Review article| Volume 34, ISSUE 2, P128-135, March 2021

Women who experience feelings of aversion while breastfeeding: A meta-ethnographic review

  • Melissa A. Morns
    Corresponding author at: Health Research Office, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 222, Jones St, Ultimo, 2007 NSW, Australia.
    Australian Centre for Public and Population Health Research (ACPPHR), Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 222, Jones St, Ultimo, 2007 NSW, Australia
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  • Amie E. Steel
    Australian Centre for Public and Population Health Research (ACPPHR), Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 222, Jones St, Ultimo, 2007 NSW, Australia
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  • Elaine Burns
    School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
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  • Erica McIntyre
    Australian Centre for Public and Population Health Research (ACPPHR), Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 222, Jones St, Ultimo, 2007 NSW, Australia
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Published:February 20, 2020DOI:



      Limited literature is available about women who wish to breastfeed but experience unexpected feelings of aversion in reaction to their infant suckling at the breast while breastfeeding.


      Breastfeeding benefits mothers, infants and society yet breastfeeding rates continue to fall below recommendations in part due to inadequate tailored support after hospital discharge. Influences on breastfeeding are complex and include many physiological, psychosocial and cultural factors.


      To better understand the experience of women who have feelings of aversion during breastfeeding by synthesising the existing literature.


      MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Maternity and Infant Care databases were searched for relevant literature published between 2000 to 2019. Using Covidence software, five qualitative research studies were identified. Studies were then analysed using meta-ethnographic qualitative synthesis.


      Feelings of aversion during breastfeeding were described as visceral and overwhelming; leading to feelings of shame and inadequacy. This synthesis identified five findings; a central conceptual category of “it’s such a strong feeling of get away from me” with four key metaphors translated from this central conceptual category: “I do it because I feel it is best for my baby”, “I can’t control those feelings”, “I should be able to breastfeed my son and enjoy it”, and “I’m glad I did it”. This phenomenon may negatively affect a women’s sense of self and impact on the mother-infant relationship.


      Some women who want to breastfeed can experience feelings of aversion while breastfeeding. The feelings of ‘aversion’ while breastfeeding can inhibit women from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals.


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