity that sometimes comes with that, is not normal. There’s a huge difference here. So, although these are biologically normal hormonal changes that are occurring, oftentimes we have such a negative reaction or negative symptoms to it because, simply because those normal hormonal changes are not supported, okay, they’re not getting their needs met, and this is very typical for those who are weaning. You’re staying up later, you’re being woken up more often, you’re getting a lot less sleep, and so that disrupts the hormonal cycle and the regulation cycle itself.
There’s also nutrition. Oftentimes we think, oh well, I’m no longer breastfeeding, so maybe I don’t need as much nutrition and nutrients as I once did. But the transition itself requires so many nutrients and so many dense, nourishing foods for you to be able to move through that. It’s not about just taking care of your breast milk and having enough nutrients to sustain breastfeeding in your baby. That’s really wonderful and fantastic and necessary, but it goes deeper than that. It’s also supporting you through these shifts and these changes within your body, especially on a hormone level. And so if we want hormone balance, the number one thing that we have to do is protect our hormones and create a system in which they can thrive. And if we are not having enough nutrients within our bodies, we cannot regulate our hormones. What’s the very thing that creates hormones? Nutrition, so the building block for them. If you’re not getting enough, there’s going to be complete dysregulation within your body. So hormonal changes major cause, obviously, but the deeper root cause, when we look at the reason why the hormonal changes happen. It’s not because you’re weaning. You don’t get depression just because you’re weaning or just because you’re breastfeeding or just because you had a baby. We’ve normalized those things and that’s so far from the truth. The root cause is that those hormonal changes are not supported, and they’re not supported with number one nutrition, and number two sleep. So make sure that you’re getting those, or give yourself more of an adjustment period for those, and if you are still breastfeeding and you have yet to wean when that time does come, when that time does come, make sure you prep your body in advance for this. Give yourself lots of nourishing foods, begin the journey of getting more rest. Take some time off work if you can. Give yourself some ample space and a lot of time to go through that transition.
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Another component that I feel is not really talked about very often is the emotional adjustment of weaning. There’s a lot of feelings and emotions that come up with a weaning a baby, including sadness and grief and a sense of loss about the breastfeeding relationship and the changes that can bring. There’s an emotional adjustment that varies person to person. This isn’t something that everybody experiences. Sometimes there’s a hallelujah moment that as soon as we are done breastfeeding and we can feel like, oh, we got our body back, we’re able to fit in our pre-pregnancy bras again, like there’s an excitement to it. But there’s also sometimes and depending on who you are and your experiences a sign of greater loss or a big loss or feeling like, well, now how am I going to connect with my baby? And there’s so many of those emotional adjustments here that are so different for every single one I couldn’t possibly name them.
Just to give you an idea, I had a client very recently in the last six months she was on her second baby and the first baby struggled with breastfeeding. It was a hospital experience. They told her she would never be able to breastfeed. She didn’t get the support she needed and ended up formula feeding, and that was a huge loss. It sent her into a spiral of depression with her first and with her second she did things very differently. She set herself up for success. She got the help that she needed and had an amazing connection with her baby and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding went really well. She never experienced any frustration. Her milk came in. It was the right amount of milk. There was no nipple pain or bleeding or any of the things that she experienced, and so she was so pleased with the experience and used that as a means to connect with her baby and feel as if she was such a good mother. She connected breastfeeding with being a good mother, and I see this oftentimes, and so when that breastfeeding journey ends, there becomes a question well, how can I still be a good mother? Am I a good mother? You know, is the breastfeeding relationship ending on your terms? Is it something that your baby wants? How do you feel about it ending? That all plays a massive role in this. Is it something that you wanted? Do you feel like you have met your goals or exceeded your goals? Is it happening too soon? Is it happening because there are some emotions or feelings or physical concerns of your body not being able to continue or produce, or maybe you’re going through some mental challenges? All of those are reasons that we hear often of ending breastfeeding and not reaching your goals, and if that might be something that you’re experiencing, note that you are absolutely not alone and that in itself can very much trigger weaning depression.
Okay, so you’ve got the hormonal changes, you’ve got the emotional adjustments, and then there’s oftentimes the identity shift. For some, as breastfeeding becomes interweaved with their sense of identity as a mother, as I was kind of sharing. You know, I am a good mom because I breastfeed. We sometimes build those up, just as we build up I cannot breastfeed and therefore I’m not a good mom. And we paint these stories within our own bodies and within our own minds And when we, of course, society doesn’t help with these in the least bit. But recognizing these identities and how we associate our being with breastfeeding and with weaning is very big. Weaning can, you know, make us feel uncertain, who are we? And then sometimes the sense of loss of the intimate connection that we have through breastfeeding, and sometimes it’s the opposite, sometimes it’s a reconnection and a rehoming of who we are like. Oh, finally I get my body back, I’m in this space and I feel good, and now I can get back to sexy time and, you know, feeling as if you’re back into your body. And so I think, really importantly, it varies, again, just as the emotional adjustment does, but recognizing where you place your own identity within the breastfeeding scope, and that can have a huge role on this too, again, everyone is different. There’s no right or wrong. There’s absolutely no right or wrong way to feel. And, of course, I think one of the biggest components of this all is the lack of awareness and support. Weaning depression is not widely recognized. It’s not discussed as postpartum depression or any other mood disorders. It’s not in the DSM-5. Your provider was never taught about this. And this lack of awareness may contribute to these individuals and these mamas and families feeling isolated or confused about their emotions during this weaning process. Like what is going on with me, how did I get here? Like I don’t understand why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling. All of that can come up and it comes up oftentimes in very big ways. So just know that you’re not alone. There is a huge lack of awareness. Our society doesn’t understand how to support and care for moms. Our providers are not doing that. Our mothers are not doing that because they don’t know. No one knows. So if you’re listening to this podcast, you’ve gotten some insider scoop information. Share it with your friends. Seriously, it is a big deal and we need to talk about this more.
Okay, here’s another component. We’ve talked about hormonal changes, emotional adjustment, identity shifts, lack of awareness and support And one of the biggest pieces is your own self-care. I know BARF, right, we hear self care and we’re like, ah, here we go again with this word. I can’t stand it, and I hear you, because we have oversimplified self-care, especially in motherhood, and that is not what I’m doing here. I’m gonna tell you that seeking support seeking self-care or self is seeking support, right. It is saying no, this is happening in my body and I think we need to talk about self-care it. It is saying no to engaging in things that don’t bring you joy. Self-care is having difficult conversations that you know with your partner about the breastfeeding experience or something that’s really challenging with you. Whatever the case may be, self-care involves far more than just bubble baths and solo target trips with a latte in hand. So many more other things. And self-care also includes nourishing your body whole foods, getting the sleep that you need, taking deep breaths throughout the day, right, giving yourself five minutes to just relax and rest and check in with your body. You know, do I need to go to the bathroom? Do I need water? When was the last time I’ve eaten? Do I need a shower? Right, just asking ourselves those things throughout the day so that we can be more connected to who we are. That is self care, and that is incredibly beneficial for people who are experiencing weaning depression. If you’re a mom and you are experiencing this, this becomes one of your number ones right here. Self care and these strategies can help you feel validated. It provides that emotional support you need. And you also start getting some coping mechanisms during this transition. Don’t neglect this, because doing so is neglecting yourself. I wanna say that all of these things that I’m sharing with you here is very individual. It’s such an individual experience.And that’s why it’s so important that we share our stories. That’s why it’s so important that we talk about these things so much more.
Weaning depression exists. It varies based on the individual experiencing them, and it’s real and it can be persistent. It can be severe. It could be something that requires a medical professional to help you out, and if that’s you, I tell you you are not alone. Get the help that you need. Get the support that you need. Get the evaluation and ask for help. Reach out. It’s so, so valuable to do so. Okay, and seek out community support. I think this is one of the most underused tools in the toolbox. Oftentimes we go straight to the professional, which is totally real and necessary for many things. I am a huge fan of counselors and therapists. I think they’re doing amazing work when we’re working with the right ones. A key component there.
But there’s another component of this, too is where are you getting support in the community? And oftentimes I see so many moms who are experiencing perinatal mental health disorders who feel so isolated in their spaces. They feel so isolated in their communities. They don’t have a community, they don’t have a place to go, and I wanna have a whole conversation on this. So I’m gonna be creating a podcast episode on how do we create community when we don’t have one in the first place. What does that look like? How can you do that? So listen into that, because oftentimes, I will tell you, it takes a lot of creativity. But if you are able to find community spaces, definitely check into those spaces, use those to your advantage, so it’ll help you feel validated, it’ll help you feel seen, you’ll recognize that you are absolutely not the only one, and it’ll give you an outlet, a space where you can connect with others and not just commiserate right? I think this is so important too not to commiserate. We’re not here to find a community to tell our stories so that we can all cry over them. Crying is very important. I’m not saying that it’s not. We all need our moments to cry over our stories and to do so with other people. But after that happens, there’s a moment where we come to supporting each other. And we all see this, especially now, and especially in Facebook and groups and mom groups, where it’s really hard. Right, we see this so often. It’s very hard to find a mom group that’s very supportive, because we’re all into this commiserating and bashing and we’re not good enough. Rather than saying, okay, let’s commiserate, let’s hold space for each other, and now how can we support you? It’s the next level, it’s moving into a different space. It’s saying, okay, now that we know that you’re feeling this, let’s get you some proper meals. How can do you want me to do some research for you? Can I send you a gift certificate for takeout? Can I make you a meal? if you live close right, maybe we can do a movie night with the kids. The kids can come over, we can watch a G movie and you can go do whatever you need to do, rest, recover whatever and have some alone time and that would feel really good. Right, do something in your space where you can, but make sure that after the commiserating, if that’s necessary, that it turns into a place of facilitating healing. That’s what community’s about. Let’s get back to that, okay. So lots and lots of conversation here about weaning depression and I just want you to know again you are not alone. If you’re a provider listening into this, please do your research. There isn’t a lot. We do have a little bit within our portal space, within our professional membership, and we list some of those. Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot of data, but know that it is a real thing. Women are experiencing it over and over again and we need to validate those experiences. We need to recognize those for what they are and support our mothers through this process.
Okay, I’m gonna head out to another episode. Tune in for this next one. It’s gonna be super juicy and I will tell you. If you love this podcast episode. Please do us a favor, let us know, leave a review, give us a rating. We would so appreciate it. I am so grateful you turned into the Postpartum University podcast. We’ve hoped you enjoyed this episode enough to leave us a quick review And, more importantly, i hope more than ever that you take what you’ve learned here, applied it to your own life and consider joining us in the Postpartum University membership. It’s a private space where mothers and providers learn the real truth and the real tools needed to heal in the years Postpartum. You can learn more at wwwpostpartumu.com. That’s the letter U dot com. We’ll see you next week.
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