So you may not even be able to tell in this picture, but General Leia is nursing here. In fact, it’s a picture of the last time my oldest ever nursed.
This was a hard time for me (and for her). I became pregnant with her sister when she was about thirteen or fourteen months old. At first, I had no problem with continuing to nurse her while pregnant. In fact, that was easier because it kept her still, and I didn’t have the energy to chase her!
And then came nursing aversion.
Eventually, things changed though. I started feeling really annoyed almost every time General Leia wanted to nurse. I was determined to “power through,” though, because I knew breastfeeding until at least two is recommended by the World Health Organization and I knew it was good for her development. I even continued nursing her after her sister was born. Ideally, I wanted to let her nurse as long as she wanted and then to let her wean on her own.
The negative feelings continued though. Almost every time General Leia nursed, it made my skin crawl. Seriously, it felt weird and gross and creepy. But not with Bella Bean, though! I had no problem nursing my infant, only my toddler.
How it felt to have nursing aversion
Nursing Leia didn’t hurt. In fact, at the time I wished it did hurt. Hurt I could deal with. Pain I could handle. But this intense feeling of annoyance, even rage, was something I couldn’t battle.
And then there was the guilt. How could I feel this way about my own little girl? What kind of mother am I?! And I really couldn’t hide my feelings from her very well. I got to where I felt resentful of Leia almost all the time. But I was doing the right thing, right?
The choice to wean my toddler
Finally, when Leia was two and a half, I recognized that continuing to nurse her when it was causing me so much mental and emotional turmoil was not doing either of us any favors. I told her that we would pick a day and call it “no more na-na day.” We would get na-na the night before, and after that, we would be all done with the na-nas. And at the end of a successful week without nursing, we would go to the zoo as a family and have a weaning cake. General Leia was excited about the idea (woo cake!).
After a week or so, though, she seemed to decide that nursing for cake wasn’t a good trade. There were a lot of tears and requests to nurse. I felt really bad about it, but I decided that going back and forth on my decision would hurt her more in the long run than standing firm.
It took about a month, but eventually, we weren’t having tantrums every night about nursing. And we (both!) were okay! Part of why I didn’t want to wean was I would afraid it would hurt our relationship. But in this case, I think it actually helped us. I was no longer resentful of her, and perhaps she felt more secure, knowing Mommy was happy to cuddle her and that I still loved her even without the na-nas. And it didn’t seem to negatively impact her relationship with her little sister, who was only a baby and still nursing.
Nursing aversion and agitation the second time around: What was different?
Like I said in my previous post about tandem nursing, I also continued to nurse Bella Bean into toddlerhood, alongside the girls’ baby brother. Midway through my third pregnancy, I started feeling some aversion creep up again, but I felt more empowered to handle it. I had read about what I had experienced, and found out that it’s a real thing and it has a name: nursing aversion (or nursing agitation). I wasn’t a bad mom; there was just a mix of hormones, exhaustion, and general depletion that caused this!
What can prevent (or at least lessen) nursing agitation?
With the help of what I learned, I began to notice that I felt NA most under a few conditions: If I didn’t have enough sleep, for one thing. It was also worse a few days before my cycle started. So instead of feeling stressed and guilty about my nursing aversion with Bella Bean, I took it as a signal that I needed to slow down and engage in some self care.
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Seriously. When I was more run-down, I had a harder time dealing with my toddler nursing. I did significantly better when I had enough sleep.
Focusing on keeping calm
I know, this sounds like the opposite of what you are capable of doing. But hear me out!
The first time around, I tensed up as hard as I could when nursing Leia. I squeezed my fists so tight I left nail marks in my palms. I gritted my teeth.
All this tensing just feeds back information to your body that you’re in a dangerous situation, so you’re really just ramping up your nursing agitation even more.
Or sometimes you’re advised to try to distract yourself with your phone. This might work for a little while, but in the long run, it still just sets you up to become more and more agitated by your child’s nursing.
The second time I went through nursing aversion, I tried another tactic. I focused on my breathing. Inhale… Exhale… If my mind got distracted, I simply went back to my breathing without judgement.
I also learned a few mantras that I could repeat to myself when I was frustrated. They make a huge difference! I still use these daily (multiple times daily!) whenever I feel my emotions getting out of control.
I’d love to share these mantras with you! Click through this link to get your FREE copy. I promise they can make a difference.
Nursing aversion can be linked with low magnesium levels. Lack of magnesium can affect your mood and even be linked to anxiety. I figured, “It can’t hurt to try,” and looked around for the best ways to increase magnesium.
Most magnesium supplements (including multivitamins) contain magnesium oxide, which really isn’t processed by your body well. This means you don’t absorb the magnesium from the supplement. But after further research, I found a product called magnesium oil.
Magnesium oil isn’t really oil at all! It’s just a concentrated solution of salts in water that including magnesium. Since magnesium can absorb through your skin into your body better than through your digestive system, this is a great alternative! If I’ve been extra cranky or tired (or had restless legs, a problem I had during my third pregnancy), I spray on magnesium oil. I either put it on at night and wash it off the next morning, or I put it on about twenty minutes before a shower. And after using it a couple days, it really makes a difference!
The only problem with magnesium oil is it feels a little weird. You know how you have that film of salt on your body after swimming in the ocean? It’s like that. If that really bothers you, you can take an oral supplement. My research suggests you use chelated magnesium, as it will be absorbed better. It’s a little more expensive than a typical magnesium supplement, but you actually get the benefit from it, so that’s a win!
Miss Bella Bean just turned three recently. We talked for months about her weaning, but her answer would be something like “But I like na-na,” or “But na-nas are my favorite!” It was hard to say no to that. Plus, the NA wasn’t nearly as intense, so the drive to wean her wasn’t as intense as it was for Leia. But finally, I decided it was time to be done nursing. My husband and I talked, and we decided to tell B. Bean that she could nurse three more times (or “have three more na-nas,” as we put it to her). She could choose when to take those, but afterwards, she’d be all done nursing. Again, we celebrated by going to the zoo the next weekend and having a special cake I made for her.
Bella Bean did fuss for maybe a week or so. Even the day of her weaning party, I had a moment when she was sitting in my lap and said, “I want na-na.” I pointed out to her, “but it’s your no more na-na party. You’re all done with na-na,” and she accepted that answer. Some days she tells me that she’s a big girl who is all done with na-na, and other mornings we’ll be cuddling and she tells me that she’s still just a little girl and needs na-na. But there’s not the deep angst and grief that there was with Leia. Maybe because I can be stronger for her because I’ve experienced weaning before. Either way, I’m grateful this has been such a smooth transition for both of us.
Eventually, Budrow will wean too. I really hope to allow him to self-wean. If I end up with nursing aversion again, I’m glad to know that this time I have several tools available to me to help me deal so I can give him my best. And I’m grateful to know already that life really does go on after weaning.
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Have you dealt with nursing aversion? Let me know in the comments how you are dealing!