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Nursing Aversion, or 'Wanting to Scream, Run and Break Things'

I thought nursing aversion, sometimes called 'breastfeeding agitation', was something that only inflicted pregnant mothers. And I'm not pregnant, so why have I had so many moments of hating breastfeeding lately?


My little boy is over two years old now. How is it possible that I am breastfeeding a talking, eating, running little 26 month old boy? I was convinced that I wouldn't even be able to bring him to my breast even once, and then we made it to six weeks with our Supplemental Nursing System, then five months, and then the big one for me: one year.

Two years kind of slipped by unassumingly, actually. I no longer felt that breastfeeding was an active choice I was making, but had simply become a very personal part of my mothering. He stopped breastfeeding in the day at around 18 months, and always adamantly declared 'Nei!' when I offered. Nights, though, have always been a different story. The various pros and cons are changing, and my own breastfeeding experience is continuing to challenge and educate me... and nursing aversion is a big part of that.

For the past six-ish months, there is usually two evenings every month where I put my toddler to bed in our usual manner -- singing the Long Time Sun Song, lying down together in his big double bed, turning on his sleepy music (Bon Iver -- he has good taste) and breastfeeding him either to sleep or to almost sleep. Nothing is different to the norm, and yet these two or sometimes three evenings a month, I emerge in tears, seething with such intense anger, wanting to scream and throw something that will break into a hundred pieces, wishing I could just run out the door and just keep run run running to a dark cave where nobody will touch me for the next year.

Jetlag: Too tired for PJs, too tired even for boobie!
It turns out, this feeling has a name. Nursing Aversion. Or sometimes Breastfeeding Agitation. I had ruled this out, as I wasn't pregnant... but when I went into my chat history of when I wrote in floods of tears to my two best breastfeeding support buddies, each episode was exactly in time with my cycle, in the days before my period. It seems that, yes, it is hormonal. Geez, hormones have a lot to answer for. Also, at these times, my milk supply is very low, almost non-existent, so his feeds are longer and more frequent at exactly the time when I hate it.

So I found myself sitting on the couch with my husband who steeled himself and dared to ask me if I wanted to wean. He held me as I sobbed and said yes, but I don't know how. I mean, yes, I know all the practical 'hows', but the emotional? No idea.

The next day? Weaning wasn't even on the table. I enjoyed it again, enjoyed being there for my boy to comfort him and be what he needs in the night. I dreamt of him night-weaning, but also feared that this would be the end, as he didn't feed in the day. The few times I have gotten my husband to help out in the nights (he always deals with our eldest at night, who sleeps through almost consistently, finally!), it has almost always been a disaster and been more emotional trauma than it was worth, so we just continue to plod along.
Airport breastfeeding, at what would have been 10.30pm. 
Now that I know this is true nursing aversion, though, it helps. Having labels for things helps. Being able to share stories with other mothers who have been there helps. We all get strength from one another in this motherhood tribe. Weaning is definitely on the cards, at least partially, and me learning to set boundaries when it comes to breastfeeding has been incredibly hard. I am, though, and I am learning more and more about how to look after myself too. To have worked so hard for so long to get here, and then to find myself in this situation, is sometimes... well, it is complicated.

But I'm not one to keep things simple ;)

Interview with Claire: Constant Pain

Claire is a Switzerland-based Australian writer whose passionate, thought-provoking musings and poetry can be found at clairevetica.wordpress.com. The clarity and intensity in both her self and her writing is something that I have long admired. Claire's first child was born in London and her second child in Zurich.

What were your thoughts and expectations about breastfeeding before you gave birth? 

I didn’t really think much about breastfeeding before I had kids. While pregnant with my first child in London in 2010-2011, like most women in my position, I was mostly focused on the pregnancy and the impending, terrifying Major Life Event of actually giving birth. It seemed as though the books I was reading and the people I spoke to focused on that too, rather than talking much about what came afterwards. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

I guess the thoughts I did have about breastfeeding were that it seemed vaguely ick to me personally (ie: while I’m not grossed out by others doing it AT ALL, I didn’t love the thought of doing it myself). I don’t think I’d heard of people having major problems with breastfeeding, apart from mastitis, (which sounded bad enough – but as though most people got through it and went on to bf fine). However, breastfeeding seemed like the Right Thing To Do and if women had been doing this for millennia, why wouldn’t I? I guess I felt much the same about giving birth “naturally” (ie: vaginally, without drugs) – again something that women had been doing since the dawn of time. The natural birth went fine. The breastfeeding did not.


How were those first few days and weeks? Did you feel supported? 

Speaking at the WHO

Last weekend, I travelled to Geneva to speak on a panel at the World Health Organisation's Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative congress. Surrounded by over 300 experts from 137 countries, I shared my story and apparently made a whole bunch of them cry (including myself). 


I am still in disbelief that I can open a blog post with that. Isn't it entirely mind-boggling?! Being able to do this is an absolute dream come true, and absolutely one that I had never envisioned happening -- at least not for the next forty years, anyway. I have never before felt so humbled, such a small fish in a big pond, so incredibly in awe of the power and influence that this group of passionate people held over a subject that is so dear to my heart. It was in my preparation that I truly realised the gravity of what I had been asked to do: 'So you are here, surrounded by the most influential and knowledgeable people in this field, from all corners of the globe. What is it that you think they should be doing differently? What do you want them to do to change the experiences of women in the next generation?' 

Interview with Rachel: "I didn't really breastfeed"

Rachel, an American mother living in Switzerland, writes the inspiring expat lifestyle blog My Mini AdventurerI asked Rachel to be a part of Milk and Motherhood after meeting for coffee and learning that she, in her own words, 'didn't really breastfeed'. 

This beautiful, dedicated mother breastfed her little baby for three months before too many obstacles and difficulties led her to the realisation that continuing was not the best decision for her family. I feel very honoured that she agreed to share her story with me here. 


Did you go into motherhood with a firm idea of how you wanted to feed your baby?

It was doomed from the start, really. The moment they took my little guy away and whisked him off to the NICU, we didn’t stand a chance. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Your friend has low supply?

As someone who has struggled with low supply for both of my babies, who had over forty appointments with lactation consultants throughout Switzerland and also in Australia, who used formula and donor milk through a Supplemental Nursing System for almost six months, who tried seemingly every milk-building remedy from every culture on earth, it's time I write this post.

I had some truly wonderful friends during this time, but I also lost friends during this time, which still breaks my heart.

The first few beads sent to me by friends and family around the world for strength and love during the birth and postnatal period. My most valuable possession. There is so much love right there.
If you find yourself sitting next to your friend who is struggling with low supply, whether you consider it true low supply or merely 'perceived low supply', here's a few tips.

Disclaimer: I am a very sensitive person. During the first six months of each of my baby's lives, I was the most vulnerable and emotionally pained that I have ever been. All I can do is share my own personal experience.



WHAT TO AVOID SAYING

1. 'Do you really have low supply?' This is hard. There is a lot of information out there about how to ensure you truly do have low supply, and that your fussing baby, empty-feeling breasts and bottle-guzzler don't necessarily mean you aren't producing enough milk. But you are her friend, not her lactation consultant. Don't question her, don't expect her to explain to you in detail about all the ways she is (or feels she is) unable to provide for her baby. Don't get her to justify her pain to you.

2. 'Have you tried fennel tea?' or any number of remedies... lactation cookies, beer, more skin to skin, checking for tongue tie, staying in bed for a weekend with baby, meditation, domperidone, etc. Again, unless she specifically asks you for advice, don't offer it. Chances are you are the ten-thousandth person that has mentioned this to her, and you might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back and have a box of breastfeeding tea thrown in your face.

Five Tips for Pumping

Andrea, my go-to exclusive pumper, has shared her top five tips for successful pumping! Check out my interview with her over here.
* * * 
Tip #1:
Get yourself a good hospital-grade double pump. I tried two brands and found Medela Symphony to be the best. (Check if your insurance covers a pump! Often it will!)

Tip #2:
Get a pumping bra... Yes I know they are not sexy but they hold the cups well against your skin, create a good suction and you can carry on with emails, calls and even being with your baby.

There it is -- the big Medela Symphony over there.
Tip #3:

Interview with Andrea: Exclusive Pumping

Andrea is the mother of two beautiful girls and has added to the general craziness of life with two littlies by started her own sewing business, Spirited Child.

I asked Andrea to be an interviewee for Milk and Motherhood because I knew that her journey took a bit of a different turn than the 'usual' (upon reflection, though, is there a 'normal' breastfeeding journey?!). After struggling with a variety of problems, she became an exclusive pumper for her daughter and is now the woman I turn to when mothers ask me for advice and tips about pumping! She is an inspiration, and gave so much of herself to be able to give her beautiful little baby what she could. Here is Andrea, talking about her love/hate relationship with breastfeeding, and reminding me once again why I hold exclusive pumpers on the highest of pedestals in this world of baby-feeding. 

Andrea and Amelia
Tell me about your breastfeeding journey and how you found yourself exclusively pumping for your baby.

Breastfeeding…I have a love/hate relationship with it. Before I had my first, Amelia, I never knew how much I would love it. Actually, I didn’t think I would care – my attitude was very matter of fact about it. But I also hated breastfeeding because it didn’t fully work for us in a ‘normal’ way.

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