Breastfeeding aversion and agitation

Breastfeeding aversion and agitation

Breastfeeding is a vital process for the optimal health and development of infants. However, despite providing benefits that are widely acknowledged by scientific evidence, many mothers experience a range of emotions and sensations throughout their breastfeeding journey, which have not been studied much. One of these complex emotions is breastfeeding agitation or aversion, a relatively unknown phenomenon in which the infant is rejected. This article will examine breastfeeding agitation from a scientific perspective, exploring its characteristics, possible causes, and implications for the maternal experience.

Definition of “breastfeeding aversion”

Breastfeeding aversion is described as an uncomfortable, rejecting, anxious, or nervous feeling that some mothers experience during their breastfeeding journey, especially at particular stages of the lactation process, such as breastfeeding toddlers and older babies, breastfeeding during pregnancy, or tandem breastfeeding. The sensation usually manifests shortly after the baby begins to suckle and can last from a few seconds to several minutes until the end of the feed.

Characteristics and experience of breastfeeding aversion

Breastfeeding aversion can manifest itself in various ways, most commonly by the mother expressing feelings of rejection of the infant when the infant wants to breastfeed. This rejection creates a lot of anxiety for those women, who are not able to control what they feel and can also lead them to experience feelings of more violent rejection, such as anger, which can lead them to withdraw or separate from their baby in an irritated manner, which in turn causes feelings of guilt. When tandem nursing, this feeling only happens when the older child is breastfeeding. It does not appear when the younger infant is breastfeeding.

Possible causes and underlying factors

Although breastfeeding aversion is not yet fully understood, initial studies suggest the possible underlying causes and factors. Some researchers have proposed that it may be related to the fluctuation of hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin during breastfeeding. Oxytocin, in particular, is a hormone associated with uterine contractions and emotional responses, which could influence the feelings experienced by some mothers. But at the same time, this fact is contradictory because women do not experience feelings of rejection towards the younger child in the case of tandem breastfeeding. This is what leads us to think that it may be a neurobiological mechanism that causes the need for weaning in the mother. In other mammalian species, it is common for females to force or induce the weaning of their offspring, so it is likely that there are some parallels with the desire to wean in human females.

Impact on the maternal experience

Breastfeeding aversion can have a significant impact on the mother’s breastfeeding experience. Uncomfortable feelings can cause additional stress and affect the mother-infant bonding. Some mothers may feel guilty or confused about their emotions, which could affect their confidence in their own ability to breastfeed.

Exploring the phenomenon: Future research

Although breastfeeding aversion has been recognized by some mothers and health professionals, more research is needed to understand this phenomenon fully. Longitudinal studies could help identify patterns and risk factors contributing to breastfeeding aversion. In addition, research analyzing hormonal and neurological responses during breastfeeding could provide deeper insight into the underlying mechanisms.

Support and recognition for mothers

It is essential that mothers experiencing breastfeeding aversion and agitation receive support and understanding. Health professionals should be aware of this phenomenon and be prepared to guide and advise mothers experiencing these feelings. They should contribute to normalizing these experiences and provide solutions to manage emotions, such as distracting strategies, performing yoga or meditation, etc. They can contribute to a more positive breastfeeding experience. If these measures don’t improve the phenomenon, professionals can help to accompany the mother in a partial or total weaning process as she wishes.


Breastfeeding aversion is an intriguing and complex phenomenon that deserves further scientific exploration. Through a deeper understanding of its causes and effects, we can better support mothers facing these feelings. Future research in this field can help us improve our understanding of the underlying factors while diffusing the concept and knowledge of this situation so that health professionals involved in maternal and infant care can appropriately respond to this situation.



Conde Puertas E, Hernández Herrerías I, Conde Puertas E. Aversión o agitación de la lactancia: experiencia vivida y repercusiones en la lactancia. Matronas Hoy 2020; 8(1):21-7.

Morns, M.A., Steel, A.E., McIntyre, E. y  Burns, E. (2023), Breastfeeding Aversion Response (BAR): A Descriptive Study. J Midwifery Womens Health. https://doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.13474

Yate Z. M. (2017). A Qualitative Study on Negative Emotions Triggered by Breastfeeding; Describing the Phenomenon of Breastfeeding/Nursing Aversion and Agitation in Breastfeeding Mothers. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research22(6), 449–454. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijnmr.IJNMR_235_16

Morns, M. A., Steel, A. E., Burns, E., & McIntyre, E. (2021). Women who experience feelings of aversion while breastfeeding: A meta-ethnographic review. Women and birth : journal of the Australian College of Midwives34(2), 128–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2020.02.013

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