I loved breastfeeding my child—until I didn’t

I had no idea what breastfeed aversion was until it happened to me.

breastfeed aversion

When I became pregnant for the first time, I—like every other first-time mother—went into full obsessive research mode as soon as I saw that double-lined pee stick. I think I did more research in those months leading up to the birth of my daughter than I did in all of grad school combined. As my due date neared, I made note of all the superfoods that would boost my baby's brain development and started practicing yoga to prepare my body for labor. My typical pregnancy worries evolved into a plethora of third-trimester anxieties, which ended up being mostly about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding was never something I thought much about because. growing up, it was simply something that just was. My mother breastfed my seven younger siblings back to back from the year 1989 until 2005 without pause (I know).

I remember when I was 15, my high school boyfriend was over and we were awkwardly holding hands on the couch, hanging out with my family. My mom—mid-sentence—whipped out her boob to feed my youngest brother with no warning and no cover. As embarrassed as I secretly was by the shock of my teenage boyfriend getting a full view of my mom's nipple, I knew that babies had to eat.

What I could not comprehend until I had a child of my own was that it wasn't always as simple as just knowing the baby has to eat.

In fact, sometimes, the complexities that emerge around the act of breastfeeding have nothing to do with the baby at all. There can be a number of issues: latch, disinterest, pain, even an allergic reaction to the mother's milk. Things I didn't even think of. Until my hurricane-storm of research made it all I could think about. There was one notable thing missing, however.

Just minutes after a complicated birth, my daughter was placed on my chest and latched immediately. I cried in relief—she was alive, she was here, I was here and she was nursing. Those first little suckles, her staring at me through pale blue groggy newborn-vision, was the first time I felt true, unconditional love. And despite my pregnant worries, I was breastfeeding. It felt natural and joyful. I loved every moment.

Until I didn't.

Aware of the benefits of extended breastfeeding, I planned on breastfeeding my child for two years. Spoiler alert: parenting consists of a lot of redirection on said "planned" journeys (I am not using the term "breastfeeding goal" because it sets the precedent that I failed when I didn't fail).

The decision to wean earlier than two was a difficult and emotional decision. At 15 months, I began to feel strong periods of aversion when I'd nurse. Of course, at the time, I didn't know to call it aversion—it simply felt like rage.

At least once a day while nursing, I would be overcome with a sense of panic: a blind rage coupled with the physical need to rip my skin off and exit the situation as quickly as possible. It was terrifying that I felt this way.

I'd put the baby down—her screaming in her own anger from being removed from her milk supply—and would run to another room, shut the door and cry under a foreboding tidal wave of guilt and shame and sadness. It was a continuous cycle that fed anxieties into the phenomenon itself, worsening it. Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore.

Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation (BAA) or Nursing Aversion (NA), is defined as, "the experience of anger and irritability, coupled with skin itching sensations while the infant is latched, and the urgent need to remove the feeding infant; shame and guilt about these feelings of anger and wanting to unlatch the child are also common."

It is common enough to be informally known by mothers who've been through it and lactation consultants educated on it, but there is very little literature written about it. Unless you know of the condition in the first place, a Google search yields limited answers.

I was lucky enough to have a close friend who was also a lactation consultant (LC) help me. After a few weeks of struggling, I finally reached out to her. If not for that connection, I may not have been able to name my experience—and therefore understand and work through it—at all.

I continued to breastfeed until my daughter was 22 months old and the aversion eventually subsided. I was pregnant with my second child at the time. Even after I weaned, I couldn't help but ask myself: Why do these experiences go unspoken? What happens when we do not talk about BAA?

My LC described Nursing Aversion akin to PTSD, and this makes so much sense to me. It is something we need to talk about, comfort each other in, educate one another on and communally heal. We need space to say: it is not your fault, breastfeeding mama.

As I'm struggling with continuing to breastfeed my second daughter for totally different reasons, this is what I've come to learn: Breastfeeding is as complicated as any source of intimacy in a relationship. In some ways, I view it as the first of many metaphorical journeys of mother-child relationship chapters—one of independence, overwhelming love and self-understanding.

It can be hard so we need support systems and specific language in place to help mothers make their best decisions when it comes to our miracle-giving bodies.

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less

Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less

A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

Keep reading Show less