I love breastfeeding. I love the warm, milky cuddles; the stare of utter love and bliss that Squid often gives me as he feeds; the fact I grew this entire human and I am still nurturing him with my body almost 2 years after his birth.
But I have a secret: sometimes, feeding my son makes my skin crawl. Sometimes, I feel like I can’t breathe, and that I want to be as far away as possible from my nursing toddler. Sometimes, the small voice asking for ‘mummy’s meeelk’ sends a shiver of dread through my entire being.
You see, at certain times, I have nursing aversion.
Nursing aversion is a phenomenon which is experienced in different ways for everyone. For me, it feels like my skin is crawling, like I could rip my breasts from my chest, and at its worst, it makes me want to expel Squid from my body and run away. Personally, it’s triggered when I can hear the milk coming out, and it makes my toes curl until I feel physically sick. Coupled with Squid’s insistence at playing with my hair, I feel claustrophobic and trapped.
It is always at its worst when I ovulate: this is really common. For about 2 days before and after ovulation, I experience this aversion. I really, truly dread breastfeeding Squid at this time. For me, it’s always worst in the evening. There are times when I have to get my husband to take over, before it feels like I’ll lose the plot. I then experience another episode around 2 days before my period: I can tell my cycle to the day by this aversion! It’s worsened by the fact that I experience a slight dip in supply around ovulation and the start of my period, which in turn makes Squid nurse more often, and with more vigour, making the experience worse for me.
Though this aversion is usually predictable, and largely hormonal for me, I’ve always, always experienced it to a degree, but to begin with it was only in one breast.
When I was 19, in the wake of a messy break-up from my first serious boyfriend, I got my left nipple pierced. Even then, I remember asking the piercer if I would still be able to breastfeed, and was assured I would be able to. Fast forward nearly 6 years to Squid’s arrival, and breastfeeding didn’t come easy to us. I had long since removed the piercing, but now my baby boy was catching the scar tissue at every feed, making everything so painful. This, coupled with a severe tongue tie, and my poor nips were pretty damaged! When we had finally fixed the boobing issues, and it was largely pain free. However, I would experience these episodes of dreadful aversion, but only when Squid nursed on my left breast. The noise of the milk, and the tickly feeling would nearly send me over the edge.
I’m not saying that the reason for this was the piercing alone. However, I think it makes that boob extra sensitive, and therefore worsens the aversion. It’s always worse on my left side, and I only nurse about 30% of the time on the left for this precise reason. That said, I experience aversion on both sides, especially around ovulation. I just find it more bearable on the right side!
My top tips for dealing with aversion
- Stay hydrated. It’s always so much worse for me when I’m dehydrated! I make sure I have a pint of cold water with me whenever I know I’m going to suffer!
- White noise. Because the sound of the milk being ejected is a huge trigger for my aversion, I have to have white noise playing when I’m struggling. It really helps as I can often concentrate on the sound of the white noise rather than the milk. I use an app from the App Store, which was free!
- Take a magnesium supplement. This has helped me HUGELY. I know that my aversion is at its worst when I ovulate and get my period. Magnesium really helps me to deal with the dip in my supply at these points in my cycle. So I take a supplement when I ovulate and then until the first few days of my period. The aversion becomes so much more manageable!
Changing your mindset
- Breathe slowly. Concentrating on my breathing, slowly in and out, really helps to regain control for me.
- Set limits. Now Squid is older, I am able to explain to him that it’s uncomfortable, and I can ask him to unlatch. I often have to ask him to have the ‘other milk’, when I reach the point where I can’t let him have that side anymore. Unfortunately, the dreaded ‘lazy toddler latch’ can really worsen the aversion for me. Making sure Squid does a really wide mouth to latch with can sometimes lessen the sensations.
- Talk about it. It feels like a huge taboo: admitting that feeding your baby puts you on edge. Until I spoke to others about it, I thought it was just me, that there was something wrong with me. Now I know that there’s not, and this fact alone makes me feel less isolated.
All of these tips really help me out when I’m struggling. And sometimes, I just have to say ‘no’ to Squid. 99% of the time, he comes first but occasionally, I have to look after myself too. All this being said, one thing that really helps me to maintain a rational sense of thinking is to consider my long term goals. I know that Squid will nurse until he doesn’t want to anymore, and so remembering this helps me to focus on why I’m doing it.
Do you ever experience aversion? How do you cope with it? Do you recognise your triggers? I’d love to hear from you! You’re not alone, mama, no matter how hard it is.
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