Breastfeeding Aversion: Everything You Need To Know

Breastfeeding Aversion: Everything You Need To Know

Breastfeeding is a very beautiful and natural experience that helps to increase the bond between mother and child as well as provides tons of other amazing benefits for both the child and the breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding is not without its challenges, though.

There can be many different challenges that a breastfeeding mother and child may encounter along the way of their breastfeeding journey. One of those challenges is nursing or breastfeeding aversion. This occurs when the mother becomes intensely uncomfortable when nursing her child. However, with the right support and commitment, any challenge can be overcome. 

What Exactly is Nursing Aversion?

Nursing aversion, also known as breastfeeding aversion, most commonly occurs when a nursing mother becomes pregnant with another child. It may start with just sensitive nipples. Sensitive nipples are a common pregnancy symptom so when a nursing mother becomes pregnant, nursing may suddenly become very uncomfortable for her. As pregnancy progresses, the changing hormones can begin to make the body feel like it’s time to wean the older child.

When this happens, women often feel a strong urge to stop their child from nursing. Most women who experience nursing aversion describe it as almost impossible to ignore. You may feel extreme discomfort both physically and emotionally.


Do I Have to Wean if I Become Pregnant?

It can be a common belief that if a breastfeeding mum becomes pregnant with another child, that she must wean right away. Some believe that breastfeeding while pregnant can pose risks such as preterm labour. The reason behind that belief is that the oxytocin that is produced during breastfeeding will cause contractions to start.

However, nursing during pregnancy poses no more risk of preterm labour than sex during pregnancy, which also produces oxytocin and is almost always considered safe. Unless your pregnancy is a high-risk pregnancy where your health care provider has instructed you to hold off on sex, then nursing through pregnancy is also completely safe.

Do I Have to Wean Before Baby Arrives?

So, you may be wondering that since you can nurse your toddler throughout your pregnancy, what happens when the next baby arrives? Well, that is completely up to you and your child. If you choose to do so, you can tandem nurse your children. That just means that you have two nurslings at once.

Our bodies are capable of making milk for multiple babies at once, so as long as you nurse your new baby on demand, you will have all the milk that you need for both children. There is no need to worry that your older child may drink so much that your little one won’t have enough.


Does Nursing Aversion Only Occur During Pregnancy?

Nursing aversion is definitely most common during pregnancy, but it is not the only time that it can occur. Sometimes, nursing aversion may affect a mother that is breastfeeding her older toddler. Just like when nursing aversion occurs during pregnancy, it does not mean that the mother has to wean her child. It is up to her and her child to decide when weaning is right for them.

1. Nursing Aversion After Pregnancy

If you experience nursing aversion during your pregnancy, it may continue even after the baby is born if you choose to tandem nurse your toddler and baby. Many women find that the nursing aversion that they experience with their toddler during pregnancy ceases once the baby is born, but that isn’t always the case.

Some women continue to have an aversion to nursing even once their pregnancy is over. Even if the nursing aversion doesn’t cease altogether, it is likely that it will decrease in severity.

2. Will I experience Nursing Aversion with My Newborn?

It can be a common fear among women that experience nursing aversion during pregnancy that they will feel the same aversion when nursing their newborn. This is almost never the case, however. The vast majority of women have no negative feelings towards nursing their newborn, even if they tandem nurse and are still experiencing the nursing aversion with their older child.


Is Nursing Aversion the Same Thing as D-MER?

D-MER is short for dysphoric milk ejection reflex. While D-MER can cause nursing to be uncomfortable, it is completely different than nursing aversion. D-MER is typically most prominent in the early days of breastfeeding a newborn. D-MER is caused by hormones acting inappropriately when a let-down occurs in the breastfeeding mother.

Typically, when a let-down occurs, the levels of the hormone prolactin raise.In order to allow this, the hormone dopamine, sometimes known as the happiness hormone, must temporarily lower. It quickly stabilizes after this happens, but for breastfeeding mothers that suffer from D-MER, something about the drop in dopamine seems to be more severe causing them to experience a temporary dysphoria.

It’s normal for mothers suffering from D-MER to feel sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, dread, or any other negative emotions for a short period of time during nursing. Anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes is a normal amount of time to feel this way if you have D-MER.


Tips for Dealing with Nursing Aversion

If you decide to continue nursing your child even though you are experiencing nursing aversion, it can be a difficult thing to stick to. Fortunately, there are some tips that other mums have found helpful when dealing with nursing aversion that can hopefully be of some help to you as well.

  • Drink lots of water, especially during your nursing sessions.
  • Get as much sleep and rest as possible. Being tired can make nursing aversion worse.
  • Try implementing the same breathing techniques you used during labour.
  • Do your best to relax as much as possible because stress also can make nursing aversion worse.
  • Set limitations. Start limiting the number of nursing sessions you have a day with your older child as well as the length of each nursing session.
  • Distract yourself! One of the number one things that other mums say has helped them the most with nursing aversion is distracting themselves usually by using their phones during nursing sessions. Social media, especially, can be very helpful for getting your mind off of the nursing aversion.
  • Don’t nurse both of your children at the same time. Many women that suffer from nursing aversion and still choose to tandem nurse both their older child and their new baby find that if they have both children latched on at the same that it makes the nursing aversion much worse. Try nursing your newborn first and then allowing your older child to nurse once the baby is finished.

Stay Strong

When it comes to nursing aversion, there is no easy way out. You will have to make a very difficult decision regarding your child’s well-being as well as your own well-being. You may make the decision to wean your child which can be very difficult for both of you.

Breastfeeding has been a constant source of comfort in your child’s life so far so giving it up won’t be easy for them. It’s also likely that you will struggle emotionally with ending your breastfeeding relationship and the hormones of pregnancy don’t make that any easier.

You may also choose to stick it out and continue nursing throughout your pregnancy and possibly even tandem nursing both of your children. This is no easy feat either. It will take a high level of commitment and discipline to get through your nursing aversion, but if that is what you want to do, it will be completely worth it.

Your child will continue to benefit from your breastmilk and the bonding that nursing provides, and you won’t have to give up that precious time with them or deal with the struggles of weaning. Whatever decision that you decide to make, try to stay strong and surround yourself with loving support.