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Breastfeeding is a natural way for a mother to feed her baby and it provides the nutrition a baby needs during their first 6 months. However, there are a range of obstacles that can make it hard – everything from parental exhaustion to lack of knowledge and even, in some cases, community stigma.

A new study from researchers at the University of Technology Sydney looked at experiences of these challenges in mothers and the newly-named “breastfeeding aversion response” which includes having particular negative feelings, often coupled with intrusive thoughts, when an infant is latched and suckling at the breast.

The survey included 5000 women who were aged 18 or over and had breastfed. Their average age was 35 and most were tertiary-educated. Participants were asked about their breastfeeding experience with up to four children, the challenges in breastfeeding they experienced and whether they’d had a “breastfeeding aversion response”. They were also asked about the value and availability of breastfeeding support.

The researchers found that most women reported some challenges with breastfeeding, with just 4.5% reporting no breastfeeding difficulties. Common difficulties included breast pain, oversupply, mastitis and poor latching, each reported by at least a third of women. One in five women reported experiencing a breastfeeding aversion response, most often with a mother’s first child. That said, despite the many challenges reported, most women reported a ‘good’ (38%) or ‘very good’ (49%) overall experience of breastfeeding.

The authors say the concept of a breastfeeding aversion response is still being researched, but that these findings help to characterise the issue and understand how we might address it – with types of meditation, magnesium supplements and finding distractions while breastfeeding all associated with relieving the aversion response. It found this response tended to be seen in people with lower income and lower levels of education, which may help alert doctors when seeing patients who are breastfeeding.


Further information

The prevalence of breastfeeding aversion response in Australia: A national cross‐sectional survey 

Australian Breastfeeding Association

Breast feeding your baby

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