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You’re not alone if you’re experiencing some kind of breastfeeding aversion. Click here to learn more.
Breastfeeding is not all snuggles and cuddles. Some may actually experience an aversion to the act of breastfeeding. There are 3 types of aversions:
Breastfeeding is a complex sensory experience full of touch, sound, smell, and movement. This is an aversion to the actual act of breastfeeding. While the baby is latched, mothers experience creepy crawling or tingling sensations in various parts of the body (especially legs), feeling overwhelmed, have an intense desire to unlatch, itching accompanied by intrusive thoughts. As soon as baby unlatches the sensations go away, but often leave a feeling of guilt or sadness for having felt that way. Some of those who identify as neurodiverse or who have ADHD may have higher sensitivities and become more easily overstimulated or overwhelmed by the process of breastfeeding than others. While other people may actually find that it calms and relaxes their sensory system.
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (DMER)
This only occurs during the actual let down and is a physiological response to the release of the hormone oxytocin. An intense, transient dysphoria results in feelings of dread, anxiety, sadness or irritability, felt for 30 seconds to 2 minutes while the hormone is released. the rest of the breastfeeding or pumping session is totally fine.
Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation (BAA)
In further contrast to D-MER, this aversion occurs unexpectedly for some who have previously breastfed for some time. It varies in onset, severity and duration. Those who experience this describe it as involuntary, overwhelming sensation of aversion in response to the act of breastfeeding or pumping lasting the majority of feeding, not just during let down. They experience negative emotions including anger, rage, agitation and irritability. There is a strong urge to run away due to feeling trapped by feeding. (Yate, 2017).
While most people who have BAA describe the feelings and thoughts in a similar way, BAA happens in varying degrees and durations and the onset and severity are unpredictable. This is different then D-MER where the feelings are only during let down. And the feelings during BAA are different than D-MER: anger and agitation are not the same as dread, despair or sadness.
We don’t know what causes it. Hormones, lack of sleep, unrealistic expectations and not enough self care may play a role? There is not enough research on BAA to know how many breastfeeding people it affects, why it happens, and what can be done to treat it. But if you experience this, you are not alone. Distraction for the breast feeder, taking certain supplements, and peer-to-peer support may help. www.breastfeedingaversion.com
Up to 85 percent of us will experience the some severity of the baby blues. It is normal to not be happy all the time, especially when transitioning to such a drastic life stage where a tiny human is completely dependent on you for all cares on top of a lack of sleep. You may feel happy one minute and overwhelmed and crying the next. If symptoms are severe or last for more than two weeks, a new mom should be concerned about a postpartum mood disorder, such as postpartum depression. Women who had anxiety or depression before giving birth are at higher risk. The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression include:
* Anger and irritability
* Difficulty sleeping
* Intrusive thoughts (which may include thoughts of harming the baby)
💡 Know that what you’re experiencing is real and not just made up. You’re not alone in your aversion and there is support!
🍎 Nutrition and hydration are critically. Breastmilk is high in water, which is taken from your blood. Staying well hydrated is essential for not only making milk but also reducing feeling of depletion and aversion while feeding. Drink a glass of water 10-15 minutes before breastfeeding/pumping.
Be mindful of any nutritional deficits you may have, as this can make symptoms worse. Having lab work to determine if there are iron, vitamin d or b deficiencies can help. Many find taking A magnesium supplement may also reduce symptoms. Magnesium glycerinate is the preferred type of magnesium. Magnesium citrate is more common for constipation.
🛌 Sleep is the hardest to get, but many find their aversion is worse without good sleep. Take any opportunity for a quick snooze
📺 Distract yourself. Watching Tv, using noise reducing or Loop headphones, listening to music or talking on the phone works because your brain can't process both the activity and attending to the emotions/thoughts
🧬Hormonal shifts caused by pregnancy, bf, and periods can throw even the most mindful person off. A blood test can check for abnormal hormone levels of LH, FSH, prolactin, estrogen, and progesterone. Diet changes, specific supplements, or medications can help under the guidance of a trained health care professional.
🛑 Time to wean. It’s absolutely OK to stop if you’re experiencing aversions. As long as you’ve reached your goals and are feeling well supported in your journey