The Hardest Two Months of My Life

In an effort to be authentic, I’d like to talk about something difficult I went through as a new mother. A year ago, I went though the worst two months I’ve ever experienced. I never mentioned it on the blog. I couldn’t; I was too overwhelmed. But now that a whole year has passed, I want to share my experience with you…

Flashback: Toby was eight months old. It was a chilly January in New York, and we had just had a blissful Christmas vacation. But suddenly I started feeling bad. Out of nowhere, my mind started obsessing and worrying about inconsequential things; I had trouble sleeping (I’d wake up in the night and feel gripped with anxiety and fear); I began feeling very down, like that heavy feeling you get in your chest when you’re sad about something. Why? I had no idea. But I knew it wasn’t good.

Over the next couple weeks, I felt worse and worse. I felt guilty because I had a wonderful baby, a loving husband, and a great life on paper, yet I was inexplicably falling apart. Although I had loved taking care of Toby since he was born eight months before, it suddenly seemed exhausting to look after a child. I dreaded hearing his cries in the morning and having to get out of bed and face the day. I felt utterly overwhelmed and exhausted. Work projects seemed especially intimidating. Even the smallest work decisions seemed like insurmountable obstacles, and I was quickly moved to tears. I felt certain I would disappoint the people I was working with and for.

My self esteem plummeted, and I felt completely overwhelmed. I would read other blogs–Oh Happy Day, Swissmiss–and think, how are these women doing so much? How can they handle everything–job, family, life–and get it all done and seem so happy? What is wrong with me? I wondered.

Through my sad eyes, I read blogs and saw strangers on the street and just assumed everyone had a perfect life. When I told that to Alex, he swore to me that everyone, without exception, had their own true story, their own struggles, their own flaws, worries, concerns; everyone is human. And then he said, “Look at your own blog, after all. People would have no idea that you’re going through this. You come off like you’re handling everything effortlessly.” That was true, I realized. (I mean, look at this post, for example; I was feeling terrible and insecure that day. It’s the type of event I would have normally loved, but instead I felt self-conscious and lame.)

To explain my sadness and worry, I looked at my life and tried to point to something—my career, right? It must be ending, I figured. Everyone would surely stop reading my blog and it would just fade away; people would stop hiring me for projects, and I’d never get work again; I convinced myself of these things. And I was a bad mother—I didn’t know if I was making the right choices about sleep, food, discipline, everything. And I was a bad wife—I was suddenly boring and cried a lot. Alex would get sick of me. My friends would stop hanging out with me, I would be alone from now on, and then how would I fill the endless days? My mind took on crazy scenarios, and life felt so bleak.

When you’re feeling down, you often compartmentalize it, right? You have to get out of bed in the morning, so you try to take a deep breath and get through as much as you can–working, going to dinner with friends, watching TV. You try to put your sadness out of your mind and put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t want these feelings to bleed into my whole life, so I tried to keep them bottled up as much as possible.

At the time, I wasn’t able to mention my sadness on the blog. Even now, I don’t know what I would have said if I had written about it. And I didn’t want to admit–even to myself–how lost I suddenly felt. It was disorienting and inexplicable, and I felt like it would never end. My sadness felt like my new way of being.

(I *almost* mentioned it in this post, which I wrote right after I was feeling better again, but I couldn’t. It was still too close to home.)

Although I try to keep Cup of Jo as honest and true as possible (and am always happy to share personal things), I wanted to keep the blog separate while I was depressed–and keep it a place where I didn’t have to think about my sleepless nights and strange sudden deep sadness and self doubt.

Even most of my best friends had no idea. I told Alex (of course; it was obvious to him), my parents, my sister and brother, and just a couple friends. I remember my sweet friend Jason took an afternoon off work to come hang out with me. I barely talked. I kept thinking that he must think I was so boring and wouldn’t want to be friends with me anymore.

It came in waves. Sometimes I’d feel better, almost like myself again. Other times, I’d feel so overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness that I’d feel like I couldn’t move or breathe.

Honestly, it’s hard to think back, but here are a few of the tough moments I remember:
* One evening, I was crying on the phone with my sister Lucy, while holding Toby. I looked up and saw myself in the mirror and thought how sad I looked, and how worried Toby looked, even though he was still so little.
* My mom came to visit, and I sat on the sofa and looked at the floor and could barely manage to whisper, “I am so depressed.” I would just lie with my head in her lap and she would stroke my hair.
* I was walking down the street with Alex and Toby on a sunny day, but it felt dark to me. And, even though I adore them, I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be anywhere. And Alex said to me, “You’re so sad, you can barely walk down the street.”
* I was walking to a work meeting on a snowy day. The whole world felt grey. I just wanted to lie down on the street and fall asleep. It was hard to keep moving.

One afternoon, while taking a walk along the Hudson River, I told my mom, who was visiting us, that I wished that Toby had a different mother. He deserved more, I thought. I felt like such a failure: I had always wanted to be a mother. I always had baby fever. I always looked forward to having children. But now that I had a sweet, curious, beautiful baby, I suddenly couldn’t handle motherhood. I felt exhausted and inept. I hated seeing or reading about families with more than one child, because that meant that they could handle having a baby…and even choose to have another. What was wrong with me? I didn’t want Toby to be affected by this weighty sadness I was feeling.

Writing down these words feels strange now. That time feels so far away from me, now that a year has passed, but it was so rattling and all-consuming at the time. I felt like a totally different person. I thought it would never end.

Of course, I had ok moments, too. I felt some relief when watching TV in the evenings. I liked having friends over, as long as I wasn’t expected to talk much. Every Saturday afternoon, Toby and I would go to the Upper West Side for a playdate with my friend Leigh and her two sons. Hanging out at Leigh’s apartment was cozy, she’s easy to talk to, her boys were charming, Toby loved playing with their toys, she’d make a delicious lunch. Leigh had no idea that I felt so bad. I once told her that I felt overwhelmed by “the juggle” of everything, but I only mentioned it in passing. (She was shocked months later, when I told her the full story.) It was a relief to hang out with her and NOT talk about it. I still felt sad underneath, but I enjoyed those days and found them refreshing and bolstering.

But overall, for six weeks–from late January to early March–life felt really, really dark. I couldn’t bear thinking about the future. Every day felt long and exhausting, and I couldn’t imagine making it through all the days ahead of me.

My mom, my sister and Alex kept telling me over and over: This is a clinical depression, not your life; you must have some sort of chemical imbalance, some sort of medical reason why you’re feeling like this. But I didn’t believe them; I thought I was just sad because I was lame and going to fail in life, but a tiny part of me held a flicker of hope that maybe they were right. With their encouragement, I started seeing a therapist, and she gave me tools to help with anxiety, but overall I remained overwhelmingly sad.

The funny thing about depression is that you don’t know that it’s depression—like, chemical imbalance in your brain, or a hormonal crash. You just think it’s your actual life–that your career really IS ending, that you really ARE a terrible mother, that your husband really WILL stop loving you, that friends DO think you’re boring. At any time in your life, if you just start feeling bad in your mind and mood, you can always come up with a random reason to point to–oh, it’s my job! Oh, it’s my dating life! Oh, it’s my looks! Oh, it’s just me being an awkward person! When you’re depressed, you don’t realize that your life actually is fine–you’re simply sad because you’re depressed. The depression is the reason for the depression.

After about six weeks of feeling so low, a funny thing happened: I woke up one Tuesday morning, and it was over. Just over. It felt like I had been swimming in a pool, and suddenly—woosh!—I had resurfaced and my head had come back out of the water, and I could see the bright sun and breathe in the fresh air again. It felt like waking up from a bad dream. Suddenly, I was myself again. That Tuesday morning, I woke up, the sun was shining and I felt happy again. My depression had just…ended.

And the crazy thing was: I got my period the very next day, for the first time in over a year and a half–since before my wedding day, since before I found out I was pregnant. It was as if my hormones had finally figured themselves out, and boom! I was back to normal. And that’s the first time that I realized what had happened. Suddenly, I looked back at the situation and slapped my forehead with the realization: Of course! My depression was related to weaning.

Here’s what had happened, I realized: In late January, I had decided to wean Toby from breastfeeding for a number of reasons, so I quite abruptly weaned him within a week. But instead of feeling liberated, I began feeling tired and sad and went into a downward spiral. The timing of the beginning of my depression (weaning Toby) and the end of my depression (getting my period again) lined up perfectly.

Next, I researched depression related to weaning and it all made sense. I’ve also now spoken to many other women who have been through the exact same situation–including the wife of our friend C., whom he described as getting “hit by a mack truck” when she weaned their baby.

A lovely Cup of Jo reader, who went through the same thing, had written to me: “When some women wean, they experience a depression similar to postpartum depression, because of the drop in the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. (Studies have shown these hormones produce the same kind of ‘feel good’ as cocaine or ecstasy.) So, when I weaned, I was having a hormonal crash, similar to a withdrawal. It was something my counselor didn’t catch until I told her—and it was something I really hadn’t heard about before. There are tons of online articles about the benefits of breastfeeding and about postpartum depression, but unless you are really looking for ‘weaning’ and ‘depression’ on google, you won’t find much. This is unfortunate because I suspect many moms just chalk it up to lack of sleep, not adjusting to the new situation, or a plethora of other things…If I had known that depression was something to look out for when weaning, it would prevented a lot of turmoil (my husband wouldn’t have felt as helpless, I could have taken more proactive, preventative measures, etc.)”

And I agree: Even though there’s a wealth of information about postpartum depression right after you have a baby, it was virtually impossible to find information about depression related to weaning. But now that I’ve spoken to other mothers who have experienced the exact same thing, with the exact same timing, I know that it’s a real condition. I found a mention here, and a forum here. [Update: A lovely reader recommended reading this post, as well; thank you, Kathleen!] But otherwise, depression around weaning seems to be a real gap in medical research and awareness. (One psychiatrist, whom I called for an appointment, actually said to me, “Well, I guess anything’s possible.”) I hope that people will become more aware of it, and more research and preventative measures will be developed.

Thankfully, once the depression ended, it really was over. This past year has been wonderful. My energy and confidence are back, and I’m honored and thrilled to be raising Toby, who is such a joy and a funny, lovely little person. I love my family with all my heart. We’ll surely go through more ups and downs in life, but this year has been great—and restorative—and now I feel ready and able to handle future bumps in the road.

I wanted to share my experience, since, hopefully other wonderful mothers who go through this will recognize it for what it is, and get help for clinical weaning-related depression, instead of just thinking that it’s them, their own life or failure to handle motherhood. I would recommend being slow and careful around weaning, and if you do feel the blues, or a more intense depression, get support and know that you are not the only one who has gone through this. As my lovely friend said, “If I could spare anyone going through what I did, I would for sure want to.”

Also I have a huge new respect and humility for people who suffer from depression, and I’ll never again secretly think that someone should just “shake it off” or “snap out of it.” People are heroes for getting through it. In a way, I’m glad that I went through this because if friends or family or even sweet Toby ever goes through a depression, hopefully I will better understand how they’re feeling and maybe know a few things to say to help them get through it.

What about you? Have you ever experienced depression or anxiety? Was it related to having a baby, a hardship you went through, life in general, or no reason in particular? We really are all in this together. Lots of love to you, as always. xoxo

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
–Mary Oliver, Dream Work

P.S. Related: My own balance of work/baby/life, and the schedules of seven other moms

(These photos are from last May, when I was already feeling much better:)

(Poem via Andrea)

  1. Susan says...

    Hi Andrea,
    I am going through the exact same thing as you regarding health anxiety. Let me know if you want to chat off line and perhaps we can share resources. You can email me at Hope you get better soon.

  2. Rachel says...

    Jo- earlier today I was standing in Target and the thought of walking to the next aisle over to find bread was so overwhelming I felt I could barely do it. That was the wake up call to google “weaning and depression” which led me to this article via Kelly Mom. I clicked on the link and then exclaimed to my husband, “I love this blog…and she got weaning depression too!” Thank you thank you. Just knowing this is a thing has helped me feel better already. I started to examine the depression and compartmentalize it as “weaning depression” rather than my reality. Hopefully I can start to feel like myself again soon. Your blog was there for me during the 3am newborn feeds and now during the weaning blues- thank you thank you.

  3. Ali says...

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been dealing with postpartum anxiety (manifested as hypochondria/health anxiety). Today is actually the day I have stopped breastfeeding completely. I’m hopeful that with some time things will balance out and I will have a day where I wake up feeling like me again (as you described).

  4. Harriet says...

    Thank you so much for this article. It’s helped me to finally identify how I’m feeling. I never realised this was ‘a thing’ even though I’m currently weaning my second baby (a 20 month old little girl).

  5. Thank you *so much* for sharing your story. When I went through post-weaning depression last year, it took me two months to figure out what had triggered what felt like a very random darkness. And the only reason I was able to finally identify it as weaning was because I had read this post five years earlier! I remembered it one day and it all clicked. After that, I was able to get the right treatment and very quickly came out of the horrible depression. So, THANK YOU!

    (If anyone else is feeling this way, maybe my story could be helpful? I shared my full experience on my podcast called “Kin”: from how I weaned to remembering this blog post by Joanna, from my conversations with my family and doctors to the treatment I received.)

    Anyway, THANK YOU, Joanna. God bless you for sharing this very personal story. It literally changed my life.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, this means so much to me. Thank you for sharing xoxo

  6. Sarah says...

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Iʻm currently feeling really down in the dumps, slowly weaning my 15 month old baby and just so overwhelmed by it all. Iʻm relieved to know that others have gone through the same experience — Iʻm waiting for the day when my depression goes away too!!

  7. Lauren says...

    This makes so much sense. But I’m wondering if this kind of experience is possible even when one is doing extended weaning. My daughter is now down to bfing 2x per day at 20 months, but has been for a while now (with the occasional exception when she’s super upset or sick, in which time I let her increase). I wonder if this has caused me to be in a state of limbo, since I’m not bfing regularly throughout the day, but I’m not weaning completely. I mean even my meds can’t touch this level of anxiety and depression, and my family needs their mom/wife back. My husband has asked me to wean, so I can feel better. Maybe finishing this is in fact the answer. Oh but it is it’s own struggle to finally be at the end. I’ve been crying for weeks dreading it (but I can’t keep living like this).

    • Steph says...

      Hi Lauren, it is def possible – I was down to one feed per day and just hit rock bottom and my husband sat me down and said the same thing to me, I stopped that day as I knew that was causing my despair and within one week I was feeling so much better, I weaned over 5 months to help prevent the depression as I had it after weaning my first over two weeks so I was in extra denial cause I thought I was weaning ‘right’ this time… hope this helps… all the best to you and your family xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, i agree that it’s definitely possible — the hormones can be so intense when you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, etc. sending you the biggest hug, lauren. you WILL feel better again.

    • Annapoorni says...

      I am in the process of weaning by beautiful baby girl . I feel so low that sometimes it’s extremely hard for me to get out of bed. I feel sad that the elixir of life is going to not of use anymore and I might not be so needed by my baby . I often console myself by thinking that it’s best in the interest of the baby s well being . I feel no connection with anything around me. Hope I get better soon

  8. Melissa says...

    I’m going through this right now and it makes so much sense, thank you! I could t figure out why I feel so down the past week or so, I’ve just finished weaning. It is so emotional, I feel as if I’m losing an important part of the beautiful bond that I have with my son. This made me feel better, as much as I can right now anyway! Hopefully my hormones even out sooner glad that you felt back to normal again after that rough patch!

    • Nadia says...

      I went through exactly the same thing. I was in denial to think this can be a thing. I mean this was my second pregnancy. I had postpartum depression with my first born and used eglynol and it help. But the second time I naturally felt pregnant with twins. I breastfed them for 11 months and weaned them. But I stopped the eglynol within a week after. 3 weeks after weaning I finished my prescription of Microlval which is a mini pil safe to use while breastfeeding. And then 2 days after I went to get the Mirena. Never did I thought it all could have such huge impact. A month ago I went to see my doctor as I finally started talking about my symptoms. And he put me on Lexamil. I started exercising and dieting too as I felt I need to bounce back because I want to feel better about myself. Some moms makes it look so easy. But realized that it is not so easy. Now I’m slowly but surely starting to feel better. Never knew hormones can control so much of how you feel. Loved to read your post and to know I’m not the only one. Regards

  9. I am so grateful for this post! I remembered reading it when it was originally published, and this morning I went back to find it and read it again, and everything just clicked. I’ve been struggling with crippling anxiety and sadness, feeling overwhelmed (I have a full time job, I help my husband run his business, and I take grad school classes at night), and I’ve been weaning my eight month old son. I have been experiencing episodes of lightheadedness and racing heartbeats, along with a lot of misplaced anger and tears… Just feeling like a total failure. I sought out a therapist who suggested I take Zoloft, but I’m hesitant. Anyway the breastfeeding/hormones connection makes so much sense. Thank you for sharing your story, Joanna. XOXO

    • Katie McNeill says...

      I started taking Zoloft a 3-4 weeks ago and within one week I felt a significant improvement. It’s the day time I’ve taken an SSRI, and I’m really grateful for how it’s helped me.

    • Aimee says...

      If I could go back and tell myself 8 yrs ago I would tell myself to not rake the zoloft. I recently weaned night time feedings to baby #5 who is 12 months old, and I recently stopped taking the zoloft after weaning for 5 months . I know all the feelings you are having . I’m so sorry u too are experiencing this. This article just helped me connect the weaning to my depression so much.

  10. Kristen says...

    Thank you for writing this. I’m going through this and most people don’t understand. Most people ask me if I am thankful for the extra sleep since I stopped breastfeeding. I smile and nod. But truthfully I feel worse than when I was breastfeeding. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  11. Laura says...

    Thank you so much for these words. I am going through this exact thing and your article is saved as a favorite so I can reread this at the very dark times and remind myself this won’t last forever. This is not me.
    I weaned my 10 month old at the beginning of October and for the the last 3-4 weeks have been overcome with crippling anxiety, especially in the mornings. I’ve reached out to my doctor and have started a medication as well as therapy but have not noted significant improvement yet. Every day is struggle. My body feels weak, exhausted, heavy. I almost feel like there is something physically wrong although I’ve had blood work and testing done over the last few weeks that have come back normal.
    I am prone to anxiety, but never anything to this level. I am praying feverently for the morning I wake up from this cloud.
    My husband and family are incredibly supportive, but sometimes I wonder how long they can deal with me like this.
    Your words are hope for me. Thank you for bringing light to this issue.

    • Steph says...

      Hi Laura x
      I’ve been through the exact same thing recently (for the second time) just wanted you to know that you will get through this and even though you are wondering how long your family can deal with you like this let me tell you, they will be there for you for as long as it takes – you are everything to them even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
      I felt like the same, like I had the flu, heavy and unable to move at times. That’s the depression. Your hormones are out of whack and need to readjust – do you have a health store near by? Consider talking to a consultant for something to help your hormones become more in-sync. Some herbals really do work, I’ve had anxiety my whole life and I’ve finally found the cause – my hormones. The cloud will lift, I struggled for 8 months but got there in the end, wishing you all the best xo

    • Courtenay Estes says...

      Hey Laura – I know exactly what you are going through and have been there. I just want you to know it gets better. Also, a lot of the times doctors will say it’s anxiety or it’s in your head and that isn’t the case. For me, it turns out these symptoms WERE something physically wrong and I ended up having an autoimmune disorder, most likely exacerbated by having a baby. My blood work would come back normal too with “regular” physicians and I just knew in my heart this was more than anxiety. I saw specialists and integrative doctors and even a geneticist and they finally helped me uncover my real issues. If you feel in your gut you have something wrong, keep looking for answers. You can reach out to me if you have any questions; I wish I had someone back when I was going through this hell. CourtenayNBowers at

  12. Julie says...

    I don’t recognize myself. My body is weaning my third and last daughter (not my choice) and I find myself lashing out at my family, even scaring my precious four- and six-year-olds. I overhear them tell their dad, “Mommy is so mean to me… You and mommy fight all the time… She hurts my feelings…” This isn’t me. I’m not this angry, desperately sad waif. I feel like a shadow of myself. I see friends and I feel jealous of what they can accomplish but simultaneously annoyed with how stupid and selfish everyone sounds. Don’t they see I’m not speaking? Can’t they tell I’m so sad? Are these even my friends? I want to scream at them, tell them what they do that annoys me and point out their stupidity and selfishness. And then the paranoia sets in. Every comment in my direction feels like an attack. And I’m so scared they’re all going to see that I’m a failure. What if they come inside and see that my house is disorganized and my kids are watching tv? My precious housekeeper goes on maternity leave next week. She only comes three hours a week but I’m dreading her absence. How am I going to clean my house, disinfect bathrooms, sweep and mop floors, vacuum the rugs and carpet and furniture, dust the fans and lights, wash windows and mirrors and still have time to prepare healthy meals three times a day for four people and be on time with carpool three times a day and have clothing cleaned and put away and take care of the needs of the baby while making sure the materials in our home aren’t causing cancer and that we’re not being wasteful and that they’re eating the rainbow and when will I find time and energy to start on those four work projects that I committed to before my world came crashing down literally two days ago? No, really, HOW? And if I try to find shortcuts, the world is telling me that this laundry detergent will kill my children, and lighting that candle is the same as exposing my family to second-hand smoke, and that pre-marinated chicken breast wasn’t raised in a pasture so not only am I being cruel to the chicken but I’m encouraging the cruelty with my financial investment, and oops, I’m not even plant based because I live in a small town where I don’t have access to a farmer’s market and I can’t just go buy a healthy prepared meal. So here I sit while sleep eludes me. And I know there are moms who can’t feed their babies or protect them so how silly is it that I’m even feeling overwhelmed? It is silly. But I’m still overwhelmed. I have no answers and there’s truly no point to this rant. But I get to send it off into cyberspace and remain semi-anonymous. And somehow that helps. Joanna thank you for this article and the space to be devastatingly truthful with strangers when my family can’t understand me. This has been harder than any pregnancy or postpartum hormonal shift. Maybe because she’s my last? There’s no way to define this or define me. I have faith it’ll get better and I’ll try to remember that when it seems that hope is weaning along with my baby.

    • Anonymous says...

      Hi Julie, what you’re going through sounds so, so hard. As Joanna would say, take gentle care of yourself. Please think about confiding in your husband, friends and doctor for practical and emotional support. You seem like a thoughtful and smart woman and a caring mum who has a lot on her plate, and they’ll want to help you. Good luck xx

  13. Erica says...

    I moved to Boston at the beginning of January from San Diego to start nursing school. I went from 75 degrees and sunny to 6 degrees and snow with one cross country flight. My boyfriend and I are from CA and were living in Oakland when he was accepted to Harvard for a masters in architecture, and so I applied to nursing schools in Boston, and here we are. Besides my boyfriend, when I moved here I didn’t know a soul. I was starting school as a full time student after being out of school for 6 years. It was such a big transition so it made sense to me when I would sometimes feel down and sad. I thought that I was prepared for the change. I had all the right warm clothes, I forced myself to go on jogs if it was 20 deg or higher because exercise is something I know keeps me feeling balanced, I was doing well in school. I would rationalize my feelings of sadness with thoughts like, I just miss my friends, school is just difficult, my boyfriend isn’t around enough. I would get mad at my boyfriend– why did we have to move here? I could have gone to nursing school anywhere, but because he got into Harvard, we moved out here, and now I don’t know anyone and I barely even see him because he works such long hours. I would go to bed crying often, but he didn’t know that because he would come home after I was asleep. I would lash out at him in anger about benign things, and then feel awful about it later. We’ve been together for over 5 years, and already been through so much, but for the first time I was questioning whether we would make it. I didn’t realize how sad I really was until the end of April when we finally had our first truly sunny day. I laid down outside of the library for hours soaking up the sun (when I should have been studying for finals) and for the whole rest of the afternoon and evening I felt ELATED. I felt like I was walking on clouds. I felt like singing and dancing down the street. And it hit me so hard, “oh my god, I’ve been so sad for so long, and it was not normal. I think I was depressed.” Just like you described, I would have moments where a thought would creep into my head and say, “is this depression?” but I would brush it off and think, no this is just a tough time in your life and you just aren’t handling it well. It is so obvious to me now that I was suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but when I was in it, I didn’t know it. I’ve read many posts here where you describe what it feels like to be depressed, that it feels like a fog, or a heavy pressure, and that is what it felt like, but I just didn’t have any perspective on it until I came out of it. Now that it’s November, and the leaves are falling off the trees, I am worried about the approaching winter. But I plan to equip myself with tools to help. Thankfully we’ve moved to a different apartment with huge windows that get a ton of light. I plan to do some winter sports, and I’m going to try and escape down south or west or just anywhere warm a few times to give myself a break. And I think I’ll be able to recognize my feelings better instead of trying to brush them off. Thank you for talking about this, because it really did help me recognize that I wasn’t just being a baby, or being lame, but I was actually going through something real. I love this blog so much, I read it every day and I’ve shared countless posts with friends. We just started our maternity clinical rotation so I’ve gone back through the archives and read all the pregnancy and birth posts and shared them with my friends in school. When a friend of mine had a miscarriage last year I printed out the post you did with all the women who wrote about their miscarriage and gave it to her along with her favorite candy, and she thanked me with tears in her eyes after she had read them. Thank you for bringing to light tough topics and situations. Your posts along with all the reader comments I know help so many of us feel less alone.

  14. Sofy says...

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am going through the exact same feelings you describe right now (down to the details!), feeling completely sad and down all the time, and completely inadequate in home and work life. I weaned 2 months ago and these have indeed been very hard months emotionally. I hope that I will wake up someday soon and feel better like you describe. But reading that I am not the only one is already making me feel better…

  15. Elizabeth says...

    Thank you for this. I am struggling right now with my slowly-weaning 14-month-old daughter. I had a scary anxiety attack yesterday morning and didn’t understand what was happening, but once I calmed down I realized that my cycle and weaning were clearly at play. Reading this old post was a lifeline.

  16. Hey Joanna,
    first of all, i would like to say, “You have a wonderful family and the cutest baby”. Next thing, I feel related to your story. I know how it feels when you go through the depression phase. Everything around you feels like nothing. But thanks to my family and friends, I got a chance to come out of this phase. Now whenever i think of that time when everything felt so wrong and meaningless, I feel bad for all that time. so I decided to write a post about postpartum depression and its management just to create awareness and also to help other moms like me.
    Many thanks.

  17. Farah says...

    Thank you so much for your article. Tonight is the first night of weaning. I cried my eyes out. I have been getting mastitis, my baby boy is 17 months old . I’m very attached to him because I had him after his older brother was born sleeping and went to heaven at 39 weeks gastrointestinal age. The mastitis isn’t going away this time I’m on my 6th day of antibiotics and it hurts so much when he nurses, so I decided to wean him off since I’m hurting either way. Your article made so much sense , I even sent it to my husband to prepare him for what’s coming up . Thank you so much . I always say there’s so many resources and help on how to start but you barley get help and support on how to stop.

  18. Kim says...

    Thank you for your article, I’m actually going through this right now. Weaned my 19mo baby a week ago and suddenly out of no where I felt like I was having an anxiety attack.

  19. Laura says...

    Hello. Thank you for this post! I’m in the process of weaning my 13-month old. We’ve done it very gradually and until now it’s gone seamlessly. However, this week I started trying to wean DS off his last feeding, the one near bedtime, and it’s been terrible for both of us. He’s crying and fighting being put to bed, so I feel guilty about that. Although mentally and socially I’m ready to be done with breastfeeding, I could feel my mood plummeting after just two days in a way that reminds me of PMS – that irritability without a specific cause, that urge to cry over little things. My instincts are telling me this is all due to the hormone shift. Your post and some of the comments have me concerned that this could go on for quite a while, which frightens me. I’m contemplating trying to re-instate the evening feeding (it’s only been a few days, my evening supply might still be ok?). Would I just be putting off the inevitable? Am I likely to go through this even if we wait a few more weeks or a month? I don’t like the idea of putting it off until winter – I tend to get seasonal depression, and I wouldn’t want to face the double-whammy.

    Also, does anyone out there have experience with any herbal or other natural remedies to help with the readjustment? I read on another site that maca root might help. Or maybe DIM or other supplements designed to target PMS and/or menopause might be helpful?

    • Staph says...

      Hi Laura, I hope you are feeling a bit better… I have been taking ‘bio blends Cycle Essentials’ by Dr Libby I’m not sure if they post world wide but I can’t tell you the difference I have noticed in just a month… maybe you could look at the ingredients and ask a naturopath to help you source something. I don’t have anxiety for the first time in my life and my period just showed up with no PMS, bloating or sugar cravings. It helps to stimulate progesterone and I think I have been low in it my whole life. I hope this helps.. good luck to you xx

  20. amy haaz says...

    It’s pretty remarkable that SIX years after this was originally posted, the comments are still rolling in. My sister in law sent me the post recently and thank god for that, and for you Jo for writing it. With so much societal pressure to be experiencing ‘the most incredible time in my life’ it has been doubly hard to just get through the day as a new mother, with the added guilt of not being blissed out all the time. In hindsight, I have had postpartum depression/anxiety, and now reaching a new low as I’ve begun to wean, this makes me feel so much less alone. I still have to do the hard work but this has helped motivate me to get started. Thank you for that.

  21. Heather says...

    Very helpful, thank you. Just weaned my 4th baby and am at a pretty low low. Made an appt with my dr. this morning. Anyone consider medication? It’s been 2 months and I feel like I’m getting worse. Is medication a quick fix? I just want to be happy again. I feel like my kids never see my smile anymore.

    • Neeza says...

      Hi Heather,

      I had to consider medication but I waited about 2 months before I did. I realized I was getting worse and I couldn’t take care of my family. I was put on Cipralex. 10mg which is a very low dose. The average adult dose is 20mg. My doctor wanted to see how I did on 10mg and I did well. After 7 months I’m now down to 5mg. I tell myself I will know when I’m ready to totally cut down. I am doing better than ever now so know that it will pass but sometimes, we just need help and that’s ok. Take care.

    • Steph says...

      I’ve just been through a really hard time also, I wish I had taken medication but I also believe finding the root of the cause is vital. I’ve been taking a natural herbal that has eased my anxiety and helped my periods become regular again. What if some people suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain and others suffer from hormonal imbalance? Medication is good to take to get by but you have to find what is causing it in the first place for long-term health and emotional well-being. Hope this helps x

    • Katie says...

      Hi Heather, what you wrote sounds exactly like what I’m going through. A little over 2 months into weaning, sleeping poorly, high anxiety. Positive it’s hormone related. I’ve done every natural thing I can think of and now thinking of taking an SSRI. Chris y to know how your story came out.

  22. S. says...

    Thank you so much for the article. I finished weaning my daughter about a month ago. I’ve had issues with depression in the past, but this seems far worse and like I different kind of depression. Maybe I am more susceptible to hormonal changes than some. Either way, I suspected my symtoms may be related to weaning, but found very little about it until this blog. I feel empty inside and like nothing can make me happy even though I have a wonderful family. My husband feels bad for me but I don’t think he understands or knows what to do. I eat well, exercise, work and have healthy sleep habits, but still feel this way no matter what. I sure hope that this is related to the weaning. I made an appointment with a psychotherapist group and plan to mention this to them. Hopefully I won’t be brushed off. If I do get through this, I will be sure to advocate for other nursing women by letting them know about this possibility.

  23. Emma says...

    This is me right now, weaning my beautiful boy and waiting for the woosh.

  24. Tina says...

    I have been suffering with this since March. I would get sick and unable to eat and oa ic attacks. It was not till the third incident we realized it was from the weaning. Here we are 5 months later and still weaning. Down to 2 feedings and the anxiety and irritability is still happening. Some days I feel good almost normal. I keep myself really busy because it does not allow me to dwell on the things I feel. I hate that I get so angry with my spouse and daughter who is 21 months. I feel like it is less but at times I worry if this is me now. What if the weaning does not change anything. I used to be able to sit home and relax and now if i am not busy i feel like i am going crazy. I hate it, it is exhausting. Tonight we drop one more night feeding and next week we drop bedtime. I just hope it happens quickly and I go back to normal. 5 months of this has been miserable. Being hopeful though

  25. Rochelle says...

    I had to sigh & almost cry reading this! I have been so emotional lately. I realize I have been since my baby has been born. My husband works nights & sleeps days. The 3 days he us off is a weird. Schedule of giving each other sleep (if we can), commuting my step daughter around(an hour each way), occasionally having my neighbors over for some socialization, cleaning/grocery shopping, & he fits in yard work often. I feel completely depleted. I have decided to stop breast feeding which is totally depressing me. I struggle because he is doing fantastic. My first baby also did awful & continued to have a horrible time on formula. I am scared to change over for fear his Tommy will hurt but I also will miss the connection/convenience of breast feeding. I tried weaning him this last week or so & I failed. I completely caved & talked myself back in to breast feeding, riddled with guilt & anxiety. My husband doesn’t understand what I am going through & is trying to be supportive but is not understanding why I am emotional. My anxiety hasn’t been a problem for a long time & is going bonkers now. This article made me feel not quite as lonely & afraid. I want to talk to my dr. But I know she might encourage me to keep on breast feeding. My family & I really need the time back breast feeding takes. I also the freedom to be able to leave my baby with others & our schedule isn’t too conducive for finding time to pump. Thanks for this article!!

  26. Charlene says...

    Thank you for sharing, I’ve been struggling with the same thing since early February about a month after weaning my son. I had nursed him for 20 months. It has been quite the roller coaster the last couple months, it was rough at first. There are still some bad days, but they are getting fewer. My doctor did explain the change in hormones and I spent time with a therapist.

  27. Nicole says...

    Thank you for writing this, Johanna. I read it when posted (a few weeks ago?), but had to reread as I am now weaning my son (13 months) and have been feeling super sad. I know it’s a combination of hormones and loss of my “baby,” but everything just feels so heavy right now. It helps immensely to read this, as well as all the comments, which makes me feel less alone.

  28. Tiffany Dobson says...

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! My 15 mos old daughter started weaning recently, we are only down a few feedings and out of nowhere depression hit me like a train. The feelings of worthlessness and loneliness are overwhelming. I cannont control the tears running down my face. In my moments of rationality I know that I am not worthless and I am so blessed. I have had bad pms mood swings but this is unreal and I am so relieved to know that I am not alone. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories!

  29. Gloria says...

    Thank you for this article. I have tears streaming down my face as I read it because I am in the depths of this experience. My son is 13 months old, I’ve tried to wean slowly, but my symptoms of depression and anxiety appeared as soon as I dropped a feeding. The feeling is so overwhelming that I will sometimes go to the nursing room at work and pretend to pump. Instead, I cry and think about how I can’t manage my job, will probably be fired, am a terrible mother, terrible wife and things will never get better. It’s a roller-coaster/grab-bag of paralyzing anxiety and deep hopelessness. I long for the day I just wake up and everything is better. I truly hope this happens and, in the meantime, deeply appreciate everyone’s stories.

    • Lizbeth says...

      I will happen i promise!! Things will get better, i know it doesnt seem like! The first 3 months are going to be the hardest but after that things will get better. I too had this happen on may 2017 when i weaned my 17m old son and as months go by you will feel better and start to feel yourself again, it will be a stronger you! I know how horrible the anxiety can be and the depression, seing others smiled and wishing you could too, but i will happen again, i found this blog last year, it was so helpfull since no one understood what was happening too me, not even my Dr ??‍♀️. Your not a bad mom or a wife its just the anxiety making you think that a long with the depression. Hang in there momma ❤️. You can do this!

    • Neeza says...

      Hi Gloria – I just returned to work 3 weeks ago as I had to take 4.5 months off due to this. It hit me hard – so hard – and I couldn’t function anymore. Through a great support system (DR, Therapist, Nutritionist, Women’s Group, Meds, etc.) I came out of it stronger than ever before. You will too. Make time for yourself and take all the support you can get. Meditate and read about the Female Brain to truly understand the realities and how this stuff can hit any woman in any walk of life. There’s a great book called ‘The Female Brain’ by Louanne Brizandine. We are all here to support you. Sending healing vibes.

  30. Nk says...

    Thank goodness for your article! I’ve been utterly miserable with anxiety and a bit of depression and couldn’t get my head around it. Started after i weaned a month back when my daughter was 11 months old. This was my second pregnancy and it’s been harder understanding these feelings cause first time around I didn’t get any of this. Felt so relieved when I read your article. Though I realised what I’ve been feeling is related to weaning, to read exactly what I’ve been feeling gave me a huge sense of relief and that I’m not alone. I literally felt every single thing you wrote and had all those thoughts. It’s been extremely hard but I’m happy to know that it’s going to go away. Thank you again!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sending so much love to you, nk! this will pass. you’re doing a great job just hanging in there. xoxo

  31. Nicole says...

    Thank you!! I’m experiencing the same thing but it’s happened as I began gradually weaning and have been going off and on with it… lots of anxiety and some depression… I really hope it’s related to the weaning-ish… I’m not my normal rosy self :(… I’m so thankful for your post and all the mamas who pull together to reach out, comfort and share their experiences!!! So much love

  32. Brooke says...

    My little Ezra is 6 weeks old, he spent his first 4 in the NICU. I exclusively pumped, and with the goal of getting him better. After that, it was whatever I could handle. He already has to have two formula feeds to gain weight, so when I decided to start weaning, we were already partway there. I’ve been decreasing number & duration of pumps since he came home 2 weeks ago, 3 days ago I stopped pumping. I felt free. I had a latte and yesterday I had a beer.
    Today Ezra had his last bottle with breast milk. And today I also fell apart. In the shower, it hit me like a 2 x 4. I apologized to my husband for being broken and making his life harder, I blamed myself for our 2 year old having a meltdown, I told him I was a failure. He called his mom to help and sent me to rest.
    After searching hormones after breastfeeding, your post is the first thing I’ve read on the topic. The nail has been hit on the head. I don’t fully believe it yet, but I think it gives me a little hope that this will get better. Thank you.

  33. Shantel Howell says...

    Thabks so much for your story. I really needed to hear this because I am currently going through this with my 12 month old, and I haven’t felt like myself since I started weaning. I’m going to seek help because of you. Thanks so Much!!!!

  34. Wow. I stumbled upon this after seeing your post mentioned in the huffington post. Literally every word is exactly how I’m feeling. My son was 8-9 months old when he just STOPPED breastfeeding. Since then I’ve gone in a spiral thinking and feeling everything you mentioned. Thank you for sharing and just reading that you found the light at the end makes me really hopeful. I know I’ll feel better and I’m happy to have a bit more clarity on this phase. Thank you for your honesty. I needed to read this.

  35. Karyn says...

    This post is everything! I weaned rather quickly as well, within a week. I started getting my cycles back before weaning but that is when I started to feel not right. So, I started to wean thinking that would make everything fall in place. Not so much. I’m two weeks post weaning and have been struggling with debilitating anxiety. Not that I want anyone to experience this, but I’m happy to know I’m not alone and the hormonal crash is probably to blame. Here’s to hoping this ends soon!

    • Andrea says...

      I too am going through this and have been researching this topic since around December when my cycle came back 6 months pp. I think my cycle came back because my pumping at work became irratic due to an overloaded schedule. I noticed anxiety symptoms started then and the only thing that made sense was my hormones being messed up from the fluctuating pumping.

      I began a gradual weaning process around February (sadly not my “choice” but because I was too overwhelmed at work and the hormones were too much). I finished weaning last week right before this month’s cycle starting and the anxiety has been elevated.

      I’m hoping it will level out over a couple months, but it is really hard to persevere at times. I have health anxiety from the symptoms (tight chest/back, light headed, feels like racing heart when it’s not, etc. and then feel overwhelmed and like I need to cry but don’t). These hormones are no joke and no one talks about this type of PPA/PPD. Thank you all for sharing your experiences…I’m finding more blogs talking about this but sadly not as much industry literature as you would hope.

      Good luck everyone, thank you again!