At the beginning of my second trimester, I weaned my son because my milk supply dried up and dry breastfeeding was simply too painful. At times it also irritated me. As in, I wanted to crawl out of my skin. As soon as we weaned, I felt much better and wasemi-confident I’d made the right decision. That feeling was short lived. The bizarre irritation toward my toddler slowly returned until it became so extreme at the start of my third trimester that I started to think something was wrong with me. I’m not breastfeeding, so what is the deal?
It is called touch aversion. Many women experience it in their third trimester and being a breastfeeding mother or mother of young toddlers can amplify the aversion because you are constantly being touched by them. Whether you are breastfeeding or not, touch aversion can be distressing and there are a few things you should know.
First, you are not a weirdo. Please, don’t think that you are a horrible mother or person because you suddenly can’t stand to be touched by your own child. If you have ever witnessed an animal with her young during the weaning process, you know that the sudden need to wean or distance yourself physically from your toddler is a very natural and primal one. It is a feeling related mostly to hormones and completely beyond your control. This doesn’t mean you have to wean though. Depending on how severe your aversion is, there are strategies that might help you get through it. Start by joining a support group for pregnant women with touch aversion or for breastfeeding mothers with nursing aversion. They will offer tons of helpful advice and commiseration.
Second, be aware that weaning may not resolve your aversion. While some women have nursing aversion and are fine with other types of touch, others have extremely negative feelings about any physical contact. For me, it is any contact with my body that comes near my chest, including contact with my upper arms. My son has several habits that I found sweet a month ago but irritate me lately. For instance, he likes to rub my arm softly or stick a hand in my shirt near my breasts while I rock him. He also has a fascination with my growing belly and wants to kiss it over and over again. Part of me finds this incredibly adorable and part of me wants to shove him across the room. My touch aversion is so bad at times that I actually don’t want anyone to touch me without an invite. Even my daughter hugging me goodnight, can make me feel touched out if I’m already exhausted.
Third, you will need to adjust your routine to avoid fatigue so you don’t exacerbate the problem. I know. I know. You are pregnant and you have a toddler or nursling. Feeling exhausted is the norm. But at least try to schedule nursing sessions strategically. If you know you are exhausted by evening, try offering expressed milk instead of nursing, or have your spouse offer it. Even better, consider letting someone else handle the entire evening and/or bedtime routine. If mornings are harder for you, make adjustments to your morning routine to give yourself some physical space. Remember, you have a new baby on the way. Your toddler will eventually need to make some adjustments to their routine anyway. Learning to adjust to change is a normal and healthy part of childhood development! Don’t let mom guilt swallow you up.