You may begin weaning your baby from breast milk when it's time to start
your little one on solids or maybe you decided to transition to formula and
are weaning earlier.
Either way, weaning can bring on some unexpected
Let's talk about that today.
What is weaning?
Weaning is the process by which a baby transitions from breast milk to
other forms of nutrition.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises exclusive
breastfeeding for six months, followed by supplementary
breastfeeding before the baby is one year old.
Only about one-third of moms exclusively breastfeeding until 6
months. Therefore about 33% of moms start weaning at 6 months.
Sometimes women who are returning to work, have physical struggles, or just
wanting their bodies back may wean earlier.
There may be many changes to your mood when you wean.
Here are some common symptoms:
Sadness or depressed mood
Feeling of grief
Lack of interest in activities that you used to enjoy
Lack of motivation
How long can these changes last?
Usually these symptoms are transient and should pass
after a few weeks. Some mothers can have more
persistent or severe symptoms that need medical
Remember postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) can occur
up to 1 year after delivery and occur in 1 out of 5 women!
If you've had emotions that are upsetting your quality of life for more
than a couple of weeks, it's time to get professional support.
TRUE! It is thought that hormone fluctuations are the
primary trigger of mood changes with weaning.
Weaning causes a reduction in prolactin and
oxytocin levels, which is one of the shifts.
Prolactin, a hormone essential for milk processing, also induces
feelings of well-being, calmness, and relaxation.
Oxytocin, the hormone necessary for milk ejection (let-down), is
also known as the "love hormone."
It makes sense that a drastic drop in these hormones will impact a weaning
Prolactin and Oxytocin are not the only hormones in flux during this time!
You will be back to having your period and the
hormonal fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone which
comes with this! If you were more sensitive before to these changes your
PMS may be more intense.
Hormonal changes may be a big part but other factors can also
Change in Identify/role
Your days were filled with nursing and or pumping since
the birth of your child. Yes it may have had some challenges and stress but
it came with a sense of purpose and identity as a mom. Now you are
adjusting to a new role. With this transition may come many
Expectation of Breastfeeding
Perhaps you were not able to breastfeed as long as you had wanted or
stopped before you were ready. This may come with feelings of
guilt or regret. You may feel that it was your fault or it was a
mistake. Remember you did nothing wrong! You have
nothing to feel guilty over. Your baby is going to be
What can you do to prevent mood changes?
There is no fool proof way to avoid post-weaning symptoms. Overall, no
matter how and when you wean from breastfeeding, you will undergo a
Even though moms wean when they want to and on their own terms, it's normal
to feel a sense of loss when you say goodbye to a particular time in your
life as a mother. However, there are a few steps you can do to help reduce
If you wean slowly, you will have less of a hormonal collapse. Weaning over
several weeks rather than a week or a few days is much better for the
Wean with Your Own Timetable
Moms that keep control of the weaning phase and refuse to succumb to social
pressure—from peers, relatives, or even medical professionals—about how
long they can feed their babies report feeling less conflicted during
Share Your Feelings
Simply letting it out and being truthful about what you're going through
will help to reduce the severity of any emotions. It will make you feel
less alone with your experience, and you will be more able to devise a
strategy for the kind of assistance you need to begin feeling better.
Most importantly...Be patient with yourself whenever you
decide to stop breastfeeding. It's a big change for you --
mentally, hormonally, and emotionally!
Remember, our lactation consultations and mental health counselors are
available to support you through this! As always, reach out to MaternalWell
text support with any general questions.