What is Nursing Aversion?

Breastfeeding is an incredible, unique, and exciting bonding experience between you and your baby—but some mothers, usually first-time moms, feel differently. Nursing aversion is when you find yourself filled with anxiety-inducing thoughts and feelings, all while breastfeeding. This experience can leave mothers feeling confused, stressed, and guilty for not enjoying this special bonding time with their baby. 

Even if you have a strong desire to continue breastfeeding, these negative thoughts and feelings can discourage you and make you want to stop. The important thing? You aren’t alone. Nursing aversion is nothing to feel guilty about—it’s a common experience, and it’s not a reflection of you abilities as a mother. 

Remember that you’re an amazing mother, despite how you may feel in a particular moment. 

How Can You Tell if You’re Experiencing Nursing Aversion?

Thoughts and feelings, because of their nature, are very difficult to categorize—no two women will have the exact same experience with nursing aversion. Most, however, describe the feelings as one (or several) of the following:

  • Anger 
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Self-consciousness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Despair

Motherhood is an extremely tense, emotional experience. You feel the most intense joy you’ve ever felt, and the most exhausted you’ve ever felt all at one time. It’s completely natural to not feel yourself all the time, and it’s okay to have these feelings—you’re human! You aren’t perfect, but your baby sure thinks you are. 

Physical Triggers of Nursing Aversion

Nursing aversion can be random, and can vary in intensity from mom to mom, and from individual experience to individual experience. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been very much research into the cause of nursing aversion, but there are some commonly known triggers.

Some common physical triggers include:

  • Discomfort
  • Pain
  • Cracked nipples
  • Teething baby
  • Sore nipples

All of these can lead to hesitation to breastfeed, but it’s important not to let the fear of what could happen keep you from breastfeeding! 

Remedies

Your breast milk has powers you might not even know about—it can actually be used to soothe irritated or cracked nipples! Rub a little bit of your milk on the area before and after feeding, or you can use coconut oil instead. It smells good, and most likely your baby won’t mind the taste. 

A teething baby who thinks you’re a chew toy is a sure-fire way to induce nursing aversion. It’s important to remember that teething is a new experience for your baby—they’re just as uncomfortable as you are! Try to establish early on that you aren’t for chewing—as soon as you feel a bite, unlatch your baby and gently tell them not to do that. They should catch on if every time they bite, the milk is taken away. 

Mental Triggers of Nursing Aversion

Motherhood is tiring. We have a very natural tendency to put our children and our families before ourselves, and while this is an admirable quality, we can let it go too far. The reality is, we have to take care of ourselves—so that we can better care for our families. 

Neglecting your own mental health is its own trigger for nursing aversion. Feeling trapped, depressed, or resentful are all normal for an exhausted mother. You might feel overwhelmed, and like you don’t have time for yourself, but you need to make time—even if it’s only 30 seconds. 

Go for a walk! Take your little one for a stroll around the block. Odds are, you’ve been cooped up inside for a bit and a change of scenery is exactly what you need. Take 30 seconds to meditate. Close your eyes, be still, focus on your breath, and recenter yourself. A little moment of calm will go a long way. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It’s very common to feel alone when you’re experiencing nursing aversion, but even if you don’t know someone who’s personally experienced it, know that millions of mothers out there are feeling the same way. 

When to Seek Professional Help

If you feel like there might be an underlying or more serious cause to your nursing aversion, it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional. Seeking help is absolutely nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Getting the help you need is the best thing for you and your baby, because taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby. 

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