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What is Breastfeeding Aversion?

Breastfeeding is universally celebrated as a beautiful and natural process, connecting mother and child in a bond beyond mere sustenance. However, some mothers experience a less-discussed aspect of breastfeeding: breastfeeding aversion.

Breastfeeding aversion, or nursing aversion, is an emotional and physical response that some breastfeeding mothers might encounter. This phenomenon can surprise many mothers, leaving them guilty or confused.

What Is Breastfeeding Aversion?

Breastfeeding aversion is an intense irritation, agitation, or negative feelings that a mother might experience while nursing. These sensations can range from minor discomfort to an almost visceral repulsion. It's often accompanied by feelings of skin crawling, restlessness, anxiety, or even anger when the baby latches.

Breastfeeding aversion can be occasional, recurrent, or constant and differs from common breastfeeding challenges such as sore nipples or mastitis. It's important to understand that breastfeeding aversion does not indicate a mother's lack of love or care for her child; it's a physiological response that can be triggered by various reasons.

Causes of Breastfeeding Aversion

The exact causes of breastfeeding aversion are still not entirely clear, but several potential triggers have been identified:

  1. Hormonal Changes: Fluctuating hormone levels can trigger breastfeeding aversion, particularly during pregnancy or menstruation. Oxytocin, the hormone released during breastfeeding, can sometimes cause feelings of agitation or annoyance.

  2. Fatigue and Stress: The demands of caring for a baby can leave mothers feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, which can make breastfeeding feel like another taxing chore and lead to aversion.

  3. Over-Stimulation: Continuous skin-to-skin contact and the suckling sensation can sometimes become too overwhelming, leading to feelings of irritation and discomfort.

  4. Extended Breastfeeding or Tandem Nursing: Mothers nursing toddlers or nursing two children simultaneously might be more prone to experience breastfeeding aversion due to the increased demand and the length of time they've been breastfeeding.

Coping with Breastfeeding Aversion

Here are some strategies that can help manage breastfeeding aversion:

  1. Take Breaks: If possible, allow others to help feed the baby occasionally, using pumped breastmilk or formula. These breaks can provide some relief and help reduce feelings of aversion.

  2. Practice Mindfulness: Deep breathing, visualization, or meditation during breastfeeding can help shift focus from the discomfort and promote relaxation.

  3. Use Distractions: Reading a book, watching a TV show, or using a smartphone can distract from negative feelings during nursing sessions.

  4. Adjust Feeding Positions: Experiment with different breastfeeding positions. A new position might help reduce over-stimulation and make breastfeeding more comfortable.

  5. Seek Professional Help: A lactation consultant, breastfeeding support group, or mental health professional can provide valuable guidance and emotional support.

Motherhood is a journey, and sometimes, it's okay to ask for directions.

Breastfeeding aversion can be a challenging experience, making the already demanding task of motherhood even more difficult. If you're a mother dealing with these feelings, remember, you're not alone. Understanding the nature of breastfeeding aversion and employing coping strategies can help manage these feelings. Most importantly, don't hesitate to seek help when you need it.

The process of nourishing a child is deeply personal and unique to every mother, and it's crucial that each mother does what's best for her health and well-being and her child's. Promoting discussion and awareness about breastfeeding aversion ensures that every mother feels seen, heard, and supported in her breastfeeding journey.


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