Breastfeeding a child is an adventure that has its ups and downs, but many women enjoy the experience of feeding their children from their bodies. The skin-to-skin time is also wonderful, and bonding takes place every time mom feeds her child from the breasts. Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released, and mom and baby both feel that relaxing feeling take over.
Weaning is a bit of a different story. Though it's very likely that mom may be ready to wean after a few months or a year, weaning is not easy. Even women who practice extended breastfeeding and nurse until their children are over two will find that weaning brings on a lot of unintended consequences, no matter how ready everyone is to move to the next stage.
That's why it's important for moms to be prepared for all the changes ahead. Just like carrying a child and feeding them majorly affects the body and hormones, so does weaning. Our bodies go from producing tons of milk to drying up, and the effects are much more than just physical. The hormone changes will affect everything, from our breasts to our brains.
There may be a few things women can do to ease into this transition, like weaning slowly and making sure mom has the right vitamins and supplements in her system. Still, most women report major changes once weaning happens, so it's best to know what side effects may occur so mom is ready to deal with them.
Many women start their periods again while nursing. That's why moms should never believe they can't get pregnant while breastfeeding. Once a child starts pulling back on feedings, mom's period can make a surprise appearance, meaning she is ovulating and can get pregnant again.
However, some women don't get their periods until the baby is completely weaned. Even those who had periods while nursing notice a change in their cycles once babies are completely finished breastfeeding. Not all of the changes are good.
Premenstrual syndrome(PMS) hits many women like a train, leaving them with the mood swings and pains common with getting ready to start. It's easy to forget how thoroughly PMS affects our lives after not dealing with it for a while, but when it comes back, we definitely remember.
Moms who start to feel tired, angsty, or depressed may be on the verge of starting. Watch the calendar and track to the dates so the next month's PMS visit won't come as a surprise.
12 Post-Weaning Depression
Postpartum depressions is finally receiving the attention it deserves in the news, and that's a good thing. Due to hormone changes after the baby is born, it's common for moms to suffer from PPD, and they need to seek help.
A less talked about time for depression to strike is after a child is weaned. Some call this post-weaning depression, and it is real with many women being diagnosed with clinical depression after they stop nursing.
The reasons are many, but hormones play a huge part. That wonderful dose of oxytocin we received just from feeding our little ones is gone, so we're not getting an extra hit of the love/feel good hormone anymore. Mom's brain is in transition because of this, and it can take a while for it to balance.
Seeking help for post-weaning depression is important. It's not strange, and awareness is growing about this issue. With all our bodies go through, it's no wonder depression strikes during these major transitions.
11 Sadness Related to Change
Some women don't suffer from official depression, but they do experience a deep sadness about this phase of life being over. No matter how much mom was ready to stop nursing, when the whole process actually comes to an end, that end brings with it the realization that a child is growing older and more independent. That fact can cause mom to feel sad.
Some women also experience sadness because the nursing relationship ends sooner than they wanted it to. Many women know that they want to breastfeed a certain amount of days or years, but life doesn't always go according to our plans. If mom isn't producing enough milk, the baby can't latch properly, or something else occurs that interrupts the process, weaning may happen earlier than expected. Many women end up feeling like failures even though they did the best they could.
It's normal to feel sad when going through big changes, and hormones don't help us in this area. No oxytocin blasts will leave us looking on the sad side instead of feeling good about what we accomplished.
Along with depression, hormone fluctuations can cause anxiety in women who went through weaning. In fact, some women will not have depression at all, but they will experience anxiety that can alter their everyday lives.
Anxiety presents differently in each person, with some women feeling like they never stop worrying and running through worst case scenarios. Others feel snappy, and instead of worrying they are constantly irritated by the things going on around them. Anxiety can also cause an increase in heart rate and overall feeling of dread about dealing with normal tasks.
When moms experience anxiety after weaning, they often see the results of it in their parenting. They are snappier, more protective, and a lot less happy about the parenting journey. It's not because of their kids. Those who suffer with anxiety are easily overwhelmed, and very few things in life are as overwhelming as parenting.
9 Extreme Fatigue
Most moms imagine the days of fatigue are behind them when they finally stop nursing. Our bodies get to stop making milk, we're not supporting more than one person, and night time feedings are behind us. Unfortunately, just about the time we don't need our bodies to make milk, our hormones are out of control, causing tons of conditions that cause us to feel fatigued.
Women who go through depression or anxiety complain of being tired, and PMS can zap of us our energy as well. Just the fact that our progesterone and estrogen levels are trying to balance can lead to fatigue. It's like our hormones are battling it out and we're feeling the side effects.
Plus, sleep doesn't always go back to normal just because we're not nursing during the wee hours of the morning. After months, sometimes years, without sleep, the body and mind don't just find their way back to rest. Moms who are fatigued may still have trouble resting, adding to the tired feeling they already have.
8 Shame About Food
While we're nursing, most of us consume extra calories, and that's a good thing. Our bodies need us to eat and drink a bit more because the baby is taking some of our reserves. Many women get away with eating more while nursing and still not gaining weight because they need the extra calories.
However, deciding to wean our little ones doesn't mean our stomachs get the message. Many women find they are still eating extra calories because they are hungry or because it's habit, and the weight starts to show.
It's fine to gain weight after weaning, and it's perfectly normal. However, some women experience shame about still wanting extra meals during the day when they know there's no real need for them. Hormone fluctuations and PMS make these feelings of shame stronger, and mom has to be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to obtain the pre-baby body. Our post-baby bodies are fine, no matter what they weigh.
7 Attachment Issues
That wonderful oxytocin courses through our bodies while we nurse, and it makes bonding with our baby even more intense than we imagined. When we wean, we don't have the oxytocin. That doesn't mean we don't still feel attached to our kids. It just means that we may feel strange without the nursing bond.
For many nursing women, breastfeeding is like hitting a reset button. No matter how bad the day with the baby or toddler has been, nursing bonds us with our children. It's an effective way to release negative energy, and it helps put things in perspective when we're upset.
When mom weans, she may find she feels less capable of comforting her child because she can't do it the way she used to. This has led some moms to have detached feelings and question their parenting.
These are normal emotions that come with major transitions. If these feelings lead mom to think she may be experiencing post-weaning depression, she should contact her doctor.
6 Va-va Voom In The Bedroom
A plus side to all those hormones? Fun in the sheets may heat up! Ovulating is often capable of making women feel the desire for intimacy in a major way, so mom could start enjoying intimacy in a way she didn't while nursing.
Some women are also more comfortable with intimacy once they aren't sharing their bodies with their babies. Nursing is wonderful, but many women experience sore breasts that leak when stimulated, a situation that isn't conducive to romance.
There's also the fear of getting pregnant while nursing. Women don't usually go back on the pill while nursing, and if they do it's a low dose pill so there's less hormones. This makes many nursing moms nervous, and they don't enjoy intimacy as much with the threat of pregnancy hanging over them. When they get back on the pill, many feel more free in the bedroom.
5 Heart Palpitations
Anxiety can cause heart palpitations, the feeling that the heart is beating too fast or is slightly out of rhythm. Even without the accompanying anxiety, women have reported having heart palpitations after they wean their babies from the breasts.
Hormones, as usual, likely play a role. There is a theory that estrogen dominates after weaning takes place, and mom has less progesterone running through her body to even things out. This can lead to a plethora of problems, one of them being heart palpitations.
It's important to have a doctor check out any problems related to the heart. While it may be hormones and could even out on its own, there's also a chance that mom's thyroid is having problems. Heart palpitations can happen when the thyroid is overactive, and this needs to be checked quickly before it causes mom any more problems.
Remember that calm feeling we had when nursing, like we were super Zen and could see the goodness in everything? That feeling may abandon us when the nursing stops. Some women even report that feeling being replaced with rage that leaves them ready to scream at the slightest problem.
Uncontrollable anger is bad news for everyone, and moms often deal with tons of guilt when they lose their tempers and don't understand why. Lower oxytocin levels and higher estrogen levels may be to blame.
Rage needs to be dealt with, and consulting a doctor is key. There are also ways to bring oxytocin back into our lives without nursing. Taking a walk, hugging someone, or laughing can give us a quick fix, and this may help us snap out of the anger we were struggling with. Eating eggs, listening to music, and talking to a friend are also ways to boost feel good hormones when things are hard.
3 Irregular Periods
If mom used to have predicable periods that followed the 5-7 day rule for length and didn't cause too much blood loss, she may be surprised to find that post-weaning periods are an entirely different creature. Heavy, painful, and sometimes lasting for more than a week, women report feeling like their periods take over their lives after nursing stops.
Estrogen and progesterone imbalances are likely to blame, and mom may even suffer from anemia if the blood loss becomes too extreme. Doctors may tell mom to get on the pill to regulate these hormones, but that's a decision each woman has to make for herself. The pill comes with its own side effects, and women who are hoping to conceive again in the future might not want to go back on it.
Some women try hormone therapy to deal with erratic periods, and others modify their diets and supplements to try to find a solution. There's no one fix for every woman, but each one does need to look for ways to tame the menstrual beast when it gets out of control.
2 Skin Changes
It's never fun to feel like we are back in junior high battling acne. Most of us already had to deal with skin issues during pregnancy when we struggled through breakouts, dry skin, and stretch marks.
There's more where that came from, and we find that out when we wean our babies. Many women suddenly experience acne that seems like it came out of nowhere, and they have no idea why.
Hormones are to blame, again. PMS often leaves women with breakouts, and PMS comes back when the baby isn't nursing. For breakouts that just won't quit no matter what time of the month it is, blame estrogen flowing freely through our bodies disrupting whatever it can.
Acne treatments exist, but deal with the root cause if possible. If hormones aren't balanced, the acne will keep coming back, returning daily just to mess with us.
Headaches that cause nausea or sensitivity to light are often classified as migraines. These may also make mom dizzy or have spotty vision. Migraines are painful and scary, and it's not easy to take care of a child while one is occurring.
Women report experiencing migraines after weaning, some of them for the first time in their lives. Many women also report having them right around the time they ovulate, something they weren't doing while nursing.
The theory is that the extreme amount of estrogen released during this time may lead to migraines, and if progesterone is not helping even out the hormones, the migraines may last for a while.
There are medications to help mom deal with the pain of migraines, but the key is to get to the bottom of why they are occurring. If there is a hormone imbalance, doctors may be able to help mom with it and alleviate her migraines in the process.