Aversion to breastfeeding - Play Nourish Thrive

Aversion to breastfeeding

TW: Childhood sexual assault
Sticking to the theme of breastfeeding🤱, we are taking a closer look at a lesser-known challenge some new parents experience: feelings of aversion during breastfeeding.

Aversion to breastfeeding does not describe physical pain, but rather negative feelings experienced during the act of breastfeeding. These feelings often dissipate once the feed is over.⚡

What do women report experiencing?

A recent paper explored this through a synthesis of current literature.(1) They identified 5 studies with 1,791 participants in total. Key findings were:

🔗Participants reported wanting to breastfeed and were positive about its benefits. Aversion was therefore unexpected and confusing.
🔗The feelings of aversion were intense, visceral, and overwhelming. Like a feeling that irritated their nerves to the point of revulsion and extreme displeasure.
🔗Breastfeeding aversion affected their sense of self and they had concerns that these feelings may impact the mother-infant relationship.
🔗Those with a history of childhood sexual assault (CSA) reported that persisting with breastfeeding allowed them to heal from past trauma and see their body in a new positive way.

What causes aversion to breastfeeding (according to peer-reviewed literature)?
✖Dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER). Where hormones during the milk ejection reflex can cause feelings of dysphoria.(2)
✖A history of CSA can trigger memories and feelings of dissociation.(3)

Other common examples (from breastfeeding support groups and blogs) include:
✖Breastfeeding while pregnant
✖Tandem breastfeeding (4)
✖Breastfeeding during ovulation and menses (5)

If this rings bells for you, or if you are interested in learning more, the Australian Breastfeeding Association has an article on D-MER (link below). If this post brings up anything for you, please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

🔅What was your experience of breastfeeding like? Have you or anyone you know experienced aversion while breastfeeding?

Aversion to breastfeeding

1. Morns et al.. 2021. Women and Birth
2. Ureño et al 2017. Breastfeed. Med 3. Elfgen et al. 2017. J. Hum. Lact.
4. Flower. 2003. La Leche League International
5. Nursing Aversion/Breastfeeding Aversion Support. 2019. Facebook group
ABA Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex article: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/dysphoric-milk-ejection-reflex-d-mer

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1 comment

Great summary! Thanks

Mel Morns

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