What is Breast Feeding Aversion or Agitation (BAA)?

BAA or ‘aversion’ is a phenomenon that some breastfeeding mothers experience, which includes having particular negative feelings, often coupled with intrusive thoughts when an infant is latched and suckling at the breast (Yate, 2017).
It is actually a phenomenon!
It is when the feeding parent is latched on and feeding and experiences negative physical and emotional sensations like:
  • Anger
  • Agitation
  • Disgust/Self-Disgust
  • Irritability
  • Rage
  • Skin itching/crawling
  • Shame & Guilt (usually afterwards)
When the feeding ends, so do the uncomfortable feelings.
Intrusive thoughts can also occur like:
  • Wanting to ‘run away’ so as to not be feeding
  • Overwhelming urge to stop breastfeeding
  • ‘Feeling trapped’ or a like a prisoner
  • Wanting to ‘pinch’ the infant or child so they stop suckling
  • Thoughts and feelings about being ‘touched out’

When the feed ends and the baby is no longer latched these feelings disappear.

Who Experiences It?
There is not much research on Breastfeeding Aversion so it is not greatly understood,  but it is known that  feeding parents can experience it at some point during their breastfeeding experience.
The above study found that breastfeeding aversion seems to happen more often with older nurslings than with small infants and during pregnancy, especially if newly pregnant and still feeding a toddler or with tandem feeding post birth.
It also found it can be linked to hormonal changes like pre ovulation, or pre menstrual timelines.
What Does It Feel Like?
Although it presents in varying degrees, durations and onset and duration is unpredictable the descriptions used are very similar:
Physical:
 -A skin-crawling sensation, repulsion, or the feeling of nails on a chalkboard when their child nurses.
-An itching or smothering feeling.
-Desire to remove their baby from the breast/chest and to get away.
Emotional:
flashes of irritation, anger, or rage when breastfeeding
There is also the  emotions of feeling– guilt, shame, and sadness about having the breastfeeding aversion. Mum’s want to continue to feed their child but the issue of these feelings arsing can be  confusing, painful, and worrying.
How can a lactation consultant help?
If you feel this way please reach out! Many other professionals are not aware of BAA, so you need empathy and a cheer leader on your side! Being able to express how and what you are experiencing, being validated and that you will feel better is essential to understanding and continuing your breastfeeding journey.
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