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Motherhood can be challenging. Your body and mind go through several changes once you become a mother, and coping with these changes can be difficult. Sometimes, you may find yourself in emotionally draining situations. Post-weaning depression is one such situation that can be particularly nerve-wracking. To treat this mood disorder, you will first have to understand what it is all about.
What Is Post-Weaning Depression?
You must be familiar with postpartum depression, which is a type of mood disorder that women face after pregnancy, but not so much with post-weaning depression. Post-weaning depression, too, is a mood disorder that nursing mothers experience once they begin to wean their babies off breastfeeding. Weaning is the process of slowly putting a stop to breastfeeding, and gradually incorporating other foods into the diet of your child.
Causes of Depression After Stopping Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding brings you closer to your baby, and your child’s nutritional requirements are also met. After feeding your baby for months, putting a stop to this process can be emotionally challenging for you. Also, it isn’t very easy to say ‘No’ to your little one. So when you refuse to offer breast milk to your wailing child, you might feel terrible. In addition to this, hormones play an important role as well. The entire period of pregnancy and motherhood drives your hormones into a frenzy. And, one of the key players of post-weaning depression is hormonal fluctuations.
When you breastfeed your child, your body secretes oxytocin, which is a feel-good hormone. This hormone is particularly responsible, in this case, to help with the let-down or flow of milk. Oxytocin is greatly responsible for triggering a bond and feeling of affection towards your baby, during the breastfeeding activity as well.
Prolactin is another hormone that is secreted when you breastfeed your child. A milk-making hormone, prolactin can trigger feelings of drowsiness and relaxation in the nursing mother. These two hormones are produced in abundance when you feed your baby. However, when you stop breastfeeding your baby all of a sudden, it will confuse your brain and may lead to post-weaning depression.
Post-Weaning Depression Symptoms
Firstly, there is a fine line between sadness and an actual mood disorder. Here are a few symptoms that you can look out for:
- Motherhood can bring fatigue and tiredness, but if you have an unnaturally high level of fatigue, it could be an indication of post-weaning depression.
- Sleepless nights are another common experience during motherhood, but if you have been experiencing an excess of the same, post-weaning depression might be the culprit.
- As mentioned above, all of us feel sad. However, if you are suffering from extreme sadness that does not seem to end, then this is a cause for concern.
- As a mother, your family means the world to you. However, a major symptom of post-weaning depression is when you lose interest in your family, including your baby. Losing interest on the central focus of your very existence can be overwhelming.
- An increasing sense of anxiety, coupled with constant worrying is yet another indicator that something is not right.
- Finally, if you have been disturbed with thoughts of harming yourself, this can be extremely hard for you. At some point, many people have felt suicidal, but if this is all you can think about, then you need professional help.
How to Manage Postpartum Depression After Stopping Breastfeeding
If you are going through post-weaning depression, then you need help. Here is how you can help yourself and come out of the situation.
1. Accept Your Situation
You need to come to terms with the fact that you are suffering from a mood disorder. People are not as aware of post-weaning depression as they are of postpartum depression, hence it makes it all the more the more difficult for them to deal with it. If you feel depressed post weaning, then accept the fact as it will be easier for you to beat it.
2. Consult a Professional
You cannot treat something like a mood disorder on your own. At least, not everyone is well equipped or mentally strong to do this. Consult a doctor or therapist so that you’ll be guided on the right path and get help for post-weaning depression treatment.
3. Try Medication
Hormones play a huge role in causing post-weaning depression. However, it is not something you cannot beat. Taking medications can reverse the negative effects of hormonal fluctuations and improve your condition. Certain medications can help bring your body back to your normal self. However, please remember that you need to take medications only with the prescription of a professional doctor or therapist. Self-medication will do more harm than good.
4. Focus on the Positive
Surely it will be hard for you to focus on the positive aspects of life if you are suffering from post-weaning depression, but if you want to combat depression, try to stay positive. Changing your mindset like this can be greatly liberating.
5. Increase Your Intake of Nutritional Supplements
Your body needs nutrients, but try taking in a tad bit more through dietary supplements like zinc and omega-3. These nutrients can help reduce the level of stress-inducing hormones in your body.
6. Don’t Fight It Alone
One of the most dominant thoughts a depressed person goes through is the feeling of being alone. But you need to know that you are not alone in this. Fight this battle with your spouse, sibling, parent, or friend by your side. Educate them about your condition and talk to them about your feelings.
7. Go Easy on Yourself
You might have feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness. But you need to know and believe that you are above all that. You’re a strong individual who can fight her way through the toughest of situations.
8. Try Acupuncture
This form of therapy might work in your favour. It involves the insertion of thin needles into pressure points, aimed at reducing stress levels.
Time and again we’ve been told that exercise can do wonders for our body. Apart from being great for your health, exercising is great for your mind as well. You don’t have to try out a vigorous regime right away. Even aerobics or mild Zumba will help you during this time.
10. Eat Healthy Foods
What you eat can greatly impact your feelings. Eat a well-balanced diet. Make sure you incorporate green leafy vegetables and fruits into your diet and drink plenty of water.
How Long Does Post-Weaning Depression Last?
As you know now, hormones play a pivotal role in post-weaning depression. So, once you start weaning your little one, your hormones will gradually begin to stabilise, after which they will fall into a new, more regularised routine. Post-weaning depression usually lasts for only about two weeks, but if it extends more than this, then you might want to consult a doctor. This should also be the case if you have had a history of depression.
You are strong enough to fight your way through this phase. Prioritise your health and mind; keep a positive outlook towards life, and never hesitate to ask for help. We know motherhood is never easy, but remember you are not alone in this. So, don’t let post-weaning depression take control of your life.
Also Read: When and How to Stop Breastfeeding a Baby