Unfortunately, many aspects of women's health and maternal health are often considered taboo. The "booby blues" are no exception and it's a topic that doesn't get discussed nearly enough. No, it's not sadness over having so called "too big" or "too small" breasts (although the struggle in both of these areas is arguably very real). It has to do with a very serious issue concerning breastfeeding women and their mental health. So what are the "booby blues," who gets them, and how can they be treated?
"Booby blues is the intense and sometimes overwhelming sadness many moms face upon discontinuing breastfeeding," Jaime Malone, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in maternal mental health, tells Romper. She says there are several reasons these feelings can strongly effect women, one of which is, "the hormonal and neurochemical changes that take place as a result of no longer producing breast milk." Malone points specifically to oxytocin, also dubbed the "love hormone," which is produced while a woman is breastfeeding. A woman who weans from breastfeeding is no longer getting oxytocin pumped to her brain and, therefore, her levels effectively tank.
Beyond fluctuating hormones, the other contributing factor to booby blues is the sudden absence of bonding time and physical closeness. "Many moms have spent quiet moments cuddling, soothing, singing and enjoying their babies while providing this nurturing," Malone says. "Ending it can be a grieving process for some moms, as they say goodbye to this portion of motherhood."
Undoubtedly, there are other ways to bond with your baby after going through weaning, as many of post-breastfeeding moms come to realize. But making that transition can take a toll for a little while. The feelings of ambivalence are completely normal as you search for alternative ways to be close to your child. Change is hard after all, but what if it's more than hard?
"The loss of this interdependence and health protection, along with hormonal changes, can bring on different levels of depression," Kristy Crownover, a marriage and family therapist, tells Romper. She says sadness with weaning is very typical and anyone can get booby blues, but there could also be red flags that indicate something more serious is going on. "Weaning can be a difficult time for many mothers, but if the sadness and irritability lasts more than a few weeks, she should seek professional help," Crownover stresses. In tandem with professional help, she suggests moms make sure they're exercising and maintaining a healthy diet to help combat some of those down-in-the-dumps feelings.
So what can you do to support a woman going through booby blues? Essentially, it all comes down to support and a no judgement zone. "Giving moms the space and opportunity to capture some of the memories of nursing — be it photographs or journaling — is a way of recording and preserving this important experience," Malone says. "Additionally, acknowledging the value she gave her child by breastfeeding to promote her personal sense of pride." When the mother is ready, it will also be helpful if you could point out future milestones in motherhood that she can look forward to.
Ending breastfeeding can be sad for many women and it may be hard for them to articulate how they're feeling. For any woman experiencing booby blues know that your feelings are completely valid and there are ways to get support if you need it.