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Post-Weaning Blues

Apr04

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Dear Amalah with the beautiful pants, hair, and babies that I love,

My almost 14 month old has recently weaned (two weeks). We were down to just nursing before bed and I realized on the nights I had class and he did not nurse, he slept all night! 12 and a half hours! So I just stopped offering…and he is okay. Doesn’t even want to cuddle. He just lays down in his crib and goes to bed.

I thought I would be so happy. Just a few months ago I was still pumping 3x a day at work, plus nursing 3 times a day…and now my boobs are mine! I can finally buy new bras! But I am DEVASTATED. I am heartbroken and do not know what to do. I miss cuddling before bed and have tried to a few times and he hates it. Now every time I put him to bed I go lie down and cry 10 minutes or so afterwards. He does not want to nurse, runs all the time, and wants independence. My baby is gone. How do I get over this? I didn’t know the end of breastfeeding was going to be so, so hard. My husband is putting him to bed when he can, but he works evenings a lot, so it is mostly my job.

Am I crazy? Is this normal? Is this just from a change of hormones (I still have not had a period and am wondering my hormones are kicking in now, however if I pinch my boobs milk still comes out)? Thank you so much. I never thought I would breastfeed this long, much less miss it when it was over.

You’re not crazy. You’re also not abnormal. And yes, your hormones are DEFINITELY going through some big ups and downs, especially since you’re still producing milk and not menstruating yet. But listen: my period had already returned by the time my first two babies weaned (it comes back approximately 10 minutes after my children take their first bite of cereal, EVERY TIME I SWEAR). And my milk dried up within a day. And I still felt very similar. So, so, SO SAD.

But. Daily crying for two weeks or more COULD BE a sign that there’s something going on here. Please read this post and this one, and see if you recognize yourself in either of those fine ladies’ words. Post-weaning depression/anxiety are real things. It should pass with time, but I want you to promise to be mindful of your moods and make sure you aren’t consistently getting worse. Or whether your sadness over the lost cuddle time is interfering with your interactions with your son or your ability to feel happy/joyful about life/motherhood in general. Promise? If any of those things starts happening, you need to talk to a doctor.

Okay. Now we can move on to the part where I rub your back and tell you that dude, I totally understand what you’re feeling.

Some women absolutely do feel the way you thought you’d feel. A mild bittersweet mix of nostalgia and relief. Happy to have their bodies “back” and to toss the nursing bras and tanks and stick the pump in storage. I was pretty okay when Noah weaned, mostly because it had been such a difficult, oftentimes miserable experience. So I was surprised by how upset I got when Ezra weaned. It had always gone so well! And I figured it was better to let him make the decision than for me to “cut him off” at some vague point in the future, and yet…. After I stopped offering, I was seized with terrible WHAT HAVE I DONE BABY COME BAAAACK regret. So much that I even timidly offered the breast a couple days later JUST IN CASE, and he stared at it like some kind of baffling foreign object, like I might as well have been putting my elbow in his face.

That “oh my God, my baby! my bayyyyyybeeeee!” feeling is really, really hard. We all get it, either from weaning or donating the baby clothes or saying goodbye to the crib or whatever random milestone happens to jump up and stab us in the heart. Welcome to motherhood. The only job in the world where you are signing up for guaranteed heartbreak and your primary duties ultimately revolve around making yourself obsolete. I dread the day when my children won’t want to hug me, when I won’t be able to just grab them and smother them in kisses anytime I want. Growing up is hard, and watching your children grow up is perhaps even harder.

I think the first “holy crap he’s not a baby anymore” realization is the hardest, especially when it’s tied to something like breastfeeding, what with the hormones and the bonding and the importance we all place on it. You did GREAT, by the way. You nursed for 14 months and also recognized when your baby was ready to move on and let go. Now it’s time to focus on finding new ways to bond with your son — you of course want cuddles and kisses, but he wants to be chased around the living room or to build forts or go on nature walks and hand you the bugs he found under a rock. Do it, and learn to enjoy the next stage, because it’s awesome. Your baby becomes a little person you can DO STUFF with, and talk to and play with.

Instead of straight cuddling before bed like you used to, try bringing his bedtime stories to your bed and see if he’ll maybe snuggle a bit while you read. If books don’t hold his interest, try some song games or peek-a-boo in the covers — just to give yourself a special extra one-on-one step in the bedtime routine before you put him in the crib.

And while it doesn’t feel that way right now, 14 months old is definitely still a baby, in my expert opinion. Does he still have dimples where his knuckles should be? Baby chub and soft, smooth skin? Can you still nibble on his toes without gagging from the smell of his feet? Sorry, kiddo, nursing or not, you’re still Mommy’s little baby. Deal with it, and give her a cuddle every now and then.

Photo Source: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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19 Responses to “Post-Weaning Blues”

  1. MR Apr 04 at 3:12 pm Reply Reply

    You are NOT crazy. Breastfeeding (even if once a day) releases feel good hormones. And going from that feel good dose to “normal” feels hugely pronounced. It seems to take about a month for things to level out. When my first was 14 months she got roseolla (a stupid virus that causes really high scare-the-crud-out-of-parents fevers that apparently do no real harm and that’s it. But, for those five days, my baby refused to eat nor would she let me put her down. So there was no way to pump. I was on antibiotics for something at the time, so I figured “oh well, at least I won’t get mastitis!” and focused on comforting my baby. But, I was sad about it and just generally a little depressed. I cried to my mom who reassured me. And a few weeks after she last nursed, I had lunch with a friend and remember almost breaking out in tears, and debating with her whether or not I should start nursing again – because I definitely still had milk. But, by that time dd had decided she was done. I had milk for quite a while, but I stopped looking after a month or so. Dh and I went out for a day of wine tasting and I reveled in being able to do so without having to worry about baby breastfeeding. I wore dresses for a week straight. And I pretty much need wear dresses, but I did it just because I COULD. You will get there, but you need to finish grieving this little loss first. In the meantime, if Amy’s suggestions to get some cuddle time don’t work, grab a glass of wine and a book or a bath and create a little night time ritual for yourself so you don’t think about it.
    And Amy is right, it seems like the end of babyhood, but it so ISN’T. And good times are ahead. 14 months to 2.5 was one of my favorites. My dd is 3.5 now, and I LOVE this stage. She says the cutest things, is putting together ideas and it is so much fun to watch her brain work and piece together things. She seems so grown up sometimes, and at other times she is still SO babyish. She wants lots of cuddles. She gets the slightest owie and she needs a band aid and lots of kisses and cuddles from Mommy. A couple days ago my dh was on travel for work. He normally gets home first and starts dinner. When I got home and wasn’t holding dinner in hand, my big, bad 3.5 year old burst into tears “where’s my dinner??” It took me and her nanny to calm her down and reassure her that Mommy WAS going to feed her. The look on her face was exactly the same as when she was little and her face would crumple. She is definitely still babyish. But, she is also a lot of fun and so much joy. You are going to love the next stages. :) But let yourself grieve this change. You are definitely not crazy! ((hugs))

  2. tasterspoon Apr 04 at 4:34 pm Reply Reply

    Hugs to the OP. Possibility of genuine depression aside, I can fully relate. I quit the pump at one year, but kept nursing before bed for a couple more months. We were having no luck conceiving #2 (wanted to get on with that because I am old) and my doctor said I had to cut her off if we were serious. And I was SO torn about it. I kept volunteering for final bedtime duty so I could sneak one in and then confessing to my husband. I think I was also afraid I’d lose our special time, my sole mommy magic power. Maybe also jealousy? My daughter adores her father and while I’m thrilled about that, I think I thought she’d cast me aside like yesterday’s Kleenex once I served no unique function. Which she kind of did. No cuddles, very independent, like the OP describes. I envied those moms with toddlers clinging to their legs. But it only lasted a while. Now she’s 17 months and she’s still not much of a cuddler, but she enjoys kisses and tickles and physical horseplay and sharing baths and comparing belly buttons and piggy back rides and sitting close while she’s drawing and oh, it’s like the angels sing on the rare occasion she’ll choose to sit on my lap for a story. It’s not what it was, but if you can stand giving him his space, it’ll be GREAT. You’ll start getting to know your boy more as his own person than as an extension of you and he’ll STILL love you, and it will be because he wants to, not because he has to, and that will be even better than you can imagine.

  3. Meggan Apr 04 at 4:54 pm Reply Reply

    Swistle has a really great post on weaning hormones here. What you’re going through is really, really normal. *hugs*

    • Meggan Apr 04 at 5:03 pm Reply Reply

      Whoops, just saw that it was linked in Amy’s response. Well, consider this my recommendation of that link. It’s really helpful.

  4. Jess Apr 04 at 5:20 pm Reply Reply

    Oh my gosh, I went through the same exact thing when my son weaned around one. Nothing I had read prepared me for the massive hormonal shift I went through, both emotionally and physically. It was crazy, like PMS times 100, for about a month or so. And I was so, so sad, especially since (at least for my son) that was right around the time he was becoming very independent and not wanting to cuddle as much. The good thing is it passed, plus when my son was around 16 months old he suddenly became a major cuddly mama’s boy again.

    Oh, also like you, I didn’t get m period back until about six weeks after I weaned (even though I was down to pumping/feeding only a couple times a day before then) so I think those hormones were a big part of the saddness. So time for a quick reminder: if you, like me, got used to not having a period and not getting pregnant while breastfeeding (although I know it’s totally possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding even if you don’t have your period yet) and didn’t get around to getting birth control, do so now! I got my period back six weeks after weaning and was pregnant again a month later. Whoops! It was a very happy, exciting surprise, but a surprise nonetheless! :)

  5. Karen Apr 04 at 6:31 pm Reply Reply

    I had a very similar experience. My daughter has always been very independent and I too was envious of moms whose kiddos would snuggle other lap at the park, etc. I stopped offering at 13 months. Not even worth calling it “weaning.” She spent the next year totally uninterested in me but by then I had accepted her for who she is (um, just like me, ahem). Now at 2.5, she is actually becoming more cuddly, perhaps because she is finally ready to hold still for things. We snuggle up for a Dora, a book, cuddle in mama’s bed, rock in the glider if she can’t sleep, etc. We talk about hugs being something that makes people feel better when they are sad and I’ve started telling her that “mama needs a hug” when I do.  Hang in there, motherhood rarely provides the payback that you wish and hope it would so you have to find it where you can.

  6. Meg Apr 04 at 7:26 pm Reply Reply

    Oh man, I’m teary just reading this whole thing. My son is 17 months old and I think the end of our nursing time is coming soon. It makes me so sad. So if I’m this sad now, you definitely won’t be the only one bumming out about their kid weaning.

    On the snuggling issue though, my son has always hated snuggling. But I cheat, and I’ll tell you how. If you have some kind of small screen thing, like a smart phone, or maybe even a video camera with a flip screen, we lay in bed for awhile and either watch baby music videos on YouTube, or watch a few moments of recordings that we make during the day. He lays still long enough that I can snuzzle him without being pushed away, at least until the videos stop. 

  7. M Apr 04 at 11:57 pm Reply Reply

    I just wanted to chime in with my experience, too.  OP, you are so not alone: I cried for days after my son’s first birthday.  Not because I had weaned (I hadn’t, although he was never into nursing), but because I knew our nursing days were numbered and because I suddenly just kind of realized that he was no longer my little tiny needful baby.  I am familiar with these kinds of doldrums just from living my life, so I let it kind of ride out until I gained back my equilibrium.  

    I also want to reiterate the other commenters’ points: a non-snuggler at 14 months does not mean a non-snuggler later.  My son was always Mr. Baby Independent, but now that he’s two, he lets me snuggle with him, pull him onto my lap, and cover him with kisses.  Good luck–hopefully this will be your experience, too.  

  8. Jadzia@Toddlerisms Apr 05 at 12:26 am Reply Reply

    I think this is all good advice, but as a PPD alumna the daily crying really concerns me, and it probably would make sense to check in with your doctor just to make sure that you’re not heading into a more sustained depression.  Take care.

  9. Jimmy Apr 05 at 8:34 am Reply Reply

    On the bedtime routine front and lack of cuddling before it: take solace in knowing that this is likely to change back and forth from here on out.  There is no straight line from baby to grown-up.  It’s more of a zig-zag.  No cuddling now doesn’t mean it’s done forever.  The baby might go back to that one day sooner or later.  Or it might not.  Just don’t burden yourself with assuming that once something is changed it is changed forever.  

  10. Erica Douglas Apr 05 at 12:11 pm Reply Reply

    My 11 month old isn’t anywhere close to weaning but this still made me cry! Our nursing relationship is so very important to me. In fact, I just bought myself a milk pendant for Baby’s first birthday: http://www.etsy.com/shop/hollyday27 I miss her so much while I’m at work that I hope this necklace will be very special to me.

  11. liz Apr 05 at 2:25 pm Reply Reply

    On the still being able to express milk front, my son never liked nursing, so I pumped for 9 months and I am here to tell you that Ten. Years. Later. I can still express a little milk and have stains daily on my bras from leaking.

    Probably because I pumped hands-free while reading the internets. So internet is my let-down cue.

    My son’s pediatrician, btw, recommended eating dark chocolate to replace the serotonin boost you used to get from breast-feeding.

    • Jenny P Apr 19 at 9:01 pm Reply Reply

      Seriously snorted from laughing when I read that the internet is your let down cue. 

      If that’s the case, I need to wean myself from my cell phone stat because I played a lot of Words with Friends in those first few months!

  12. April Apr 05 at 4:19 pm Reply Reply

    About a week after stopping my nightly breastfeding with my 13 month old (we had been down to that since her birthday), I went into a deep sadness. Crying all the time, mood swings, etc. Thank goodness a friend who weaned a month earlier had warned me about it and said that her dr had suggestd switching birth control pills. I called my OB and was switched from the mini pill back to tri-phasic. A few days later, I felt much better. In any case, when you talk to your Dr might be something to ask about. Now I warn all of my weaning friends about post-weaning blues!

  13. Zoe Apr 05 at 5:54 pm Reply Reply

    Long-time lurker on Amalah here, just had to say thanks so much for this post and comments. I am weaning my twin girls and felt like I was going crazy, crying jags, mood swings, you name it. Now finally makes sense. Thank you!!!

  14. Crabby Apple Seed Apr 06 at 10:52 am Reply Reply

    Everybody talks about postpartum hormones. Hardly ANYONE talks about weaning hormones. I had them pretty bad when I weaned both of my girls, but they were so much worse the first time around because I couldn’t understand why I felt so awful or what was happening to me. The second time it was easier because I knew exactly what was going on. I don’t understand why we don’t talk about this more, it is so scary and overwhelming when you don’t know to expect it.

  15. Renee Apr 12 at 2:46 am Reply Reply

    It’s possible that this is a nursing strike. Around a year or so babies become very distractable and interested in their environment. If you would like to resume breastfeeding, try eliminating pacifiers, lovies, bottles and other breast substitues. Offer the breast often, and
    Co sleep and breastfeed. Read this artilce- http://www.llli.org/llleaderweb/lv/lvdec00jan01p112.html

  16. Kerry Apr 17 at 10:00 pm Reply Reply

    I just stopped breastfeeding after 2 and a half months when going back to work pretty much brought my milk supply to a screeching halt. (Yes, I drank the icky tea, took the Fenugreek, pumped for 15 minutes after every feeding and more, and it didn’t work. I stopped leaking on my 3rd day back to work just to give you an idea about how fast my body changed) But I felt the same way!! I cried and obessed over it ! I thought it was mainly because I stopped so early with intentions of going 6 monthes to a year, but I’m glad to know it would have happened anyways!

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  1. Plum Organics | New & Newsworthy | When weaning brings on the blues - Nov 03

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