Breastfeeding and PTSD: What No One Wants to Talk About


Parenting & Family, Pregnancy / Monday, April 30th, 2018

When I hit my third trimester in pregnancy, I took a Lamaze class to prepare for childbirth (which, by the way, I FULLY recommend you take if you’re expecting!) We had spent 5 weeks learning about labor, the mechanics of the uterus, the magic of the placenta, and how to breathe. Up to that point, I had loved every second of the classes and was an eager student among the other 8 pregnant couples. On the last night, we covered the “fourth trimester.” Postpartum and you. The majority of the class was focused around breastfeeding. I then realized… oh…. that makes me uncomfortable.

As our instructor went over good latch positions, I began to feel light-headed. Anxiety was creeping over me. We watched a short 8 minute video on breastfeeding and I found myself wanting to crawl out of my skin.

I had gotten to class eager and happy, but I left feeling angry inside. And by the time I got home, all I could do was cry over the fact that I was so anxious about my soon-to-be-here bundle of joy. I fell asleep clutching on to my husband’s arm thinking to myself, “What’s wrong with me?

breastfeeding and PTSD: what no one wants to talk about

As a survivor of childhood rape and molestation, I knew that I had to prepare myself for the inevitable trigger points. I just felt incredibly guilty and broken for not being “stronger” than the PTSD. I was really worried about postpartum: especially breastfeeding. Worried about feeling disgust and resentment towards my child for needing my body. Worried about spiraling into flashbacks when it would be time to feed her.

Most of all, I was frustrated because I didn’t even know if any of this made sense. I tried looking for help online, but unfortunately I came to a brutal conclusion.

(This post contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure policy here.)

No One Wants to Talk About It

There is so much stigma surrounding PTSD and even more around breastfeeding. Bottom line: talking about it makes people uncomfortable. Before I gave birth, I scoured the internet for resources on nursing after trauma. Guess how many articles I found?

None.

Not finding any articles made me feel even worse. Did no one else struggle with this??

But There ARE Resources!

Fortunately, I was able to find social groups that were incredibly supportive and helpful. Facebook groups like Breastfeeding Support, Prenatal Depression and Anxiety Support, and Life After Baby (Postpartum Depression), became my life lines as labor crept closer and closer (and postpartum, too!)

I found a really valuable book called Parenting with PTSD: The Impact of Childhood Abuse on Parenting.

My hospital that I delivered in has weekly breastfeeding support groups. I strongly urge nursing moms to look into groups like this at their hospitals. Breastfeeding is TOUGH, period. It’s so much easier with other women to lean on.

After All Was Said and Done

I’m happy to report that all of my fear and apprehension melted away once my daughter was born. The very first moment I had her in my arms, the healing process began for me. Being a mother completes me and 100% outweighs my past. Breastfeeding was not as scary as I thought it would be.

If you’re reading this and you’re struggling with the same thoughts I had regarding nursing with PTSD, I truly want you to know that your concerns are valid. However, it’s more likely that once your baby comes, you’ll find that your fears end before labor. I’ve found this to be true across several women I’ve spoken to in the support groups I mentioned above.

Our babies are miracles.

Closing Note:
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex

There is such a thing as D-MER, and I had NO idea. According to the resource website:

D-MER presents itself with slight variations depending on the mother experiencing it, but it has one common characteristic – a wave of negative or even devastating emotion just prior to letdown. This emotional response is the consistent key component in D-MER.  The breastfeeding mother experiences this surge of negative emotions about 30-90 seconds prior to her milk release when  breastfeeding, pumping or with spontaneous MER. By the time milk  actually releases and the baby starts gulping, the feelings have dissipated, only to return just prior to another MER.

If you’re experiencing symptoms listed above, be sure to reach out to your doctor. You can also find helpful resources here.

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13 Replies to “Breastfeeding and PTSD: What No One Wants to Talk About”

  1. This is a really honest and inspiring post. Breastfeeding is hard in itself, I can only imagine how hard it might be for someone with a history of abuse or rape. You are one strong mom! xo

  2. Thank you so much for a post like this! I never struggled with this myself but I love finding stuff like this because I feel like we need more awareness for this!!!

  3. An honest post hoping to inspire and influence others living through the similar circumstance. Breastfeeding does include challenges, but also and importantly, the health, vital source, and bonding for our babies.

  4. Wow, this is some powerful stuff. You are a true survivor. I hope someone else reading will see that we all go thru things and nothing to be ashamed of, and get help when necessary. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I’m so glad that once your daughter was born that everything was okay! I’m so sorry you had to go through that, breastfeeding should be a joyous experience. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I’m glad everything went away after you had your daughter. Mine was the exact opposite. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my daughter after she was born and that definitely caused trauma to me.

  7. It’s great that you have shared this since it will definitely help other mothers that struggle with similar feelings. You are right that there aren’t a lot of people that talk about this since women still don’t really talking about it if they have been a victim. I really appreciate your honesty here.

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