Breastfeeding Aversion- a scarcely talked about breastfeeding phenomenon

When you are pregnant and contemplating breastfeeding, you end up hearing a lot about those random side effects that can happen from basically being a human cow. Bonding with your baby, not having to carry around bottles, not worrying about formula, mastitis, clogged ducts, low supply, nursing strikes, chapped and bleeding nipples, engorgement, leaking, and everyone’s favorite… possible weight loss. Admittedly, there a lot of unpleasant possible side effects when it comes to breastfeeding and I’ve been ever so lucky as to experience every single one of them at some point over the last 11 years.

One thing I was not prepared for though was breastfeeding aversion. No, I’m not talking about that three day nursing strike your one month old is just getting out of. I’m talking about me, as a mother, not being able to stand the thought or feeling of breastfeeding any longer.

You read that right… I was the one with a breastfeeding aversion, not my baby, and it was absolutely miserable.

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My Breastfeeding Aversion Story

I became pregnant with Harper back in 2017. At this point, Nolan had just turned one and we were still happily breastfeeding on a pretty regular basis. He wasn’t nursing as much as he had been as a baby but he still relied on nursing when it came time for naps and bed time. It was a comforting thing for him and I was more than happy to continue providing that support as long as he needed it.

Well, my attitude changed when I was around 2 months pregnant with Harper. I noticed that every time I had to breastfeed Nolan, I found myself becoming increasingly annoyed. While I was breastfeeding, simple things like too much noise or the kids running to the bathroom would irritate me more than they ever had before. I would start to feel like I was touched out and just needed to put him down within just minutes. And sometimes I would just feel downright angry.

It wasn’t just the physical action of breastfeeding that would trigger this new aversion either. The thought of breastfeeding, would sometimes cause my skin to crawl and make me want to run away screaming.

I was determined to push through this though. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least 2, and as long as Nolan wanted to continue breastfeeding, I was determined to reach that 2 year goal.  Ideally, I wanted to nurse until Nolan decided that he wanted to self wean. I didn’t want to have another experience like I had with Adeline, and force him to stop breastfeeding before he was ready.

Now, I’ve experienced some brief bouts of that skin crawling sensation here and there when nursing but, like I said, they were brief. Maybe lasting one or two feeding sessions and then they were gone. Most Likely caused by just having too many things to do or having too much going on around me at the point my baby decided they wanted to eat.  But this… this was new…constant. I thought maybe I was having issues with my anxiety because it did very much feel like my anxiety spiking. I just didn’t know what was suddenly causing this.

Unfortunately, the feelings continued though, and actually felt like they were getting worse. It got to the point where I just couldn’t stand breastfeeding him. Breastfeeding Aversion was a sensation unlike anything I had ever felt. I was lucky and never actually experienced pain but I just felt so irritated and like I wanted to jump out of my own skin the whole time. Sadly, this ultimately pushed me towards weaning Nolan before two got here. Luckily, I think he was ready for it and weaned easily and fully by 20 months without much pushing from me.

What Causes Breastfeeding Aversion?

After doing some research and talking to my OB/GYN I came to the conclusion that what I had been experiencing was breastfeeding aversion. According to my OB/GYN, there may be multiple reasons that someone is experience this but unfortunately there are no actual known causes. Menstruation, ovulation, sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression, pregnancy, or just flat out being burned out are believed to all be contributing factors to mothers experiencing breastfeeding aversion but there still isn’t a lot known about it. She said that the feelings a woman may experience can range in severity. Some mothers experience just that sensation of something crawling under your skin or like you can’t sit still. Other mothers may experience anger and agitation while the baby is latched. Feeling desperate or like you need to leave or get away, discomfort or pain, and feeling like you desperately want to wean but simultaneously not wanting to wean are also all sensations that are possible to feel.

Unfortunately, breastfeeding aversion is one of those things that just isn’t talked about often. Many women don’t understand why they suddenly can’t stand the thought or sensation of their child breastfeeding and it can tend to lead to a lot of guilt or shame on the mothers behalf. It kind of goes a long with that guilt moms can feel when they are suffering from postpartum depression or other mood disorders. You feel like you’re broken or there is something wrong with you because you can’t provide your child with nourishment and comfort without feeling like you want to crawl out of your own skin.

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So how do we fix it?

Sadly, there really aren’t a lot of options when it comes to dealing with breastfeeding aversion. Try to make sure you have everything in place that you may need while you are breastfeeding, plenty of water, a snack, your phone, the remote. Make sure you’re in a comfortable place, and that you don’t have any pressing matters to attend to before you sit down to breastfeed. Stay hydrated and make sure you’re getting some sleep. There have been some studies that show a link between low magnesium levels and breastfeeding aversion, so you may want to talk to your health care provider about potentially starting a magnesium regimen. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself and taking some time just for you if it all possible, to avoid burn out and try to work on some calming techniques to help relax you while you are breastfeeding.  Unfortunately though, the only sure fire cure for a breastfeeding aversion is to wean.

Thankfully, once I weaned Nolan and delivered Harper, I was able to breastfeed again without any further issues with aversion. For me, it would seem, that being pregnant and continuing to breastfeed was the trigger for my breastfeeding aversion. I’ve managed to feed Harper for 2 years at this point. I know that eventually, she will wean too. I really hope to allow her to wean on her own though. The good thing, is that if I start to experience breastfeeding aversion again, I feel like I have a better understanding of what is happening and may be able to work through it better now that I am better prepared. But, knock on wood, I won’t have to worry about that this any time soon.

We need to work together to raise more awareness about this mysterious condition which can afflict breastfeeding mothers. Please share this story with other breastfeeding mothers or soon to be mothers so they know that, if they experience this, they are not alone. And make sure to hit that subscribe button for more stories and mom life information.