You often hear the phrase “touched out” in the mom community. Many moms will experience this at multiple points in their journey through the early years of raising children. This feeling completely caught me off guard. I had no idea this was even a thing — that you could have so much skin-to-skin contact that it sours your mood that much. It can make you frustrated and mad. It can feel like your skin is crawling, and you get an urge to push away your baby to make it stop.
What is being “touched out?”
Being touched out is a real thing that many parents, especially moms, experience. It is the feeling that you want to scream if someone touches you any longer. You may want to unlatch your baby from nursing or get away from a demanding toddler insisting on being picked up. The thought of being intimate with your partner is the furthest thing from your mind. You just want a few minutes without being touched so you can feel like your body is your own again.
It’s not uncommon to feel irritated or downright enraged. You may set your baby down and step away for a few minutes to get a handle on what you’re feeling. Once you do, however, then comes the guilt. Your child loves you and wants to be near you. Maybe they’re looking for comfort, and you feel bad that you could not give it to them. I’ve had my toddler jump at me just to get me to pick him up while I was trying to make my lunch and lost my mind.
Being touched out can present itself in many ways.
You can get touched out in a variety of ways. It can be connected with a nursing aversion, but not always. Nursing aversion is a real thing, too, and often causes similar feelings.1 This aversion fills you with anxiety while breastfeeding. It can make you feel stressed out, confused, and guilty for not enjoying the time with your baby. With the bombardment of negative feelings, you can soon find yourself dreading feeding your baby. It can cause you to want to stop.
Some physical triggers include pain, sore nipples, discomfort, and a teething baby. There can also be mental triggers when you are exhausted and neglecting your mental health. Breastfeeding can leave you feeling trapped, depressed, or resentful. It is vital to address both triggers to improve your breastfeeding experience. Teach your baby not to bite, use breast milk to soothe cracked nipples, and be sure to take time out for yourself.
My personal experience with being touched out.
I have experienced both the feeling of being touched out and a nursing aversion with both of my children. With my first, it happened most often after I became pregnant with my second. There came the point in that pregnancy where I could not take it anymore and completely cut my two-and-a-half-year-old off from nursing. I was seven months pregnant and dreaded every nursing session. I knew I had to stop. Thankfully, her nursing sessions were pretty limited at that point anyway, and she was very cooperative about weaning. Making a baby is hard work, and it can be difficult to be touched all the time by another child. I was uncomfortable and needed space during the end of my second pregnancy.
My second is now two and a half years old, and while I’m not pregnant again this time, I’m starting to feel touched out again. He nurses much more than she did at this age, and it will be hard to cut him off. It needs to happen, but since he is so much more dependent on it, it makes me feel guilty to feel this way. I have also had rounds of nursing aversion with him when my nipples are sore or he’s just petting me too much. He likes to pet when he nurses, and it can really make my skin crawl sometimes. It can be hard to let him finish nursing when this happens, but I try to suffer through it because I know it will take longer if I attempt to unlatch him.
Ways you can get through feeling touched out.
When you are touched out or have a nursing aversion, you can do things to help get through them. With my first, I sought professional help when I had a lot of pain while nursing. I reached out to my midwife and got some cream to help. My doula also helped make sure she was latching correctly.
When you’re touched out, it’s important to give your mind and body a break. It may feel like touch is being demanded of you. As strange as it may sound, a different kind of touch, such as a comforting hug, can help. A massage can also do the trick. Taking a step back for a few minutes can also do wonders. You may need 15 minutes. You may need two hours. Planning time alone where you aren’t being touched may be just what you need.
Feeling touched out may not be about touch but rather being overwhelmed. It happens to all of us. Kids are exhausting. Find the thing that helps you calm down, and use it when you feel touched out.