Monthly Archives: October 2013

Coping with the Post-Weaning Blues

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I experienced Post-Weaning Blues after weaning our toddler.  You can read about it here.

Ways I coped with the Post-Weaning Blues:

I communicated with my husband about how I was feeling.

Me: I feel off.  I don’t feel right.

Husband: What do you mean?  You feel sick?

Me: No, just like I am not myself.  I feel angsty and restless.  I feel like I can’t do anything right.  Everything feels hard…

Basically, I let him know how I was feeling day-to-day.  I wanted him to be able to let me know if he noticed I was doing better or worse.

I used a calendar to keep a journal of the way I was feeling during my cycles.

I entered little short notes about how I felt on the days I felt especially “off” and by the second month I started seeing a pattern around certain times in my cycle.

I lowered my expectations of what I could get done each day.

I usually have a routine I go through each day.  I started dropping things from my list of have-to’s to maybe later.  Instead of 2 loads of laundry I did 1, or I left it for my husband that day.  The sink wasn’t always empty but the kids were happy, fed and had clean clothes! Supportive husbands make all the difference.

I changed our daily schedule so that there was a longer quiet/reading time during the day for the kids so I could rest while my toddler napped.

Once 2:30-3pm rolled around I was exhausted.  This coincided with my toddler’s nap time so I made sure quiet time started promptly and I stretched it from 1 hour to an hour and a half.
Reading for the first 20-30 minutes and then the kiddos could play Minecraft for an hour or so.  I heart Minecraft.

I took long walks to help my mood and to help me sleep better.

Sometimes I would take all the kids for a mid-day walk and other times it would be alone late evening with our Border Collie.  The dog doesn’t talk and sometimes mommy really needs silence and no multi-tasking activities.

I asked my husband for extra help with everyday tasks and caring for the kids.

Me:  Are you coming home for lunch?

Husband: Why?  Do you need me to?

Me: Yes.  Bring food.

I was very specific about what I needed help with.

My husband and I share the evening responsibilities of kids and house.  I don’t do Honey-Do lists.  Honestly, I probably should, but I don’t.  Instead, I would text my husband telling him I need help with _____ today/this weekend.  Then when he got home from work or if it was on the weekend (and I saved most things for the weekend) I would ask again or remind him that I needed help with cleaning floors or the bathrooms.

I took more breaks by not worrying about getting it all done.

I finished weaning our youngest during high summer (mid-July).  It was a fairly mild one so I was able to get outside and enjoy the beautiful days it offered.  We have a pretty loose daily schedule we follow.  I modified it depending on how I felt on any given day.

The kids and I normally go outside twice a day to play for an hour or two.  During this time most days we averaged 3 and I would play in the garden while they played on the swingset or in the sprinkler.

We looked for pretty things and neat insects.  It was a lovely distraction and helped recharge my batteries-still does!  If it was an especially trying day I would send them upstairs or outside to play while I sat reading a book or an internet article.

I spent more time on anything I found recreational so I could “recharge” my batteries.  

Sometimes, all you need is a distraction from how you are feeling.  Other times you need to just be.  I have many hobbies but I felt no motivation to engage in any of them.  I needed something more passive.

One of the ways in which I really enjoy nurturing myself is by looking at pretty things.  Yes, Pinterest is good for this but so is Google Images!  I am very color-oriented so I looked at a lot of beautiful gardens and natural landscapes.   NASA has some pretty spectacular images of our universe.

Another activity I enjoy (as mentioned above) is going through our little kitchen garden (potager) and smelling all the amazing herbs.  I planted some Lemon Verbena and it really took off this year.  It smells heavenly.  They don’t call it Aromatherapy for nothin’!  I have all kinds of herbs growing but my favorites for scent are the Lemon Verbena, Rose Geranium, Lavender, German Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Greek Oregano, and all the mints.

Nature walks on walking trails are one of my favorite activities but there isn’t always time for it and the weather does not always cooperate.

Sometimes, vegging in front of the tv is exactly what you need.

This is what worked for me.

These are all ways of coping that worked for me.  Feel free to use what is relevant and toss the rest.  I work at home and we homeschool year-round so that lends me more flexibility in some ways but less in others.

In the past, I have utilized complete online curriculum programs like Time4Learning.  This was especially helpful when there was a new baby in the house.  I did not have to plan lessons but I knew all the bases would be covered.  The kids were able to learn at their own pace.  It still required some supervision and coaching but it eliminated the stress of planning for each week.

You can always supplement the curriculum with other activities as well.  I can not say enough great things about Khan Academy.  It is an excellent learning resource, especially for math curriculum for all ages, and it is FREE!   I am not getting compensation for stating any of this, it is 100% my personal experience and opinion.

Some days it was enough that all the basics were taken care of: lunch would involve a smorgasbord of finger foods (meats, cheeses, veggies, fruit, crackers), some basic lessons they could work on independently, bare minimum cleaning, and nothing else would get done.

Dad took over any kind of evening shuttling to activities, conflicts or household duties.  On some evenings I would retire to our bedroom for a couple of hours so I could unwind over an episode (or two) of “Breaking Bad” alone. (That series is excellent, right?)

The kids were always taken care of, clean, dressed, and fed with lots of hugs to connect.  Sometimes, that has to be enough.  These days are perfect for dress-up, finger foods, reading and movies together.  Don’t be afraid to take a mental health day, evening or weekend. Mommies are people with needs too!

I am very fortunate in that my husband is supportive.  It is very important to communicate your feelings and needs clearly.  I don’t know anyone that can read minds and my husband is talented but certainly not that talented.  Getting support is a need not a want.  You need this.  Frame it in those terms.

Again, my symptoms were mild.  If you find you are not able to cope or your symptoms are not getting better with each cycle please visit your health practitioner for help.  At the very least, let your family and close friends know how you are feeling.

The Post-Weaning Blues

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I recently weaned our toddler.  When we completed weaning she was 2 years 6 months.  You can see my post about it here.  The first week after I had completed weaning my toddler I felt a little off-kilter and the next week I felt gloomy, tired and frustrated.  It was the week of my period but this was different.

I think it is important to note that my menstrual cycle resumed 4 months after my last child was born.  This is normal for me even though I breastfeed exclusively during the first 6-8 months.  During this period of weaning I noticed that I was crankier and less patient a couple of days before my period would begin.  I chalked it up to a change in hormones.  

I was not sleeping well.  I did not feel as emotionally resilient as I normally do.  There was a general overarching feeling of restlessness.  It was uncomfortable but I knew it was from weaning and figured the next cycle would be better.  Nope.  I did get somewhat of a two week break but then a day or two before ovulation my symptoms would build again.

The week leading up to my next period I felt even more funky.  Even though I expected it I was surprised by how angsty I felt.  I felt like a teenager again!  I got discouraged about trivial things.  I stopped being motivated about projects I had really felt passionate about.  I was much more critical of myself.  

Starting two days before my period I started to wake at 3:30 in the morning and stay wide awake and then be exhausted at mid-day.  I took a benadryl before bed to keep from waking until the second day into my period and then it was no longer needed.  I was off my game but not so much that I couldn’t cope.   I made sure to have quiet time for everyone right after lunch and I would lay down with my toddler as she napped.

I made sure to have a very deliberate conversation with my husband about exactly how I was feeling and what I was experiencing.  I was concerned that 2 weeks of every month would be like this.  I told him if this lasts more than another month I am going to our doctor.  It was not as if he hadn’t noticed what I was going through but I wanted to make sure that he knew I felt it was very different for me.  It was out of the norm.  

I had a general feeling of unease and restlessness.  I had night sweats off and on over the 2-3 months after weaning.   It would ramp up the week of my period and then by one day in I would feel like myself again.  

By the next cycle my hormones had settled down and I felt more like myself.  Thank Goodness!  This experience was definitely much more intense than I had experienced before.

I never went through anything like this with my first three children.  I had a little postpartum anxiety but no issues at all after weaning.  They had all self-weaned.  Does that make a difference in my case?  I really don’t know.  I was so careful and we stretched it out so long that I am very hesitant to believe it has any bearing.

I went to all my usually internet stomping grounds for all things breastfeeding and weaning.
This was a very general overview but did not mention insomnia, night sweats, or the way in which the fluctuating hormones can affect emotions. 
This article mentions rapid weaning as being the cause for depressive symptoms.  However, we did not rapidly wean. 

I found nothing on post-weaning blues on this site.  I found this pretty disappointing and a little disturbing. 

There is mention of sadness and depression while weaning and I thought this was much more helpful than having no mention of it at all.  Again, it mentions rapid weaning as being a cause of the depressive side effects.

Since they didn’t really give a general list of symptoms/side effects to expect I went in search of women who had similar experiences to mine.  I searched using terms like, ‘weaning and night sweats’ and ‘weaning and depressive symptoms’.  I was glad to find several mothers who had posted on the topic. It was comforting to know what I was experiencing is pretty common.  Some of the posts I found particularly helpful:

There are many women out there with similar experiences.  I was fortunate in that my experience was mild in comparison to some.  The Post-weaning blues are very real and common.  

I want to add my voice and share the side effects I had and ways I coped for the 2-3  months I had them.  I also want to share what I learned after doing some informational searches on the internet because I didn’t find them in any of my books or on any authoritative websites.

After searching I soon learned there is very little research on weaning and what is typical.

This is what I learned from other women just like me.   This is not a comprehensive list because research needs to be done.  This is yet another women’s health issue that has not received adequate interest in research studies.  I have my own theories why but I digress.  That is a whole other post.

Some Common Symptoms of Post-Weaning Blues:

  • Insomnia
  • Night Sweats
  • Exhaustion
  • General feeling of unease or restlessness
  • Sadness in varying degrees from very mild to severe
  • Anxiety in varying degrees from very mild to severe
  • Loss of motivation and interest

You may have some or all of these and more.  Please keep in mind, correlation does not equal causation.  Yet, there are so many of us out there with these very symptoms closely following weaning.

Prolactin is a hormone involved in milk production.  There are several hormones involved in breastfeeding.  Prolactin alone has over 300 functions in the human body!  Without specific research on the effects of weaning how can research-based medicine inform us on what to expect?  This is why it is so important for women to share their experiences with one another.

It is very important that you communicate with your spouse/partner or close friends about how you are feeling.  A support network is very important in that if you were to experience severe symptoms you would have help.  This post and list is not to be taken as medical advice.  If you are having severe symptoms please seek medical help.

I noticed that many women I read about experienced symptoms for 2-3 months after weaning.  I had not considered seeking a prescription because any medicine for mood disorders takes anywhere from 6 weeks to over 6 months for some people to find an appropriate prescription and to find the right dosage(s).

In essence, I would have prolonged my discomfort and done more harm to myself in taking drugs than any good.  With all of that stated, I do believe that for those that have more severe and persistent symptoms it is far better to have access to medication as an option than to have nothing at all. It is clear that treating mood disorders is a practice of trial and error. Practiced patience and ongoing communication are key for both doctor and patient during treatment.

It is important to reiterate my symptoms were mild.  If they had lasted longer or gotten more severe I would have gone to my doctor for help.  I had communicated with my husband that this was my plan and expectation.  I urge anyone reading this to visit their doctor if symptoms feel out of your control or do not seem to be getting better.

If you find you are not coping it is very important to seek help.  There is no shame in asking for help.  It is especially important for spouses and friends to encourage loved ones to get help if they notice longer and more severe symptoms.

I was able to manage my symptoms by practicing self-care and modifying my daily schedule and personal expectations.

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Coping with the Post-Weaning Blues