BABY | Depression and Weaning

It was July 4th. A big holiday weekend. And I was in my kitchen in tears. My husband was out of town, and I had searched for anything to do that was similar to what I had experienced growing up – a morning parade where they throw candy, have games, costumes, and the like. Or a fair close by. It seemed like this area in which I now live didn’t have those things – at least not within my (admittedly) somewhat narrow parameters.

I knew I needed to get out of the house. I was feeling stir crazy and alone. I had planned to try to brave a parade in a neighborhood 30 minutes away, but at the last minute I realized with the lack of restaurant and parking, it wouldn’t be smart to take my baby to a crowded street parade in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Instead, I took her to an art festival near my old office which provided both parking and numerous options for bathrooms and food.

Over the course of the afternoon, we casually walked through vendors showcasing their art, had some lunch in a pizza restaurant I like, and spent a few hours away from home. It felt good. Yet, on the drive back, the tears started coming again. And they wouldn’t stop. I wasn’t having sad thoughts. I wasn’t purposely making myself cry. I wasn’t listening to sad music. Yet there the tears came.

A few days earlier, on July 1st, I had stopped one of my baby’s daily breastfeeds. I had already stopped the lunchtime feed at some point in June, but I told myself July 1st would be the time to stop the afternoon feed. Each day around 4 (when I would usually feed her), I would get irritable, weepy, really sad, and kind of lethargic. My daughter, expecting to be fed, would cry, tug at my shirt, motion for me, lean into me, and do all of the things she knew to do to get me to feed her. Of course I was feeding her solids in place of the breastfeeding (and in addition to, prior to weaning), but the comfort and bond of breastfeeding were being broken. And neither of us liked it.

I spoke with my husband on the phone that night and he told me I sounded “like something was bothering me.” I told him I was feeling really sad and depressed. He asked if I needed to talk to someone, or have someone come over, but I knew I wasn’t a threat to myself or my baby – just that I was feeling incredibly down in the dumps.

I had read a few articles (here and here) months prior about the potential for post-weaning depression, not thinking much of it at the time. But that’s what it had to be. That’s what I knew it was.

It took a few days before the severity of my emotions calmed down, but the sadness was still there each time my daughter woke up from her nap and wanted to eat. Distracting her worked, but it made me feel worse. Since I’m not doing baby-led weaning, and basically forcing this beautiful relationship to end sooner than she’d like it to, I’m walking around with a ton of guilt.

August 1st was my self-imposed date to stop the morning feed. I went through a similar depression though my daughter didn’t seem to mind as much when that one was dropped. We had a few hard mornings, but it’s seemed to go more smoothly. We’re only nursing to sleep now (and a rare overnight feed), and I’m not looking forward to ending it completely.

Although overall the weaning is going well, and I know we are in a very small percentage who have made it to the 1 year mark and beyond, I feel as though I’ve ruined the end of the breastfeeding relationship by not letting her wean herself. I’m not sure if I’ll always feel this way, and it’ll probably get better once I’m not in the thick of it, but it’s been a really hard last few weeks.

If you’re stuck in a depressive rut that you can’t seem to get out of, please talk to your doctor. It’s worth it for your health and the health of your baby and family. You’re not going through it alone.

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