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Breastfeeding / Nursing Aversion and Agitation
Breastfeeding aversion

Breastfeeding aversion and agitation (BAA) while breastfeeding is a phenomenon experienced by some women who are breastfeeding.  It is also known as nursing aversion (NA), especially in the United States of America.  This is not a website resource about why some women are averse to breastfeeding in general and who do not breastfeed due to social stigma, previous sexual abuse, or simply because they want to formula feed.  It is a site for breastfeeding women who experience BAA/NA, to raise awareness, provide a resource and support.

 

 

 

Research

Currently, there is no known reason for its cause as few studies are published on BAA/NA, however, there is one study describing the phenomenon and exploring causes.  There are also a couple of books (Flower, 2003Kursi, 2015), and one article (Watkinson et,al., 2016) that make reference to it as part of 'negative embodied emotions'.  There are also many, many blogs, and a mass of anecdotal data that sufferers have posted that offers some insight into how to lessen the aversions and agitations for women who want to continue breastfeeding. 

 

 

 

What is it and when does it happen?

Women can have BAA/NA at any point in their nursing journey, from feeding a newborn solely, to feeding when pregnant to tandem feeding (two or more children).  BAA/NA has varying durations and severities which are different for each mother.  Some women experience BAA/NA once, while others constantly and at every feed.  Feelings of anger and irritability, coupled with skin itching sensations while the infant is latched, and the urgent need to remove the feeding infant are the commonly experienced feelings.  Shame and guilt about these feelings of anger and wanting to unlatch the child are also common.

 

 

 
No recognition 

As BAA/NA is little discussed in the academic literature, and only unofficially recognised amongst mothers, it is a very difficult and lonely experience for mothers who go through it.  Partners, other family members, friends and even health care professionals will often revert to telling the mother who complains of BAA/NA to wean/introduce formula.  However, most mothers who experience BAA/NA want to continue breastfeeding and should be supported in every way possible to do so. 

 

 

 
Help

Mother-to-mother peer support is very important for mothers experiencing BAA/NA, especially from other women experiencing BAA/NA.  This is to know other mothers go through it, to normalise it in some way and to try to identify what triggers it/what can help for the mother.

 

 

Causes

There are, listed to the right, a number of reasons that could contribute to a mother experiencing BAA/NA.  Also, check out my possible 'theories of causation'. It is likely that there is a combination of them that trigger BAA/NA, and that it varies for each mother.  Identifying that BAA/NA occurs around a menstrual cycle could help a mother to know the times it will happen to her, that it is likely hormonal, and that it will pass.  Or if she is not eating or sleeping well, that she ought to hydrate and improve her diet to lessen the symptoms.  At the moment it is trial and error that will help identify the cause or triggers for a mother.

 

What to do

If you are a mother that experiences BAA/NA, talk about it with those you trust, explain to them what is happening, ask for help. Join a peer to peer support group today (on Facebook there are many). If you want to continue breastfeeding, and your child is slightly older or a toddler, then consider having a 'breastfeeding only chair', or a 'breastfeeding only top' to help your child understand they only have milk when you are sitting in that chair or wearing that top.  Not offering but not refusing the breast also helps, as does limiting the feeds or duration of time at the breast. For BAA/NA specifically, there are lots of things to try, from anecdotal evidence that can lessen the aversion.  Check out the 'what can help' section.

POLLS - source: online poll from viewers

POLL 1:

78%

HAVE NEVER HEARD OF BREASTFEEDING AVERSION

POLL 2:

62%

HAVEN'T TOLD ANYONE ABOUT IT

POLL 3:

17%

WEANED BECAUSE OF BREASTFEEDING AVERSION

Reasons given in anecdotal data for the feelings of breastfeeding aversion/agitation:

  • Ovulation

  • Post-natal onset of menstruation and subsequent menstruations

  • Cessation of intimacy (orgasms) with partner

  • Sleep deprivation - Tiredness and fatigue

  • Lack of minerals – B12, Magnesium and Vit D are oft mentioned to help

  • Not having a break from being a primary caregiver

  • Tandem feeding (a newborn and a toddler)

  • Being pregnant and continuing to breastfeed a child

  • Poor hydration

  • Previous history of sexual abuse

  • Diagnosed or undiagnosed post-natal depression(or mood disorders)

 

Descriptions given of the aversion/agitation:

  • Feeling touched out / too much physical contact

  • Feeling an itchy of 'crawling' sensation

  • Feeling discomfort/pain while the child is suckling

  • Having anger when infant is latched

  • Having rage when infant is latched

  • Feeling desperate and wanting to leave

  • Wanting to wean but simultaneously not wanting to wean

  • Feeling guilty about feelings of BAA

  • Feeling shame about feelings of BAA

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