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?