Nursing Aversion | Causes, Symptoms, and Ways to Cope
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Nursing aversion is anecdotally known to occur in pregnant mothers and women who tandem feed an infant and toddler
I hadn’t planned on breastfeeding my firstborn for as long as I did.
It just sort of happened that way.
To be honest, I planned on weaning her completely before my second baby was born.
We started the night weaning process shortly after I found out I was pregnant. Night weaning was a success and, after Kenna’s second birthday, she was only nursing once every week or two during the day.
Then a couple months before Raelyn was born, I started nursing her to sleep again because, well, I was exhausted, and it was easier that way.
Fast forward a few months… I had a newborn, and still nursed my toddler to sleep most nights. It was all good for a little while, but suddenly, I found myself wanting to pull my hair out while feeding her.
I didn’t know that there was a name for it, but I had serious nursing aversion.
Are you going through something similar? Let’s talk about why you might have what’s known as Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation, then go over some ways to cope with it.
I am not a medical professional, and this information is not intended to replace medical advice.
Causes of Nursing Aversion
Does your skin crawl while breastfeeding? Do you feel intense anger? Want to scream into a pillow?
Do all those feelings go away as soon as your child unlatches?
You likely have nursing aversion, or Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation (BAA).
If you find yourself asking, “Why do I hate breastfeeding all of a sudden?”, it could have been brought on by a number of things:
- a new pregnancy
- hormonal changes after giving birth
- return of menstruation
- an event that causes hormonal changes
Please note: You might not hate breastfeeding altogether, and the nursing aversion might only apply to your older child.
Nursing Aversion Symptoms
“Breastfeeding aversion and agitation (BAA) while breastfeeding is anecdotally known to occur in some women who breastfeed while pregnant or those who tandem feed a newborn and a toddler. However, it is a little-researched area and the paucity of published literature around BAA reveals a significant gap in the literature.” —NCBI
Nursing aversion can vary in form, severity, and duration.
Common symptoms include:
- anger, rage
- crawling sensation
- urge to remove the child
- agitation, irritability
- feelings of guilt, shame (especially after unlatching)
Certain behaviors can amplify these feelings, like twiddling, pinching, fidgeting, and wandering hands.
The level of nursing aversion can vary, from mild to severe. At its most intense, it can cause extreme feelings of anger, nausea, repulsion, and resentment while the child is latched.
And for some women, it might happen only once, while it can appear periodically for others — or even every time the child is breastfeeding.
Coping with Nursing Aversion
To some, the answer seems obvious. “Sounds like it’s time to wean,” they might say.
But tell that to a child who has been breastfeeding all his or her life.
Nursing is EVERYTHING to them.
If you are not ready to wean yet, what are some ways you can cope with nursing aversion?
1. Give yourself a little grace
Don’t let yourself feel guilty about having these feelings (as long as you don’t act on them)!
Reassure yourself that these feelings are natural, and that you are the perfect mother to your children. You’re doing the absolute best you can.
2. Take care of yourself
Take care of yourself! You’re probably scoffing at me right now. After all, you’re too busy taking care of your kiddos!
You don’t have to take a ton of time for self-care at this point.
Simply make sure you are getting plenty of calories from a balanced diet, and keep your blood sugar in check. Drink LOTS of water. Get as much sleep as you can.
3. Find a temporary distraction
Scroll Facebook, watch Netflix, try some deep breathing. Do whatever you need to take your mind off the agitation until your toddler is done nursing.
4. Set boundaries
As your toddler gets a little older, you can start setting boundaries. It’s YOUR body. If you are just too tapped out to breastfeed your toddler right now, redirect with an activity, a snack, or a sippy cup of water.
And if you can’t stand the wandering little hands while nursing, gently remove the hand. You can try wearing a teething necklace for your little one to play with, or give her a twiddle toy to hold. Or, simply hold her hand.
Another idea is to provide a distraction, such as playing finger games (This Little Piggy), singing silly songs, playing peek-a-boo, etc.
5. One at a time
You might have always dreamed of tandem nursing your toddler and newborn at the same time, but if you find yourself getting too agitated, you might want to consider only allowing one to nurse at a time.
You’re still doing an amazing job, mama!
6. Visit with your care provider
If you want to stick it out, you can always see a medical professional. Perhaps have your hormones checked for an imbalance.
7. Talk to someone about it
Seek support, whether it’s from a close friend, a therapist, or a breastfeeding centered Facebook group. (You can even message me at tonya[at]writermomforhire.com if you’d like.)
My husband was very intrigued by my sudden aversion to nursing our eldest daughter, but also understanding.
Talking to someone you trust, without fear of being judged, can help immensely.
8. Wean only when you’re (or your child is) ready
Don’t let anyone else pressure you into weaning before you’re ready. Your breastfeeding relationship is between yourself and your child — so it should only end when one (or both) of you is ready.
For me, the answer was to wean, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only solution.
While she was latched, my skin crawled, and I found myself resenting her while she was nursing (oddly, I didn’t experience any of these sensations with my newborn).
I became impatient with her “wandering hands” and frequently scolded her (which was completely unfair to her), then felt guilty as soon as she unlatched.
While weaning isn’t the answer for everyone, I felt it was the right move for us — because I was tapped out and ready for it. Because she was two and a half, and I knew it wouldn’t take her long to adjust.
It has been two months since I took the plunge and stopped nursing her altogether. While I occasionally feel a twinge of sadness when she asks to nurse, I know I made the right decision for us.
So I stay strong, even though my heart breaks a little when I tell her, “no”.