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Nursing Aversion: Possible Triggers and How to Cope


New mothers everywhere understand the importance of breastfeeding, but what happens when you begin to experience negative feelings or unwanted thoughts during the process? Here, we’ll discuss nursing aversion, some possible triggers, and how to cope.


Understanding Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation (BAA)


Breastfeeding aversion and agitation (BAA), commonly referred to as nursing aversion, is a phenomenon where breastfeeding mothers experience negative feelings that are coupled with intrusive thoughts when their baby is latched and suckling at the breast. The negative feelings can vary from mother to mother, but often include emotions like anger, disgust, irritability, agitation, rage, skin crawling, shame, and guilt. The intrusive thoughts that are associated with nursing aversion are specific to breastfeeding. These can include thoughts such as wanting to run away, an overwhelming urge to discontinue breastfeeding, feeling trapped, feeling like a prisoner, and even conjuring up ways to make the infant stop suckling. Usually, these negative emotions and intrusive feelings only last for the duration of breastfeeding and stop once the latch is broken.


Nursing aversion can occur in varying degrees of severity and duration. It can occur during one feeding or consistently with every feed. Nursing aversion usually occurs spontaneously and is not due to a predictable set of behaviors or emotions within a mother. The onset is different for everyone, but many mothers tend to experience similar negative thoughts and feelings.


Breastfeeding aversion and agitation can occur at any time throughout breastfeeding, regardless of your infant’s age. Nursing aversion is different for every woman and therefore, needs to be treated and managed on an individual basis. While some people believe that the aversion is your body’s natural way of saying that it’s time to wean your baby off breast milk, this is not true. Aversions can occur in mothers with newborns, three-month-old babies, and older children. However, if your baby is under 12 months old, it’s important that you continue to incorporate breast milk in their diet to give them all the benefits that it provides.

The Difference Between BAA and Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER)


Many people believe that nursing aversion, or breastfeeding aversion and agitation, is the same as dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER)—they’re not. The two conditions are very different from each other. D-MER is a medical condition that’s diagnosed when a mother’s letdown results in an array of negative feelings. It usually only lasts for a few minutes unlike BAA, which occurs for the duration of a nursing session. D-MER, however, can be experienced in conjunction with BAA, so if you notice any signs or symptoms of either, see your doctor as soon as possible.


Potential Triggers for Nursing Aversion


There is no known cause for nursing aversion (BAA). While in the past BAA was thought to be brought on due to tandem feedings, there is not enough research to definitively conclude that this is a cause of the phenomenon. Instead, it seems like the following are potential causes and triggers for nursing aversion.



Many doctors believe that hormones play a large role in nursing aversion, especially in relation to menstruation and ovulation. When this trigger is the cause, it becomes easier for mothers to identify, recognize, and accept nursing aversion because they know that it will pass. Pay attention to when your nursing aversion occurs to see if it lines up with your period or ovulation cycles.

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Sleep Deprivation


Mothers who are sleep deprived tend to be disproportionately affected by nursing aversion, which suggests some type of correlation. A lack of sleep can increase stress hormones, hinder our mental health, and therefore, increase the occurrence of negative thoughts or emotions. Make sure that you’re prioritizing sleep and ask for help if you need it.

Self-Care Deprivation


Similarly, when you aren’t taking care of yourself properly, your mental health begins to suffer. This is especially true if you aren’t eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough exercise, or drinking enough water. Basic self-care is required for mothers to do their best, so don’t feel selfish for taking some time for yourself.

Physical Triggers


Some women are triggered by the physical discomfort that breastfeeding can cause, especially in the case of sore, cracked nipples or teething babies. If you find that physical discomfort or pain is triggering your nursing aversion, try different treatments to help ease your discomfort. You can use breast milk to help ease sore or cracked nipples or a baby-safe nipple cream. Finding relief from a teething baby presents different challenges, but it’s not impossible. Talk to your doctor for recommendations on how to cope with teething associated issues. Physical triggers may also manifest from the latch itself, your infant’s wandering hands, nipple tweaking, and more.


Processing Emotions Associated with BAA


Many women who experience nursing aversion don’t actually want to stop breastfeeding, but the negative emotions that follow can severely disrupt their routines. It’s common for mothers who are suffering from nursing aversion to feel negative emotions like anger, frustration, agitation, or even skin-crawling feelings that make them want to de-latch as soon as possible. Although these feelings are because of the aversion, it creates a lot of strain for mothers to process. To help, here are some tips for how to cope and process emotions associated with BAA.

Get Some Fresh Air


One of the most effective ways to boost your mental health and process emotions is to surround yourself with nature and fresh air. Unfortunately, becoming a new mom can make you feel like you’ve been trapped inside for years. Make it a priority to get outside every day. If you’re worried about what kind of weather your newborn can handle, call your pediatrician. If they’re dressed appropriately, they should be fine in most climates.

Practice Meditation


Another great way to help process your emotions is to meditate. Meditating can help you increase your mindfulness and bypass negative emotions in your everyday life. While you might feel like it’s not doing anything at first, the more you practice, the more you’ll benefit. Schedule time to meditate when your partner is home so that you can do so without disruption. This is also a great way to take a few minutes for yourself during a hectic day.

Make Some Time for Yourself


Whenever feasible, make time for yourself. It can be difficult with a newborn, but self-care is essential to your wellbeing. If you’re mental health is suffering, it becomes more difficult to take care of your baby. Work with your partner to create a schedule that allows you to take time for yourself every once in a while.

Find Support


Since many women who experience nursing aversion are also overcome with shame or grief, it’s not often that they seek support. However, BAA happens to women everywhere and is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not a personality flaw and does not define your ability to raise your child. To help combat these negative feelings, find a support group of women in your area who are experiencing the same feelings. You’d be surprised at how many women in your community are going through the same thing as you. If you’re not comfortable meeting in person, there are thousands of options for online support groups available.

Work with a Professional


Regardless of how you process the emotions that are associated with nursing aversion, you may find that seeking professional help is the best way to move forward. Don’t be ashamed. Mental health awareness has become increasingly common across the country and there are more resources than ever to help you identify your triggers and find a way to overcome intrusive thoughts. Talk to your doctor today to learn more about your options.


If you’re experiencing emotions and feelings that are commonly associated with nursing aversion, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You should not feel shame or guilt for having these thoughts as they are often not a reflection of your true feelings. The first step in potential diagnosis and care is having your doctor check for hormone imbalances or vitamin deficiencies, which could be impacting your aversion. To help reduce emotions felt with this aversion, you may have to create a set of boundaries or even shorten your feedings. Having a good, cognitive distraction seems to work for some women as it helps to distract them from strong negative emotions. You can also supplement some nursing sessions with bottle feeding expressed milk to help avoid strong negative emotions and feelings of guilt. To help you build a strong supply of expressed milk, use your breast pump regularly. Byram Healthcare has a range of popular breast pumps available to new and expecting mothers, free through your insurance provider. Browse our selection and get started with our easy, three-step ordering process today.