Breastfeeding is a unique bonding experience shared between a mother and her baby. Many mothers, especially first-time moms, experience a flood of emotions and feelings that may be overwhelming. Sometimes, these overwhelming and anxiety-inducing thoughts and feelings can happen during a breastfeeding session, leaving mothers feeling confused and ashamed of having negative thoughts during such an extraordinary bonding experience. Commonly referred to as nursing aversion by health care professionals, these negative feelings can discourage a mother from breastfeeding, even though she still has a strong desire to continue.
Nursing Aversion [Possible Triggers & How to Cope]
You Are Not Alone
If you’re experiencing nursing aversion, it should be stated at the forefront of this article that you are not alone. Again, the flood of emotions combined with exhaustion can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned mother, and it’s essential to take a step back, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re not the first nor the last person to feel this way and regardless of how you’re feeling at the moment, you are an amazing mother.
How to Recognize Nursing Aversion
What are the signs of nursing aversion? What does it feel like? Thoughts and feelings vary by person, but generally, these negative feelings are unexpected and unwanted. Breastfeeding mothers who’ve reported that they experience nursing aversion admit they go through the following emotions:
These emotions can create a wide array of negative thoughts, and can even discourage a mama from breastfeeding. Being a mother is a combination of sheer joy and pure exhaustion, and it’s natural to feel like you can’t go on or to feel like you’ve lost yourself. But guess what mama? IT’S OK TO FEEL THAT WAY!
Nursing aversion can appear randomly and vary in intensity. Although there haven’t been many medical studies to find out the exact cause of nursing aversion, there are many emotional and physical factors that can trigger the onslaught of negative feelings and emotions.
Physical Triggers of Nursing Aversion
Even for the most experienced breastfeeding mothers, who could be accomplishing astonishing feats like tandem breastfeeding, physical discomfort and pain are quite common. Cracked nipples, a teething baby, or simply sore nipples from a hungry baby during a growth spurt can leave a mom in pain and even hesitant to breastfeed, knowing the discomfort that’ll start up again. These physical factors can trigger nursing aversion, but don’t let the fear of what “could” happen to keep you from breastfeeding!
If you feel like the physical pain that sometimes occurs during breastfeeding is what’s triggering your nursing aversion, then there are several treatments to ease discomfort:
- For sore or cracked nipples: Breastmilk is truly liquid gold with many different uses. Your milk can be used to soothe irritated or cracked nipples, by rubbing a bit of your milk on the sore area before and after breastfeeding can provide relief. Another option is to use a light oil, my personal favorite was coconut oil, not only did it help ease my discomfort, but it smelled good, and my baby didn’t mind the taste.
- For pain caused by a teething baby: It happens to all of us breastfeeding mamas at some point. Your little one is beginning to teethe and decides to use you as their personal teething toy. The sudden shock of a bite from your baby can trigger nursing aversion, but don’t let it stop you! Teething is new to your baby, and they’re just as uncomfortable as you are. Establishing from the get-go a reasonable way to remind your baby that you’re not a chewing toy can help lessen getting nipped down the road. With my little one, the second I would feel a bite, I would unlatch him, gently remind him that mommy is just for milk, and then resume feeding when we were both ready.
Mental Triggers of Nursing Aversion
There are psychological factors that can also trigger nursing aversion while breastfeeding. Being a mother is exhausting as it is rewarding. As mothers, our natural tendency is to put our children and our families’ needs before our own. This selflessness is our greatest quality. However, it’s very easy to fall into the habit of neglecting our individual needs. Self-care has been a popular topic among mothers lately; with the destigmatization of mental health issues, more and more people are open to discussing the various ways to take care of your mind and spirit.
Neglecting your mental health can definitely trigger nursing aversion. Frequent thoughts of feeling trapped, depressed, or even slight resentment are normal for a tired mother. But don’t despair! A little much-needed self-care goes a long way. Self- care doesn’t always mean taking a bubble bath or going to get a mani-pedi because let’s face it; we’re busy taking care of our little ones. Here are a few of my favorite ways to care for my mental health:
1. Go Outdoors!
The first two weeks after having my son, I stayed inside, in pajamas, and bed for most of the day. As a result, PPD kicked in as well as nursing aversion. My doctor suggested I try and take a walk or sit outdoors and get some fresh air. Contrary to popular belief, it’s OK to bring your little one outside in decent weather. (If you’re worried, give your pediatrician a quick call).
2. 30-second Mediation
You deserve to give yourself 30 seconds every day! Thirty seconds to close your eyes and be still. It may seem silly at first, but by putting this 30-second meditation into practice every day, you will create a noticeable shift in your mind and thought pattern. Take that time to focus on your breath and to recenter yourself so you can continue to be your best self for you and your little one!
Reach Out For Support
One significant commonality between mothers who experience nursing aversion is that they feel alone in what they’re going through. Experiencing negative thoughts and emotions while breastfeeding your baby can create a feeling of shame and discourages many moms from reaching out for help and support. But again, and this can’t be stressed enough – you are not alone. There are so many different resources and areas to receive advice and support.
Your doctor may offer sound medical advice as to why you’re experiencing nursing aversion. A certified lactation consultant can provide support, information, and encouragement when you feel like you don’t want to continue breastfeeding. One of the best things I could have ever done was to join a local online mom group. Being able to share my experience and receive support and advice was extremely helpful, and for any mother who is having a nursing aversion, support is available in these groups. You can join the Rookie Moms Facebook Group here.
Professional Help is Available for Nursing Aversion
If you feel like there’s an underlying cause to your nursing aversion, it may be best to seek help from a mental health professional. Again, thanks to the continuous destigmatization of mental illness, there are numerous resources and professionals available who specialize in areas like postpartum depression and can help find out what triggers your negative feelings.
Motherhood is one of the most beautiful human experiences, and breastfeeding is a unique way for you to bond with your baby. It’s completely normal to experience nursing aversion; negative thoughts and emotions occurring while feeding your baby. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that you’re not alone, and help and support are available. Self-care is crucial when you’re on demand for your little ones and your family and always remind yourself that you are an amazing mother.
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