Pen Pal: #aversionsucks Bite Back
Zainab developed and authors the website www.breastfeedingaversion.com which she started to support women with feeding aversion following her own experience after the birth of her son. Here Zainab shares with us a bit about the research she has conducted and a few suggestions for biting back if you are experiencing breastfeeding aversion.
“Whether five minutes of fifty I experienced strong feelings of anger and irritation throughout the feed. I felt trapped and wanted to run away. These overwhelming emotions didn’t stop until the second my boy unlatched. It was awful, I hated it and I hated myself.” (Zainab, Pen Pal: Breastfeeding Aversion)
My background is in public health and research ethics. So after turning to the internet for answers following to my own feeding aversion and finding nothing, I did what anyone in those fields would do.......a little bit of qualitative research.
I conducted an online survey: The response was staggering. The questionnaire was filled out nearly 700 times in 48 hours. I'd never had that kind of response, even on projects with incentives. These women had something to say: they just needed to be asked. And what they were saying was that they had experienced the exact same feelings. The women described their breastfeeding ‘aversion’ as feelings of; anger or even rage; agitation and irritation; and often as a ‘skin-crawling’ sensation experienced while their child was latched.
Women stated different reasons for their experienced ‘aversion’. Some said it occurred during ovulation or menstruation. Others linked it to sleep deprivation. Some mothers said it started when they fell pregnant and continued for the time they breastfed. Others had no idea why they experienced these feelings. But what was clear, was that breastfeeding triggered very similar negative emotions in many different women, for many different reasons.
Over the last few years, I've documented what helps these women, including myself, to either overcome or to lessen the aversion. So many women want to continue breastfeeding but find these negative emotions at odds with their rational decision to continue.
Here are some techniques for biting back when aversion sucks:
- Practice deep breathing or distraction techniques during the breastfeed.
- Consider whether you need a supplement: Vitamin D, B12 and Magnesium. These vitamins are linked to energy levels and play a role in hormone production and release.
- Join a peer support group, like this one on Facebook, or Instagram, to share your story and get advice.
- Consider shortening or limiting the feeds, if your baby is over six months old, has started to wean and is no longer reliant on breastmilk for survival. I recommend speaking to a medical professional if you choose these strategies.
There is no evidenced-based research into breastfeeding aversion, and that makes it hard to say exactly what will help a mother for certain. For each mother-baby dyad, there are a specific set of requirements based on their needs. However, the above are worth trying if weaning is not yet an option.
One day soon I'll do a full-scale research project into breastfeeding aversion, but for now, I will continue to help mothers who contact me and I will continue to write about it on my resource website. I plan to start a social media campaign to raise awareness, look out for the ‘aversion sucks’ printed tees!
I believe women are being let down by society, the medical profession and the government when it comes to infant feeding. We should know all about the possible challenges and difficulties of breastfeeding, and there are so many. But to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Thank you so much Zainab for sharing your journey with us. The work you do is inspirational and we hope that this reaches out to those who need it. For more on breastfeeding aversion and agitation please follow on her webpage, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram.