My Name is Jen and I’m Addicted to Breastfeeding
Sunday morning, I was just not right. My stomach twisted and turned, my heart raced, and my brain wouldn’t sit still for two seconds in a row. I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t figure it out. It was like my usual pms-related anxiety was suddenly thrust into overdrive. I tried relaxing for a bit. I tried cooking. Exercise. Sex.
Masa gave me some space in the morning, allowing me a break from the family whirlwind. He was as glad for the one-on-one time, after his five days away, as I was for the quiet. He took Gus to the Y to splash around in the pool, and after lunch he put Gus down for his nap. Contrary to our routine up till now, Masa has been handling nap times this weekend as we gradually move toward weaning our now 21-month-old son from the breast. We have now had three mornings and three weekend naps with zero nursing.
Could these two things be linked? The weaning and the anxiety? As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure they are.
Despite the relatively few articles that Google has been turning up on the subject, I just find it very hard to believe that the onset of anxiety and depressive feelings I’ve been experiencing has nothing at all to do with the fact that I’m nursing less these days. Here’s where I’m coming from:
First, there’s the mental struggle. The cries of my baby when I deny him the breast. The cries for mommy as daddy tries to get him down for a nap. Hearing him crying for me – or for what I’m denying him – takes those tightly wound heartstrings and yanks them hard. I feel both heartless for taking away this comfort, and weak for not being able to say no to my toddler without feeling ripped apart inside. But the basic truth is that I feel our last nursing session bearing down on me like a freight train. I am dreading an end to this relationship, and I know that it is causing me a moderate amount of anxiety and stress.
But I think there’s more to it. I’m beginning to really believe that there’s also a biological struggle going on inside me these days. Breastfeeding releases two hormones in the body – oxytocin and prolactin – and both of these hormones are strongly linked with feelings of calm, well-being, happiness and love. In fact, oxytocin is the body’s version of an opiate. In other words, perhaps weaning is like coming down off of a thrice-daily (or more) hit of heroine or oxycodone. Maybe not quite as powerful, I’m not hallucinating and jonesing to nurse or anything, but real just the same.
And I DO find myself really looking forward to our one last nursing session each evening at bedtime. I want to rush through the bedtime routine to get there. I feel more content in that glider than practically anywhere else on earth right now. I am sure part of it is that I realize these moments are numbered – a realization that never fails to bring tears to my eyes – but more and more, I think there is a biological component there and that a gradual weaning process is vital to both Gus’ AND my well-being.
What about you? Has anyone out there had this experience while weaning? Did you find that it dissipated quickly or did the funk hang around once the deed was done? I am very interested in hearing different experiences as I forge ahead into unknown territories.
And now, a picture of Gus, simply because I want to, and he’s crazy cute (I’m not modest. Not about him.)