You have more than likely heard all about schedules, mastitis, supplements and pumps and bottles, and you more than likely have spoken to a few moms who have successfully weaned, but very few of us hear about weaning depression or even know the signs.

It is important for mothers to help break the stigma when it comes to mental illnesses such as post partum depression and the lesser known weaning depression, and the only way we can successfully break the stigma is through is speaking up and educating others.

I have spend a few hours chatting to my wonderful and supportive phsyciatrist, Dr Pillay, on the warning signs of weaning depression, how and when to treat it and why it happens and most importantly who is more at risk of developing weaning depression.

We’ll start off with WHY it happens:

When breastfeeding, or lactating in general, your body is flooded with hormones, specifically oxytocin and prolactin, these two hormones, along with several more create levels that promote love, bonding and calm.
When weaning, these hormones are no longer triggered as often and other hormone levels start to rise, which creates an imbalance, this imbalance is usually temporary and hormone levels taper out to a balanced normal within a few days to weeks.

What are the warning signs that weaning depression is becoming something more:

Weaning depression typically only lasts a few days to a month, if you are still feeling depressed after a month post weaning then it is best to chat to your certified lactation consultant or general practitioner, if they feel it warrants further treatment, they will refer you to a phsychiatrist or phsycologist for further intensive treatment.

Warning signs:

If you feel any of the following feelings intensely for longer than a month, or have feelings of hurting yourself or anyone else, contact your doctor immediately.

Loss of interest in things that previously interested you.
Unexplained anger
Feeling of despair
Extreme lethargy, or lack of motivation to get out of bed
Constant crying
Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
Changes in sleep patterns (needing less or more sleep)
Appetite changes

All feelings of self harm or feeling out of control should be taken seriously.

Successful Treatment of Weaning Depression.

There are many ways in which to successfully treat depression, from medications to talk therapy, however weaning depression is best tackled with talk therapy and then if your therapist or phsycologist feels it necessary he/she will refer you to a phsychiatrist for evaluation for medications that will best suit you and your circumstances.

Who is more susceptible to weaning depression:

Women who have struggled with traumatic birth or breastfeeding experiences.
Women who have previously suffered with depression.
Mothers of preterm infants
Mothers who were given drugs such as eglynol or esperide and not properly weaned.
Mothers who have underlying issues such as post traumatic stress disorder or anxiety disorders.
Mothers who wean prematurely.

What can you do to prevent weaning depression.

Listen to your body, if you prematurely wean you are more likely to suffer with feelings of regret or guilt.
Exercise, preferably outdoors in the sunshine.
Watch your diet, try staying away from sugary foods, processed foods and hormone ladened meats.
Up your intake of green leafy vegetables.
Connect, with your child, with your family and with your friends.
Talk, problems only grow and fester when contained, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Be kind to yourself and those around you.

If you, or anyone you know are showing signs of depression, contact SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group), they will able to chat to you and help you find a mental health practitioner in your area, they will also be able to help you find a support group or even help you with talking to family and friends.

Speaking out is a sign of strength.

SADAG: (011) 234 4837
24hour Helpline: 0800 12 13 14
SMS: 31393 (and they will call you back)