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post-weaning-blues

Post-Weaning Blues

By Amalah

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

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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MR
Guest
MR

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… Read more »

tasterspoon
Guest
tasterspoon

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… Read more »

Meggan
Guest

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

Meggan
Guest

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

Jess
Guest
Jess

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… Read more »

Karen
Guest
Karen

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… Read more »

Meg
Guest

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… Read more »

M
Guest
M

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… Read more »

Jadzia@Toddlerisms
Guest

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.

Jimmy
Guest

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.  

Erica Douglas
Guest

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.

liz
Guest

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
Guest

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!

April
Guest
April

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… Read more »

Zoe
Guest
Zoe

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!!!

Crabby Apple Seed
Guest

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.

Renee
Guest
Renee

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

Kerry
Guest
Kerry

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… Read more »

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[…] whether they’d gone crazy. Since we originally posted on this topic in 2012, many bloggers and advice columns have addressed the issue, and now a Google search for “weaning and depression” brings […]