Mothers invest a lot of time and energy into their breastfeeding relationship.
Outside of pregnancy, breastfeeding is a journey that will require more of her than she ever thought possible. Any nursing mother knows the hard work and dedication, the pain and the tears, the closeness and the joy, the consistent surrendering and offering of her own body to meet the needs of her baby. It’s a powerful and beautiful bond that is unique and personal between each mother and baby.
Now you would think that something so natural as breastfeeding would come easy, and at times it does, but just as mother nature has these things called natural disasters, breastfeeding mothers have trials of their own that they have to overcome. Thankfully there are many resources and a plethora of information available for breastfeeding mothers.
However, in comparison to the amount of information concerning the beginning and middle phases of breastfeeding, there’s not as much openness or talk about the ending phases of breastfeeding in relation to a mother’s emotions.
Have you ever heard of post-weaning depression?
In my own experience, I felt unprepared for how sad and even disappointed I would feel when both of my children self-weaned. I remember in the very early days, dreaming about the end of breastfeeding. I couldn’t imagine that breastfeeding would get any easier, let alone become enjoyable- but it did. Toward the middle of our journey, I found myself wanting to nurse until my youngest turned two. Then, just a few months after her first birthday, she decided she was done. When the end came, when the last drop of milk was drunk, I was left with salty tears. In some ways it felt like a rejection by my own children. I always thought that I would initiate the end of our breastfeeding relationship. I found myself experiencing loss, and didn’t feel ready to give up the one thing that only I could provide for my babies.
After researching, reading, and confiding in other mothers, I found that my feelings towards weaning were very common.
In fact, many mothers experience feelings of sadness and even depression during and after the weaning process. Weaning marks a significant change in the mother-child relationship. There’s also research which shows that hormonal changes play a part in these feelings of sadness. Hormone levels of oxytocin and prolactin, which create feelings of happiness, drop during the weaning process. I discovered that it was also normal for mothers to feel relieved and happy during and after the weaning process. Some mothers feel completely “touched out” and are ready for the transition. Sometimes the child has a harder time letting go of the breastfeeding relationship. Other mothers may experience anxiety, irritability, or mood swings.
The point is that there are various reasons for weaning, and there are variations of normal when it comes to how a mother and child may feel during and after that process. The important part is for mom to be aware and able to recognize and accept those emotions, whatever they may be, and then find a new normal for herself, the child, and their relationship.
Finally, If you are having a difficult time coping with some of these feelings and need help finding a new normal, look here for some excellent tips. And if difficult feelings don’t subside after a few weeks of weaning, don’t be afraid or hesitant to seek professional help.
Taking care of yourself is the best decision you could make for you and your family, and rest assured that other moms have been there. The ending of breastfeeding can be just as difficult as it was starting out, but try to treasure the time that you had, and remember there is hope for feeling better, and new adventures to be had with your child. We get it, and we are cheering you on!
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