The Suprisingly Real Phenomenon of Post Weaning Depression in the Lives of New Moms

Posted: November 10, 2016
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Post weaning depression, a common phenomenon, yet largely ignored in India, and ways to combat it, for yourself and your loved ones.

Postpartum depression (baby blues) is a common occurance largely ignored and very rarely talked about in India. baby blues is not the only form of depression new mothers have to worry about. There is another one, which most women are not even aware of! – It is termed as ‘Post Weaning Depression’.

I always feel that if pregnant women are just made aware that they may face depression symptoms post child birth, it will help them to prepare mentally and tackle the situation in a better way. It can be done easily as they share information about 12 weeks and 20 weeks ultra sounds through a written pamphlet nowadays.

Statistics show that 80% of women post child birth, face mild to strong depression symptoms. Thankfully, the word ‘depression’ is not being considered a taboo nowadays with celebrities coming up and talking about it openly.

At least women like me, who have access to the internet and like to read about what to expect during and after pregnancy, are better placed when both postpartum depression and post weaning depression is concerned. I still feel our medical practitioners need to mark this in their checklist and include it in their “garbha-sanskar” (prenatal education) classes to spread awareness.

I have two kids and I had read about postpartum depression during my first pregnancy itself. Thus, I was ready for it both the times, and though I faced mild depression after child birth, I could manage it better due to my awareness and knowledge of the topic. But I was not aware about post weaning depression and hence, suffered a lot when I was trying to wean my 2 year old son, and was hit by depression later.

It was the worst phase of my life that lasted for more than 2 months. Totally unaware about what got me so depressed and lost and cranky, I started thinking (being analytical by nature) about the recent changes in my life which could cause depression.

The only change I figured out was that I had reduced breastfeeding my baby. It was then that I googled and read some very informative articles on Post Weaning Depression. Finally, I talked about it to my husband and with his help, I could get over this phase. I strongly feel, if I had been aware about this, I could have planned the weaning in a better way and would have avoided all the pain me and my family had to go through for those 2 months.

So, here is a small attempt to spread awareness about – Post Weaning Depression.

What is Weaning?

The process of introducing your infant with solid foods and then reducing his/her intake of mother’s milk is called weaning.

Usually if you have a toddler (or your baby is more than one year old) whom you still breastfeed, you will get lot of advice on how you should stop doing it. But before you give up breastfeeding all of a sudden, because of the advice floating around, WAIT! Read further and plan it properly – it will be good for you as well as your baby.

What is Post Weaning Depression?

Sadness and depression during (and after) weaning is termed as post weaning depression. It is not unusual to feel tearful, sad or mildly depressed after weaning; some mothers also experience irritability, anxiety, or mood swings.

If you abruptly stop breastfeeding your baby or in some cases, even if the weaning is gradual, you may face some or all of these symptoms. As long as it’s not interfering in your day to day behaviour and conduct, you don’t have to really worry about it; just that this awareness can make you deal with it better. But if the symptoms are affecting your quality of life, then you should seek help.

Causes and Symptoms

Similar to postpartum depression, the depression after weaning is caused by hormonal changes, especially the significant drop in prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates milk production while bringing a feeling of relaxation, well-being and calmness. The faster the weaning process, the more drastic the drop of your prolactin levels will be.

Nursing, like any form of physical closeness, produces oxytocin which also makes you feel good and relaxed. So when you stop nursing, you’ll produce less of oxytocin, too. A sudden drop in the levels of both the hormones leads to a feeling of depression in many mothers. If you have the tendency to get depressed, you’re more likely to be infected by this.

How to deal with it?

I am not sure if there is a direct formula to deal with this, but I think weaning gradually can help. If this is really caused by hormonal changes – the more gradual the process is, the slower the hormonal changes will be. The second important thing is – if you feel any of these symptoms, do talk about it to someone you can trust and rely on. Keeping it to yourself will only make it worse.

Also, being mentally prepared for this kind of sadness or depression symptoms can help you prevent it, face it better or at least do away with any significant harm that may be caused on your physical health, family relations and emotional well-being during this phase. After all, knowing where the crankiness and the moodiness is coming from, helps everyone involved to react to it patiently.

How to help someone who is dealing with post weaning depression?

If you know someone who is going through a weaning phase, please make sure you take time to ask her if she is alright. It may seem normal to you and most of the times the symptoms will be too mild for a third person to even notice. But however mild any sort of depression is, help and love from closed ones always helps.

In most of the cases, the weaning phase is also associated with other anxiety causing phases such as anxiety due to re-joining work. This can worsen the post weaning depression. So, as rightly suggested in Deepika’s ‘Dobara Poocho video – please care enough to ask twice and see if you can be of any help to a struggling mom : she can be your wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, friend, colleague, neighbour – anyone!

If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call. 

Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669

Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050

Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704

Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777

Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001

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