It might seem like the end of pregnancy would also mean closure on the particular life chapter of roller coaster hormones, right? But for any woman who has experienced the postpartum period, she will tell you that most certainly isn't the case. After all, your body is recalibrating and prepping for breastfeeding, whether you choose to pursue it or not. And it turns out that the weaning period can be just as dizzying — literally. So, if you've been feeling tired and dizzy after weaning, it's important to know you aren't alone. In fact, experts say there are some very specific reasons why these symptoms might occur.
"I think this happens more frequently when a mom weans fairly quickly as opposed to a gradual weaning," Leigh Anne O’Connor, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and parenting coach, tells Romper in an email interview. "When the weaning is swift, there can be a dramatic hormonal shift that can contribute to these symptoms. There is also less oxytocin when one is not lactating, so that can contribute to fatigue."
When my daughter weaned at 22 months, I was a member of the former club — our process was gradual and I didn't experience any symptoms. Her weaning was so slow that it felt like one day she just woke up and we were officially done. But my fellow Romper writer Ceilidhe said that certainly wasn't the case for her. In fact, about a week after initiating a weaning program with her daughter, she stood up from sitting on the floor and fell. "My vision went black and I landed flat on my face," she wrote. "The only thing that saved me from having a broken nose was the fact that I landed on her soft Elmo armchair." Nausea and dizziness during weaning, she learned, was something many mothers experienced.
"Why didn't anyone tell me that trying to stop breastfeeding would take such a toll on my body?" Word Of Mom Blog at What To Expect wrote. "I seriously feel as tired as I did when I was first pregnant. It's the kind of exhaustion where I could literally fall asleep at the dinner table, and where I feel myself nodding off while I'm stirring marinara sauce on the stove."
Emmily Bristol at The Tired Feminist noted much of the same, writing that her weaning symptoms were akin to the ones that accompany pregnancy. "I’ve had nausea, dizziness, headaches, mood swings, hot flashes and clumsiness (dropping things, bumping things)," she wrote. "It certainly takes the edge off of any sentimental feelings I have!"
Don't be surprised if weaning leads to feelings of sadness, depression, and/or anxiety. After all, not only are your hormones all over the place, but weaning signifies the end of an era which, for many moms, can bring with it a lot of emotion. According to Kelly Mom, a quick weaning process can lead to a more abrupt shift in hormone levels, which may in turn cause harsher symptoms. "Dropping no more than one feeding per week is gentler on both mother and baby," the website suggested. But if "feelings of sadness or depression linger," then it's important to seek professional help, Dr. Batya Grundland, a family physician at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, told Today's Parent.
Other symptoms that might accompany weaning include PMS (yay, your period is back), attachment issues, increased sex drive, anger, heart palpitations, irregular periods, and migraines. "Our bodies go from producing tons of milk to drying up, and the effects are much more than just physical," noted BabyGaga. "The hormone changes will affect everything, from our breasts to our brains."
Which really brings additional meaning to the idea of "mommy brain," am I right?
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.