403 days of Boobs
So, here I am at 1 year and 1 month (and a bit) of breastfeeding my second baby. To date, the longest I have fed from my trusty boobs having previously weaned Oscar at 8 and a bit months. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of and I’m a huge advocate of breastfeeding for so many reasons – not least because it reduces the risk of breast cancer, and having had the Big C once, I’ll try anything to prevent getting it again 😅
However, we need to talk, because something isn’t right, and it hasn’t been since before Christmas and it’s only now, just today, that I finally feel able process it and hopefully, do something about it.
Up until now, I’ve not fully opened up to anyone, not even Robin, about how I have been feeling these past few months. My close “mum pals”, who actually now are just “pals” know nothing about this. I speak to them every day, however, if they’re reading this, it’ll be the first they’ve heard of the true extent of it. I’ve kept this to myself partly through shame, guilt, at times disgust, but mostly just sheer confusion about the thoughts I’ve been having, unable to process what it all meant… you name it, I’ve felt it.
[Read: I’ve raised a Bottle Refuser]
Please, bear with me while I try and articulate this ramble. This is my way of getting it straight in my head, processing it all and working out what to do next!
I’ve mentioned that Scout hasn’t taken a bottle on Instagram recently and had influx of messages saying “hey, we’re the same!” and “you’re not alone!” and I had originally started writing a post about this… but the truth is, this is only a tiny part of the story.
That’s bit I’ve been able to talk about openly. Because it happens – sometimes kids aren’t great sleepers, sometimes they don’t take a bottle, sometimes people admit that it can be a bit much and they need some space. All that stuff sounds fairly “normal”. I was happy to write that post and follow it up with “this too shall pass” etc. But truth be told, I was gonna keep a few secrets because I was worried about what they meant and quite frankly, struggling with the fact that I felt they made me a bit of a sh*t mum…
So here it is – in the tiny hours of the morning, as I’ve been lying feeding Scout back to sleep, these “normal” niggles have been completely eclipsed by irrational, intrusive feelings of anger and agitation that have felt far from any sense of normal. As the minutes and sometimes hours tick on trying to get her back to sleep, I feel it slowly starting to creep in. As she suckles for comfort, I get more and more agitated, irritable and to be honest – angry. When she is still awake and feeding, I have to hold her hands away from me to help me cope because I feel physically repulsed by her touch (even using the word “repulsed” is making me wince – but I’m trying to be as honest as I can be here). I’ve talked about the feeling of being “touched out” before, but this is next level.
Then, as I feel she’s starting to nod off I have to count to 100 over and over again to stop me wanting to just prize my nipple out her mouth to get away, anything to get away. The feeling of being completely trapped is overwhelming and claustrophobic.
Once she’s asleep and I escape back to my own bed, I have to lie and calm myself down, breath it out to settle myself, the pent up frustration, to allow myself to wind back down and sleep… then, more often than not, the itch will start. This has been going on for months now and I have had no idea what the hell it was. It sets in as I’m feeding. At first just a niggle that quickly become an insatiable burning itch all over my boobs and chest that can continue for up to half an hour after I’ve fed her, at times it’s been so bad I’ve scratched it with a hair brush for some relief or left me clawing at my skin while everyone else sleeps.
Now, I KNOW this sounds a bit deranged and somewhat dramatic. This was my worry too. That’s why I’ve never said anything – it’s a little crazy sounding. I’m a relatively calm and chilled out person and I have been genuinely scared of these irrational feelings, completely unable to make sense of it all and feeling so so guilty and ashamed. Guilty that I could feel so incredibly angry at giving my little baby comfort and food. So irritated by an act that I’ve loved and enjoyed so much and for so long with two babies. That’s helped me nourish them and bond with them so beautifully.
There have been nights that I’ve genuinely worried that I may be suffering from some sort of delayed postnatal depression… but then come morning I’ve felt absolutely fine again and that’s just left me more confused. I never felt like this at any point of my feeding “journey” with Oscar, so why now? What does it mean?
The Penny Drops … At 4am!
There’s a reason I’m sharing this now. Turns out everything I’ve been experiencing isn’t as scary or confusing as I thought.
Last night, as I was trying to get Scout back to sleep, I took five minutes away, picked up my phone and opened Instagram and there was a post in my discovery section mentioning “Breastfeeding Aversion” – almost immediately I was googling it, and there it was – an article defining it. As I read it, I honestly felt I could have written it myself. It summed up my thoughts and feelings precisely and in that moment the sense of relief was huge – it’s a real thing and I’m not alone.
The horrible things I have been feeling are all real, and recognised, and valid, and lots of other people experience it! I am not nuts. There is nothing “wrong” with me!
Breastfeeding Aversion & 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”
The article I read was this one on the Kelly Mom breastfeeding page (I’m already kicking myself that I didn’t look here sooner as I’ve found the site a great resource in the past).
It perfectly outlines the intrusive thoughts, the sense of shame, triggers and even the dreaded itch! That’s when I knew I’d found my answer. I hadn’t even made a connection before now that the itch was related to my feelings of anger and agitation all the while being intertwined with my night feeds.
The causes of breastfeeding aversion seem varied – anything from pregnancy, to dehydration, to sleep deprivation to hormones. I’m unsure where mine has sprung from because I struggle to pinpoint exactly when it started.
Why am I sharing?
I still feel a wee bit weird about writing this.
After finding that these feelings have a name and a cause I do feel validated but I still feel really guilty about feeling them because they are no reflection on the bond that I have with Scout, part of which has probably been built through breastfeeding itself. But I genuinely had no idea that BAA existed and I can’t help but think that there must be someone out there experiencing this too and, just like yesterday’s me, has no idea this is a recognised phenomenon. Maybe you are sitting feeding just now feeling all the things, having all these thoughts and crying about it just like I’ve done – worried about what it all means.
Its real, it’s got a name, and I think I can fix it. This discovery has cemented in my head that it’s time to stop breastfeeding and move onto a new chapter.
I weaned Oscar off my boob at just over 8 months to that I could return to work and this time round I thought it would be nice to let Scout self-wean when she was ready but I just don’t think I can carry on with this effecting me the way it has been these last few months. I’m really proud of how far we’ve come and I’ve honestly loved it. I never wanted to stop on a negative note and it feels like it’s going that way, so I think it’s time. I have a feeling it might be quite tough, but we’ll get there. Even just recognising what’s causing these feelings will allow me to deal with them better I think.
Honestly though? This isn’t a horror story. If I had another baby tomorrow (nervous laugh), I’d choose to feed it myself in a heartbeat. Our breastfeeding experience won’t be tainted by these last few months but I’ll be honest with anyone that asks me about it because man, it’s been hard. Keeping anything like that to yourself is hard. Carrying all the worry and the guilt is exhausting – so don’t. Open up and share it, because if I’d done that I could maybe have saved myself a few weeks or even months of feeling this way… and would have itched a lot less 🤷🏼♀️
Well, there’s my brain dump for tonight – I’m going to click ‘Publish’ before I chicken out. Over and Out.