What is Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation (BAA)?

What can mothers do if they experience BAA?

It can be most commonly be found in mothers nursing older children, and if this is the case, mothers may have to create boundaries and shorten or lessen feeds. This can take time, and practice, and can be difficult for both parties to stick to. Counting down from 20 to 0 or singing a song loudly and ending the session when it is finished is a good place to start.

For some women, it is linked to their hormonal cycles, and finding this kind of pattern emerging helps mothers to ‘bear with’ it for a few days because they know it will pass. It is a good idea to start a diary logging the experience and how long it continues for.

It is also an idea to have mothers go to their local doctor to check for female hormone and vitamin deficiencies to make sure it isn`t another condition that they are struggling with. Some mothers find the vitamin B complex supplement and Magnesium supplements/sprays helpful to lessen their experience.

Cognitive distraction, basically distracting oneself whilst feeding is also effective as a coping strategy, because the brain is focused on another activity, it cannot spend all its energy dwelling on the negative emotions that have been triggered. Phones and squeezy stress balls are most commonly used.

Where can you go for help and support if you experience BAA?

“I am so glad I found this group [online support group]; I thought I was going mad… that I was the only one who felt like this when nursing. I just want to scream and pull my baby off.” – Preena

Firstly, it important to understand that no feelings are wrong feelings, women are feeling what they are feeling because of a variety of factors in their breastfeeding journey and their mental and physical states. In a way, BAA can be entirely normal response to a circumstance, if a mother is nursing a baby in pain or if BAA is considered a pre-requisite to encourage weaning from the breast in a child. However, if neither mum or infant is ready to, or if it is a difficult experience, women can need support.

Speaking about it often helps, knowing that you are ‘not alone’ and getting tips from other mums is key to being able to carry on breastfeeding.

@breastfeedingaversion on Instagram is public and open, and collects stories from other mothers who experience BAA, and talks about it openly.  There is also a public Facebook page to raise awareness of the phenomenon found HERE.

There is a resource site with articles on the phenomenon, access to free videos and the latest research on aversion found here: www.breastfeedingaversion.com

On Facebook, there are also a few closed support groups where mothers share experiences and ask advice (such as THIS ONE. In September the first online structured support course will start, details of which can be found HERE.


Iranian born Zainab Yate is Vice Chair of North London Research Ethics Committee, for the Health Research Authority (HRA), and a member of King’s College London (KCL) Research Governance Board in the UK. She volunteers as a breastfeeding peer supporter with the National Health Service (NHS), and is volunteering to support the work of World Breastfeeding Trends initiative (WBTi) in the UK. As an independent researcher and research consultant, with two breastfed toddlers, she spends her free time raising awareness of BAA and supporting mothers who experience it. In September 2017, she started an online structured programme for mothers who experience BAA, to help them reach their breastfeeding goals.


References

Yate, Z., (In Press), Yate ZM. A qualitative study on negative emotions triggered by breastfeeding; describing the phenomenon of breastfeeding/nursing aversion and agitation in breastfeeding mothers. Iranian J Nursing Midwifery Res 2017;22:XX-XX.

Watkinson M, Murray C, Simpson J. Maternal experience of embodied emotional sensations during breast feeding: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Midwifery 2016;36:53‐60.

Flower H, O’Mara P. Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond. Schaumburg Ill: La Leche League International; 2003. p. 327.

Heise AM, Wiessinger D. Dysphoric milk ejection reflex: A case report. Int Breastfeed J 2011;6:6.

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