breastfeeding depressionI’m very pleased to welcome my buddy Angela England of Untrained Housewife to Postpartum Progress today to talk about struggling with depression after weaning … a weaning that she wasn’t ready for and didn’t expect. 

Six months after her birth, you would think I’m past the worst of it. Vivian is the most zen baby in the world. Four other kids? I’m handling it. Book deal? No problem – we’re surviving it together, she and I.

Then, two-and-a-half months after her birth, I had the first sign of trouble on the horizon. Horrible pains that landed me in bed writhing in pain. While things eased up after two days, it was only a precursor that something more serious was wrong. Another month-and-a-half later, a second attack landed me in the hospital after three days of severe pain and vomiting. My milk? Completely gone by that point and me facing a hospital stay. I actually turned down their offers of morphine for twenty minutes until my sister called to say Vi had taken the bottle like a champion. In relief and guilt I agreed to the IV pain meds that became my lifeline to sanity for the next five days.

Surgery and weeks of recovery meant my milk supply was irreparably harmed, despite my best efforts at supplements and pumping. And so the postpartum depression crept up like an unexpected force. A feeling I pushed aside with business, deadlines, and projects until I couldn’t ignore my not-normalness any longer.

At a conference with friends I realized that I was crying. Right there at the breakfast table. Triggered by a glimpse of a friend’s nursing baby I became out of control of my own self. This. Is. Not. Normal.

I know in my head that weaning a baby can be a stressful time because the hormones from nursing are so beneficial to good feelings. But now? This wasn’t something I chose. The weaning was forced on me by my own body and I can’t help but feel betrayed. What could I have done differently? What if I had only …?

And there is the fear that’s in my head. Who gets postpartum depression NOW? So long after the fact? I’ve written a book between now and then for goodness sake. Yet here I am taking a nap for the third day in a row and letting my husband make her bottle.

Here’s the thing. Weaning can trigger postpartum depression. I’d heard that before as a doula and childbirth educator. It causes a secondary flux in hormones that is not unlike that seen in women after birth. I’ve known that in my head for years. Now I know it with every fiber of my being.


Here’s another story Ang wrote about her experience over at her own blog, Untrained Housewife.

Photo credit: Angela England, featuring a picture of her beautiful “zen baby” Vivian