“The intersection between lactation and mood is important, and it is extremely understudied,” said Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the perinatal psychiatry program at the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. “There are definitely people who report mood symptoms associated with lactation.”
- Catherine Pearson, “Depression and Weaning,” in HuffPo.
I am super ambivalent about breastfeeding right now. I’m still probably some crazy lactivist bitch, but I spend my time breastfeeding reading Kellymom about how to wean on my iPod. Oh, please, let weaning come soon. I’ve got thousands of words right now in a rough (seriously, rough) essay about how breastfeeding is slowly killing me. I’m still planning on breastfeeding the next one, though.
Long story short, Emmett is a shitty nurser. Anything in his baby life goes wrong and his response is to stop nursing. He also no longer takes a bottle. And he doesn’t understand how to use a sippy cup or a straw cup. So, I’m pretty much stranded in the house with a fussy, hungry baby who refuses to nurse. Things get better, then they get worse. And I go from happy mom to basket case in alarmingly regular swings. Add to this the sleep deprivation and the severe elimination diet (no dairy, no gluten, no soy, no eggs, no nuts) and it is no wonder I have bad days.
Jeff and I have spent some time discussing whether I have the depression on, each time concluding that I actually do not have postpartum depression. I’ve been seriously bad off—-clawing-the-floor, crippled-by-tears, waking-the-neighbors-in-the-middle-of-the-night bad—-but I do not feel “depressed.” I have been depressed; this is different.
Wait, you say, I think I know the problem. You say you have regular mood swings? Could they perhaps related to your cycle? Why, yes, I think they are! My hormones are INSANE. And have been for at least six months. But this notion of weaning connected with depression has me wondering if breastfeeding hormones are partly to blame for the mood swings I get around ovulation and my period.
Jeff’s mom has pointed out that perhaps the reason why I haven’t sunk into some pretty good postpartum depression is because I have all the feel-good hormones from breastfeeding. But, see, around ovulation and my period, something changes about my milk—-the taste, the flow, who knows—-and Emmett drops a feeding or two (on really bad days, more than that) in protest. So, I’ve already got these hormonal mood swings going on because of my cycle. And then because we’re not nursing as much, the levels of those feel-good hormones drop considerably. And again, I’m hungry all the time and bone tired: let the mood swings commence! Then the spell passes, the baby nurses extra well in the following days to make up for it, and I feel GREAT. Like, really smiley, good, great.
Would I report “mood symptoms” connected to breastfeeding? Holy cow, yes. And they are distinct from depression. I remember depression being in my head, and my chest. But the despair I get from bad nursing days stems from my body running out of control. My head knows it is not in control—-I watch myself go crazy, but I cannot stop it. My body is animal and off the leash. Powerful stuff, those hormones.
And I have no way to even things out until the boy is off the boob. And he can’t be off the boob for at least another two months. And abrupt weaning is off the table because I don’t believe in it and it would most certainly shove me headlong over the depression cliff anyway. So we are gonna be hanging out here in Moodybitchville for at least another four months. Or more? Oh, please let him figure out how to work a cup.