There is very little research, information or support around the phenomenon of Nursing Aversion (also termed Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation, BAA), but there are common signs that moms who experience aversion typically report.
These signs include:
- Feelings of anger or rage while breastfeeding.
- Intrusive thoughts during feeds, such as wanting to run away.
- Experiencing a 'skin crawling’ or ‘skin itching’ sensation during feeds.
- Feelings of overwhelm and being 'touched out’ occur while nursing.
- The negative feelings cease when baby is unlatched.
With minimum support options available, it's very common for moms experiencing aversion to simultaneously experience feelings of isolation, guilt and shame. It's so important to hold onto the fact that Nursing Aversion is not mom's fault, and while there isn’t enough research to prove a singular cause, there is data and an abundance of anecdotal accounts that suggest the following potential triggers:
- Hormones: The return of ovulation and menstruation, postpartum, can trigger Nursing Aversion for some moms, just as pregnancy can be a trigger for others.
- Maternal Depletion: Depleted minerals, especially after pregnancy and breastfeeding, alongside sleep deprivation and a lack of social support can cumulate in nursing aversion for many moms.
- External triggers: A change in latch due to jaw development or teething, a ‘wandering hand’ or a baby who tends to ‘twiddle’ during feeds can trigger feelings of aversion.
Understanding potential triggers can be both affirming and helpful in managing Nursing Aversion, especially when paired with the following tips and strategies:
- Ensure baby’s latch and positioning are optimal.
- Consider accessing peer support, group support, and/or 1:1 support for mom.
- Stay hydrated and well-nourished. Vitamin B12, magnesium and vitamin D are reported as being especially helpful.
- Prioritise rest, time and space to ‘just breathe’ as much as is reasonably possible.
- Cognitive distraction can bring near-instant relief. Scrolling, watching TV, or even holding an ice cube can reduce the intensity of aversion.
- Consider setting nursing limits and boundaries, such as reducing the duration or frequency of feeds.
Should I wean due to Nursing Aversion?
For the gentlest weaning methods, including support with setting gentle limits, night-weaning, returning to work, and so much more, be sure to check out the Weaning Gently guide: