Touched Out: What It Is And What To Do About It - Baby Chick
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Touched Out: What It Is And What To Do About It

Learn what being "touched out" means, find out why it happens, and read one mom's experience with it and how she got through it.

Updated June 5, 2024

by Kristen Winiarski

Medically reviewed by Rachel Tomlinson

Registered Psychologist

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 — having so much skin-to-skin contact that it sours your mood. 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. So, what can you do about this feeling?

What Is Being “Touched Out” and Why Does It Happen?

Being touched out, or experiencing sensory overload, is an aversion to contact or touch.2 It’s a real thing that many parents, especially moms, experience. There are so many elements of parenting that mean a mother’s body is no longer her own. She may also have limited time to herself to regulate, calm, or de-escalate if triggered by touch or contact. Most of the day might involve physically being attached to her baby. Particularly during early infancy, children require touch or contact — cuddling, comforting, feeding, dressing, bathing, napping, and more. Many mothers reach sensory overload from the sheer “inescapability” of parenting (from the noise, the touch, etc.), or they may have an underlying sensory sensitivity or diagnosis that influences their discomfort with all the sensory input from parenting.5

Some mothers describe it as the feeling that you want to scream if someone touches you any longer. You may wish to unlatch your baby from nursing or get away from a demanding toddler insisting on you picking them up. The thought of being intimate with your partner is the furthest thing from your mind. You just want a few minutes without anyone touching you so that you can feel like your body is your own again or have a chance to de-escalate.

It’s not uncommon to feel irritated or downright enraged.2 You may set your baby down and step away for a few minutes to get a handle on your feelings. 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.

Breastfeeding and Being Touched Out

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 it 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 little one. It can cause you to want to stop.3

Some physical triggers include pain, sore nipples, discomfort, and a teething baby. There can also be mental triggers when you feel exhausted and are 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 for yourself.

My Personal Experience With Being Touched Out

I have experienced 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 2.5-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 then, and she was very cooperative about weaning. Making a baby is hard work, and it can be difficult for another child to touch you constantly. I was uncomfortable and needed space during the end of my second pregnancy.

My second child is now 2.5 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 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 child, 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 my daughter was latching correctly.

It’s important to give your mind and body a break when you’re feeling touched out. Some strategies include:

  • Getting another kind of touch: It may feel like touch is being demanded of you. As strange as it may sound, a different type of touch, such as a comforting hug, can help. A massage can also do the trick.
  • Having some alone time: 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 no one touches you may be what you need.
  • Reducing other sensory input: If you have to be touched (feeding, changing, comforting, etc.), reduce the input from other senses. Go into a darkened room, listen to white noise, or use noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Using positive self-talk: Some research indicates that using positive self-talk during periods of touch aversion can help distract or shift attention away from negative or uncomfortable sensations.4

Feeling touched out may not be about touch but rather being overwhelmed. It happens to all of us. Kids are exhausting. Find what helps you calm down, and use it when you feel touched out.

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Kristen N. Winiarski spends much of her days battling her kids' hangry moods with bacon and Cookie Monster impressions. She also encourages dance parties as P.E. whenever possible. Kristen started… Read more

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