You don't have to love every aspect of breastfeeding to feel sad in its absence. Usually, weaning brings about many mixed emotions, whether it's mother-led or child-led. Those who feel upset about breastfeeding before or after weaning, however, are most likely experiencing "booby blues." It's a less talked about maternal emotional condition, but one that has thankfully become more mainstream in recent years. And the symptoms of booby blues are similar to other forms of depression, which makes it helpful if you're looking out for it.
"We often hear about postpartum depression in new moms, but weaning from nursing can also lead to depression in moms often referred to as the 'booby blues,'" Kimberly Hershenson, a therapist specializing in motherhood issues, tells Romper. There is, however, one major difference between the two forms of depression. "Unlike postpartum depression, which can take months or even longer to recover from, the booby blues seem to resolve within weeks as women's hormones rebalance," Hershenson says. This is encouraging news for anyone that thinks they might have booby blues as it seems the issue can be taken care of fairly quickly. The bad news is that, because hormones are at play, any mother that's breastfeeding could end up struggling with the condition. No one is immune to it.
Thankfully, there are some signs to watch out for. Here are five red flags of booby blues that will help you feel less alone, and may even motivate you to seek support from a loved one or professional therapist if you need it.
1. You Feel Dread and Anxiety Every Day
According to Very Well, breastfeeding mothers release oxytocin, the love hormone, into their bodies constantly when they feed their babies. Once a mother stops breastfeeding her oxytocin levels tank, effectively taking that euphoric, loving feeling with it.
"When weaning the body’s chemistry changes, some women experience dramatic changes that can include a sense of dread or anxiety," Leigh Anne O'Connor, an international board certified lactation consultant, tells Romper. As explained on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website, it's abnormal to feel anxiety when no threat is present. Additionally, it's concerning if you have irrational and excessive dread when facing daily activities. If you're weaning and can't see to cope or feel like these feelings are paralyzing you, it might be time to seek professional help.
2. You Have Feelings Of Intense Sadness
"The surges of the hormone oxytocin that come from the baby latching are no longer occurring," Hershenson says. "You now need to find ways to get oxytocin other than breastfeeding, such as exercising and being intimate with your partner." As mentioned earlier, the oxytocin drop off can create feelings of inexplicable sadness, but that doesn't mean you can't go make oxytocin another way. Besides sex and exercise, you can generate the production of the love hormone by hugging your baby, meditating, soaking in a hot bath, petting a dog, or simply sharing a meal with others, according to Psychology Today.
Another way to curb the sharp decline in oxytocin is to do gradual weaning from breastfeeding if you can, as explained on Kelly Mom. Going cold turkey can really put your body in flux and result in severe booby blues.
3. You Feel Disconnected From Baby
"Some moms may believe their bond with their baby is tied exclusively to breastfeeding," Hershenson says, which simply isn't true. There are other things ways you can connect with your baby while breastfeeding and once it's over. Her suggestion is to "engage in activities with your baby that enhance your one-on-one relationship with each other like doing tummy time, bathing, or cuddling together."
4. You Notice Mood Swings
If you're feeling a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after weaning this might be a sign you're experiencing booby blues.
"Due to hormone levels changing (primarily oxytocin and prolactin) you may feel anger, sadness and happiness all in a matter of hours," Hershenson says. She suggests you, "engage in self care whether it's a warm nightly bath, daily meditation, or a morning walk."
5. You're Not Sleeping
It's hard enough getting sleep with a baby in the house, which is why it's so important to make sure you're getting the most you can. If thoughts of sadness, anxiety, or dread about weaning are keeping you up at night, you might have booby blues. Many times, according to Web MD, depression and sleep issues go hand in hand.
Being sad during a transition or change is totally normal, but if it lasts for longer than a few weeks it might time to seek professional help from a therapist. It's also a good idea to write down your feelings in a journal, as well as, reach out to friends and family for support. There is no shame in going through booby blues. Being self aware and proactive about getting a support system in place early on, could make a huge difference in your recovery time.