An Unexpected Weaning Leads to Postpartum Depression

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.

~Angela

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

About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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Comments

  1. That sounds awful, I’m so sorry you went through that! In my case, it was PPD that caused me to have to unexpectedly wean but I can empathize with you on the guilt from weaning and the emotions it caused to see other women nursing.

    Thank you for sharing your story! You are strong and brave and you are a wonderful mother, your daughter is so lucky to have you.

  2. I feel our pain. I recently am recovering from PPD, can u provide more information/ documentation on how weaning can cause an influx of hormones? because i was partially breastfeeding (using formula some days) when i initially was diagnosed with severe PPD. also before i got pregnant i was taking hormones because i was hormonally imbalanced last year.

    • Rae – When you nurse your baby the hormones released are the same “feel good” hormones that are released with lovemaking…that sedated, bonded, relaxed and calmed feeling you get? You get that with breastfeeding too. And when you go from getting that boost several times a day to nada, especially if there’s a traumatic cause involved, that can really do a number on you. I just heard from a woman who’s PPD flared up a year after her baby was born when moving and weaning combined like a one-two knock-out combination.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and this important information. So many mothers are in the same boat as you–faced with unexpected weaning and postpartum depression. In fact, the emotion related to unexpected weaning (especially sadness and guilt) is one of the most common topics that comes up in my private practice and postpartum support group. Your post will help so many mothers know that they are not alone. I wish you the very best in your recovery. Hugs to you!

  4. @CJAllDressedUp says:

    I had a similar experience a month after giving birth! I had to have an emergency gall bladder operation which zapped my milk supply. I had been doing fantastic on the mother front until this happened and all of the sudden found myself in a not so great place. Thanks for sharing your story, makes me feel not so alone!

    • I had no idea how common gall bladder problems were postpartum. My specialist said that the two demographics are elderly/sedentary/overweight people OR women who are in their last trimester of pregnancy/within 3 months postpartum. I had NO clue about that but apparently when the baby takes up all that space it can put pressure on the gall bladder and cause problems. I’m sorry you went through something similar. It’s really like an unexpected side swipe because you think you’re doing good and then – not so good. I’m glad my story spoke to you.

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  1. […] like a light at the end of the tunnel to think that I wouldn’t have to pump while at work. I weaned quickly and without physical or apparent emotional […]