Nursing - I Used To Love It

I love our second born with all my heart.  I’d do anything in the world for her. So why do I have to stop myself from wanting to throw her as far away from me as possible when she’s nursing?! I used to love nursing her.

Honestly I wish it just hurt.
I wish it just felt annoying.
I wish it was just uncomfortable.

If it was painful I feel like I could manage, like I could somehow rally my emotional and physical resources and cope. But this other feeling, commonly known as nursing aversion, is something else. It’s also coined nursing agitation. Neither term sounds quite strong or intense enough to describe what is occurring.

It’s unbearable.
It’s repulsive.
It’s skin crawlingly horrendous.
It’s beyond anything painful or excruciatingly ticklish
It’s psychologically tormenting.
It causes reactions that are primal.

I love this quote from Mama’s Milk, No Chaser
“Imagine a giant Pleco fish sucking on your eyeballs, and you have no eyelids. The sucker fish is slow, deliberate, and relentless — never giving your eyeball the mercy of just sucking the whole thing out of its socket to end the godless, seemingly endless torture. You genuinely crave the pain, the shock, of getting bitten (or worse), because the grossness of soft fluttery suckling makes you want to literally gouge out your own eyeballs.
Except in this case, the lidless eyeballs are your nipples, and the giant Pleco fish is your sweet and beloved child.”

It makes me want to do just about anything to my sweet, innocent little Fudge to make her stop. She doesn’t even nurse that often anymore. It’s not like it’s something I’m dealing with that frequently. But, being pregnant, nursing aversion has well and truly kicked in.

No one is certain of the exact cause of nursing aversion. Some theories suggest a change in hormones is responsible (which can occur during pregnancy or before ovulation begins again).
Hilary Flower wrote
“Breastfeeding agitation may stem from our mammalian roots. Maternal aggression is not uncommon in the animal world at weaning time, and it is possible that pregnancy makes our bodies think it is time to wean.”
Click here to read article

Tonight I was trying with every ounce of my being to hold it together and to stay calm. I must have pulled her in too tight or pressed her back where I was holding her too hard.

Suddenly she was crying.
Really crying - a big, sad, heartbroken cry.
It was awful. I instantly felt so incredibly bad. I felt like the worst mama in the world. Here she was, feeling all safe and nurtured in her sleepy state when all of a sudden she must have felt afraid and confused. I managed in that emotionally charged, guilt ridden moment to calm her, reassure her and to start nursing again with an added resolve to hold it together for her sake. I held it together for another ten minutes at least until she was asleep.

Nursing is a relationship. One that involves two people who need to be willing participants and who need to feel happy about the arrangement. So some would say, given the circumstances, that it’s time to wind things down. There is one person, me, who is far from happy or enthusiastic about our current nursing situation.

BUT, there are other valid considerations to take into account. Following some reflection upon these factors, a decision can be reached. Obviously those factors need to be weighed up when not in the heated,  tension filled, skin crawling moments of breastfeeding your sweet nursling.

If you, like me, are questioning whether or not to continue with breastfeeding, consider these…

* Nursing memories. I want them to be positive. I want to look back and remember them with love and joy, not for them to be filled with tainted angst and irritation. I don’t want our current experience to be my final memory of our nursing relationship.

* Self weaning. Ideally I’d like my daughter to wean when she’s emotionally and physically ready.

* When the new baby arrives, I’d like to still be able to comfort and connect with little Fudge in this way. It will be another way to support her as she deals with some of her own big emotions and inevitable changes within our family dynamic.

* If I decided to suddenly stop nursing, I know that there would be a few emotional consequences. There’s times when the only thing that helps in the moment is nursing.  An unsettled wake up in the middle of the night, the sadness after hurting herself etc.

* Maybe, just maybe this crazy aversion will stop any day now?! For some people it has stopped half way through pregnancy. Being just over half way I’m holding onto that chance!

* Hope! There is hope to hold on to. I vividly recall feeling the exact same way when I was still nursing our eldest girl and was pregnant with Fudge. The aversion INSTANTLY disappeared after she was born.  It was amazingly instant!

I wish I could include a list of ten things that have made a huge difference and reduced the aversion to some extent. The one thing I’ve noticed is that trying to ignore it or distract myself makes it a zillion times worse. I personally find that I need to focus, watch my daughter nursing, anticipate the pauses and sucks and to remain on high alert so to speak. A friend often talks about “leaning in” - both literally and figuratively in this case. Lean in and accept it in order to help move past it. The second I try to read something on my phone I lose my resolve, the feeling intensifies and any sudden or varied rhythm to her nursing can tip me over the edge.

I have read the following may also help:
* Reduce your caffeine intake
* Stay well nourished and well hydrated.
* Get as much sleep as possible (I know?!)
Click here for more ideas from Mama’s Milk,  No Chaser

So, I’ve decided to hang in there, with my crazy intense emotions and my sweet as can be little nursling. I am aware that it’s a somewhat easy choice for me as little Fudge only nurses of an evening usually. Mamas, only you know what you can handle and what is optimal for you and your child’s relationship.

Please know this however, you are not slowly losing your mind. You are not selfish. You are not alone. Nursing aversion is real and it can be excruciatingly uncomfortable and disturbing.
It won’t last forever and it will feel normal, natural and even beautiful again. Remember, it can disappear as instantly as it all begun.


  1. Author

    Thank you. Wow, you absolutely gave it your best shot and more. You did incredibly well to go another four months after giving birth. If it’s impacting negatively on your relationship it’s all you can do. You’re a superstar! xo

  2. Thank you this is a very well thought out article. For me I pushed through the nursing aversion while I was pregnant with the hope that it would get better. Unfortunately for me it got worse after my baby was born. I persevered for 4 months but every time my son would nurse I would struggle so much with my aversion that I began to dread nursing times with him. It was negatively impacting our relationship so I chose to ween. I miss having the positive feelings that I did with my first and I am sorry it was a one sided weening process, but I am glad that I went as long as I did. I can honestly say I gave it my best shot.

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