If postpartum depression weren’t enough, it’s also possible to be depressed and have mood shifts from weaning from breastfeeding. During breastfeeding, oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, is released every time milk lets down. This feel good hormone helps reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Prolactin, the hormone that actually makes the milk, also brings a feeling of well-being and relaxation. There is very little research on the subject, but it’s hypothesized that when you wean, the decrease in prolactin and oxytocin can make some feel moody, sad or even angry. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the shift in hormone levels, and the more likely to experience feelings such as being tearful, sad or mildly depressed. Some also experience irritability, anxiety, or mood swings. These feelings are usually short-term and often go away once hormones stabilize. Some will also feel relieved and happy once it’s over and they can move on into the next stage of parenting. And that’s OK, too!!
If you are weaning and experiencing mood swings, you’re not alone! Remember, it takes at LEAST a full 40 days for those with an established milk supply to no longer see milk when they hand express or stimulate the breast. Your milk making cells are going through a cellular death called involution where they literally change from milk making cells back into breast fat cells. Some find it takes 1-3 period cycles after weaning for their hormones to reset and feel “back to baseline” which coincides with when this process is complete. It will get better!!
Some times being aware that this is a hormone shift and not something in your head is enough to bring peace in the process. Find your coping mechanisms. Reflect on your journey. There are herbs and supplements that can help in the process (set up a consultation to discuss which ones are right for you as they are NOT one size fits all). And if needed, seek professional counseling.