Having a newborn comes with many challenges, from making sure you have all the newborn essentials to wondering if your breast milk has come in. Having difficulty breastfeeding can create complex feelings of shame and guilt, since our culture is full of images of happy women who seem to have no trouble nursing their babies.
Experiencing negative thoughts or feelings during breastfeeding can be very confusing. In recent years, different studies have focused on understanding why this happens. The term breastfeeding aversion and agitation (BAA) refers to these distressing feelings that some mothers experience while nursing. There are some common reasons why some women experience this condition.
5 main reasons why women don't like breastfeeding
It's very common for new moms to believe that breastfeeding should come naturally, which is why it can feel disheartening when it doesn't. There are many things that can make breastfeeding feel uncomfortable and even painful. Here are some of the most common things that make women dislike breastfeeding.
1. Your baby seems to choke while nursing.
Hearing your newborn cough or gag while nursing can be upsetting. In most cases, the reason for this is a strong letdown. This is particularly common if you haven't nursed in while. If you are experiencing a forceful letdown, you could try pumping some milk or expressing manually before you start breastfeeding. Another thing to do is to try holding your baby upright while they nurse.
2. Breastfeeding is painful.
There are several reasons for feeling pain while you're nursing your baby. One of the most common causes is a poor latch. If your baby isn't latching well, they can pinch your nipple, resulting in sharp pain. A poor latch can also lead to sore, cracked nipples.
To ensure that your baby is latching properly, bring your baby to your breast when their mouth is wide open. Aim your nipple towards the roof of their mouth. If you still feel like your baby's latch isn’t deep enough, tickle their chin or pull it down gently to coax them to open their mouth a little bit more. If your baby has latched properly, your nipple will look normal after breastfeeding.
3. Your milk ducts are getting clogged.
As your baby's feeding pattern changes, you can experience engorged, swollen breasts resulting from a clogged milk duct. This is caused by milk that stays in your breasts longer than it should, becoming thick and coagulated. You might feel a lump in your breast. If left untreated, a clogged duct can lead to mastitis.
When you feel the symptoms of a clogged milk duct, nurse your baby or pump from that breast. While you nurse, softly massage your breast in circles to loosen the milk clog. If you catch a fever or chills, you could have mastitis. Call your doctor if you think this might be the case.
4. Your baby bites your nipples.
It can be very painful when your baby bites down on your nipple. It can also increase your risk of developing breast infections since tiny tears could provide a way in for microorganisms.
In some cases, your baby could be biting because of a short frenulum. This condition is called ankyloglossia, but it's more commonly known as being "tongue-tied." The frenulum is the thin strip of skin between the bottom of the tongue and the mouth. Tongue-tie can make it more difficult for your baby to nurse and lead to biting. Fortunately, tongue-tie can be fixed with a very simple procedure.
In other cases, babies bite simply because they don't know better. If you suspect this, pull them away from your breast and loudly say "ouch!" when they bite you. You might think that your baby is too young to understand you, but in most cases, they'll get the message after a few tries. You can also try using nipple shields while you breastfeed.
5. Your baby seems more irritable after nursing.
Maybe your baby eats perfectly, but they seem to become irritable and fussy afterwards. If your baby becomes cranky and starts to squirm and cry after feeding, they might have acid reflux.
Babies with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) will have trouble gaining weight, spit up copious amounts of milk, and become irritable after nursing. If your baby is diagnosed with GERD, their doctor could recommend certain posture changes to make feeding easier. Certain medications can also be prescribed to alleviate this condition.
Easy steps to avoid nursing aversion
There are several easy steps that can help you prevent breastfeeding aversion. These measures include:
- Create a relaxing environment when you nurse at home.
- Talk about your feelings with your doctor and loved ones.
- Use nipple shields while you nurse.
- Ask a lactation specialist or your pediatrician for help.
- Identify whether your breastfeeding aversion follows a pattern (for example, some women experience BAA when they ovulate, due to hormonal changes).
- Try to be well rested and hydrated before each feeding.
- Limit the duration or frequency of feedings and supplement with formula or pumped milk as necessary (remember that fewer than 8 feedings a day may decrease your milk supply).
- Resume your pre-pregnancy activities, if possible.
How to enjoy breastfeeding
If you're experiencing nursing aversion, try to identify the cause and make changes so that nursing becomes an enjoyable part of your routine. Distracting yourself with pre-pregnancy activities (such as exercise, for example) can be very helpful as well.
You can also ask your doctor or a lactation consultant for help. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Additionally, you can join a BAA support group online to find other women who will understand what you're going through.
If you decide to stop breastfeeding, remember that the most important thing is for your baby to be well fed and hydrated. Whether you decide to pump or feed your baby formula, talk to your doctor to create a nutrition plan for your baby. At the end of the day, your wellbeing and your baby's health are what matters!