When it comes to weaning there can be many emotions involved. While some women are excited to wean and get their body back for themselves, others may feel sadness when weaning from breastfeeding even if it's their choice. If not by choice, then there may be guilt also contributing to the sadness. Even if you are ready to wean it's very common to feel a full range of emotions from relief, guilt, sadness and even depression and anxiety.
My daughter weaned abruptly when I became pregnant again. I suppose it should not have seemed that abrupt since I was pregnant, she was becoming a toddler, and I had already cut back on breastfeeding. But it felt abrupt because one day we were still breastfeeding and the next she just stopped. I wasn't sure if it was legitimate weaning or a nursing strike, so I kept offering for awhile but she was never interested again.
While I felt relieved in one way, I was pregnant again and did not really want to tandem nurse, I also got very sad. All of a sudden this breastfeeding relationship I had fought so hard for was over. And we would never nurse again! A special connection gone overnight! Well, not really but that's how I felt at the time. Suddenly I felt sad about the end of breastfeeding and cried every night for about two weeks. That may not sound normal, but apparently it is very common.
Feelings of guilt, anxiety, moodiness and sadness are common for a few weeks after weaning.
Some women may even fall into a deeper and more serious depression similar to postpartum depression. If this happens please check in with a doctor.
While there has not been a lot of research on the subject, one probable factor for these feelings is the drop in prolactin and oxytocin hormone levels. Oxytocin or the "love hormone" is always at an elevated level while breastfeeding and the drop can definitely leave us feeling down. This is especially likely if weaning is sudden.
So, basically your hormones are all over the place and you may be feeling grief for the end of a phase in your relationship with your child. We carry our babies while pregnant, then while breastfeeding we nourish them and still have a strong physical connection. Once that period of physical reliance is over it is normal to feel sad about it. If it is your last baby that may contribute to the feelings as well.
A few ways to help with sadness during weaning:
Allow yourself to feel sad or grieve the end of the breastfeeding relationship. Every step towards independence for our babies is bittersweet and this is no different. When my daughter weaned I allowed myself to feel sad for a couple of weeks and then eventually I moved on and started to feel better.
Take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep, get exercise and go out and have some fun!
Don't look at it like a loss of connection, find new ways to connect with your toddler or baby, reading, cuddling and doing activities together will keep that connection there. For me breastfeeding was and is such a huge part of parenting in the early years, but finding new ways to connect with my daughter helped. Your child still needs you but in new ways now.
If you are leading the weaning take your time. Dropping feeds gradually over several weeks is the gentlest way for you and your baby.
There are many great resources with more information on how to wean.
I mainly wanted to talk about my experience with the sadness of weaning and how common it really is. Like many stages we face as parents, it is not always talked about but it's something many of us go through. As for me, I am still breastfeeding my son and hope the weaning process goes as smoothly as possible when it comes.
Let me know, was weaning easy for you or did you feel sadness too?
Wednesday 16th of October 2019
Definitely feeling the sadness. I’m on night 2 of no boob and my 18 month old seems good with it. We are stopping because he wasn’t sleeping he was up every 30 minutes for a blood it was insane I just couldn’t go on mentally with no sleep. He is my last baby 6 totally and I have been breastfeeding non/stop for 5.5 years ( 3 different children maybe that’s why all the sadness I’ve just been going for so long and I’ll know I’ll bever do it again. Thank you for posting this I wasn’t aware of the tears I’d shed over this.
Thursday 17th of October 2019
Sorry you are feeling sad. It is definitely bittersweet for sure. The good news is the sadness will fade and you will be left with good memories and knowing you did the best for your baby and yourself.
Thursday 20th of June 2019
Been reading a lot of articles the past few days to see if anyone else has been overcome with sadness due to no longer nursing their baby. Yesterday morning was his official last time on the boob. I say official because I tried stopping three times the past 7 days and I’m so unbelievably sad about this chapter coming to an end but my right boob was a little hard and I said ok oneee last time, I wanted to take a few second video of him while breastfeeding, I’ll miss our cuddling time like that and I longed for the day he would make eye contact with me while on the boob (I don’t maybe that sounds silly but). A lot of people choose a length of time they say they’ll breastfeed but I told myself I would just take it one day at a time and when it feels like it’s time I’ll know. He’s 9 months (39 weeks) now and I really had a love hate relationship with breastfeeding, it was almost like my last 9 months revolved around it and honestly I think they still would be revolving around it but he’s just getting so big and gets so distracted and hasn’t been laying still for a full feed and would be cranky more often then not cause he was never full. Anyway I just keep crying; I miss him even though he’s always with me. It’s a confusing feeling. He was ready I guess, I however was not.
Tuesday 29th of May 2018
I have been weaning slowly and we have been down to just the bedtime feeding for a few weeks now. Daughter is almost 15 mos and tonight she just didn't nurse. Almost like she forgot about it. On the one hand it is a relief not to have to refuse when she wants to nurse but on the other hand it occurred to me while she was falling asleep sans breast milk, that last night may well have been the last time ever! I started to cry a bit and after putting her in her crib, I left the room and sobbed my eyes out. I am so incredibly sad. For me I'm pretty sure it is partly hormonal and mostly about the end of an era. She isn't a baby anymore and never will be again. It has been such an incredibly special year. My heart hurts at the thought of it coming to an end... I know the present and future will also be special but of course it will never be the same.
Friday 16th of September 2016
My daughter is 3 months old, and I have a love hate relationship with breastfeeding. I often contemplate moving to a bottle even though I am a firm believer of the benefits. But I also cherish those moments when it's just us and she stares into my eyes and smiles and chats to me while at the boob. I know how much I would miss it reading this article and your other posts have encouraged me. Thanks xxx
Saturday 17th of September 2016
Hi Dee, I am so glad my articles have helped. It is really hard breastfeeding in the beginning and even at three months too. I am nursing a almost four month old now and still have those days. It does get easier though.. in the next few months feedings get more predictable and nursing sessions are usually shorter so hopefully that will help. I love nursing from 6-12 months because it is so much easier and just think of all the bottles you will be washing if you switch! I hope that helps! Good luck to you.
Thursday 2nd of July 2015
Thank you for sharing! This is definitely a topic that's not discussed and needs more attention. When I stopped I felt very empty and I felt as though I wasn't needed anymore. It was only a while after weaning that I realised the bond was still there but I just needed to grow the relationship differently. :-)
Thursday 2nd of July 2015
Thanks Agy! So true!