I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was a comment that my mom friend made, but something made me convinced that my depression stemmed from breastfeeding. My mom friend told me how her doctor had informed her that breastfeeding essentially puts your body into a pseudo-menopause for the duration of lactation.
I did my own research on lactation on Dr. Google, and found out that your body increases prolactin during pregnancy and maintains high amounts throughout breastfeeding. I had been told that I would feel great during breastfeeding because when the baby sucks on your nipple, your body releases oxytocin which can act as a mild antidepressant.
Something nagged at me though. I tried to do some more research on Dr. Google and found nothing but a scant article that discussed depression that can occur upon weaning. I read this article, engrossed. The article, which was translated from a medical study that was conducted, discussed how as your prolactin levels stay high during breastfeeding, your estrogen and progesterone levels decrease because your body diverts all resources to produce prolactin.
I wondered if low estrogen and low progesterone contributed to my mood disorder.
Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your commitment to scientific integrity, I had started taking an antidepressant about two weeks prior to deciding to stop breastfeeding. The first week I took the antidepressant, I noticed that my suicidal thoughts had gone away. The second week I took antidepressant…I suddenly found myself feeling relaxed and happy whenever I considered killing myself. Relieved yet also concerned, I told my therapist and she recommended seeing a psychiatrist to try something else as it appeared that the antidepressant was not working. She also recommended perhaps stopping breastfeeding to see if that would at a minimum reduce some stress.
My mother and my husband were supportive…in fact, seeing my decline, they had recommended stopping earlier.
I weaned in a week.
If you’re stopping breastfeeding you should probably wean over a much longer time to avoid mastitis or general discomfort, however I was desperate for anything to work.
A week after I had started weaning, I woke up.
I woke up figuratively and literally. There was a smile on my face. I jumped out of bed. There was energy in my body. The change was incredible.
Once my fatigue and exhaustion from the depression evaporated, the hopelessness and the feelings of being overwhelmed dissipated as well. Suddenly I found that I had energy to pick up Little Buddy and look after him. I had energy to pick him up from daycare, go grocery shopping, clean the kitchen and cook dinner. Anxiously I waited for the weekend to see how it would go. In the throws of depression, weekends were horrific. Long days of passing the baby back and forth and feeling guilty when the other one was taking care of Little Buddy. I would watch the clock tick down to 7PM when I knew that I could put Little Buddy down for bed, crawl to the couch, curl up and watch an hour of TV before I could sink into bed for my 10 hour slumber.
But this weekend – this one was incredible. I had energy to take care of Little Buddy, run errands and go for a walk. My connection with Little Buddy still wasn’t quite there, but for the first time…I felt content and possibly…happy?
For the first time, I felt no regret.