Learning to breastfeed can be an emotional journey.
The Early Days
Following the colostrum phase, a mama’s milk usually comes in around days 3-5 and this tends to coincide with those baby blues.
Oestrogen and progesterone are at an all time high through pregnancy and then after birth they plummet which can trigger the baby blues. Add in a few sleepless nights and the challenges that come with the early days of breast feeding and chances are you will be a little teary, anxious and irritable… and the rest.
These feeling are totally normally and should last for a few days. If the continue past two weeks, connect with your healthcare provider as this could be a sign of postpartum depression.
Breastfeeding is controlled by 2 hormones: Prolactin and Oxytocin.
Prolactin is responsible for how much breastmilk is produced and it rises when your baby suckles.
Oxytocin is responsible for breast milk coming out of the breast and initiates the let down reflex.
The oxytocin can actually help mama feel happy, relaxed and sleepy while breastfeeding.
So whilst those early feeding days can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Once feeding is established and hormone levels settle, feeding your baby has a whole range of incredible benefits for both mama and babe.
Weaning is an emotional journey. Whether you chose to wean, you were forced to wean for particular reasons or if your little one chose to self wean. When breastfeeding slows down or ends all together even over time or abruptly, women can experience a significant hormonal shift. Mothers can experience symptoms similar to premenstrual feelings and it can be incredibly intense for some women.
When women breastfeed, oxytocin is released which promotes a sense of feeling good and deep relaxation. So it is no surprise that women start to feel different as they eliminate these regular doses of oxytocin. It can often feel like a withdrawal for mamas. Although the terms are rarely used, there is such thing as post-weaning baby blues and delayed postpartum depression.
- Symptoms can include:
- Anxiety – including nervousness, racing heart, racing mind
- Weepiness – sometimes crying multiple times a day
- Mood swings, irritability
- Lowered motivation
- Disruptions in sleep
- Skin breakouts
- Headaches, migraines and more
I also want to note here that for any mamas who experienced postnatal anxiety or depression. Be mindful that weaning can tigger similar emotions. Studies have found an increase in postpartum anxiety and depression after ceasing breastfeeding. If you are worried about how weaning may affect you mentally and emotionally, I urge you to seek support and guidance through this time. Let your loved ones know that this can be a triggering process.
It can take several weeks for your hormones to balance back into your ‘normal’ rhythm after your breastfeeding journey comes to an end and it is essential to support this process.
You can read more about weaning and how to end your breastfeeding journey in this journal post.