Don't Mess With Mama: Lactational Aggression and Postpartum Protectiveness

Monday, March 17, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Were you hyper-alert or easily angered in the postpartum period? There may be a very good biological reason.

Lactational Aggression--also known as "Momma Bear Syndrome"--is not just an anecdotal phenomenon. 

For those who have not experienced this, it's less "Damn, you spilled coffee on my favorite shoes," and more "Look at my kid and I will mutha fucking cut you."

You know that voice inside your head that makes you want to scream when an old lady touches your kid in the supermarket? Or those twitchy moments when a well-meaning relative takes their sweet time handing the kid back? Yeah, that's ingrained protection. We will lift a car off of a trapped child or rip you limb from limb if we sense anything amiss.

It isn't rocket science. It's biology.

Why Anger After Childbirth?

Postpartum women, and especially lactating women, have a severe built-in mechanism for infant protection. According to anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, in her book Mother Nature, female mammals have evolved to be so ferocious in their defense of their infants that others have evolved to avoid them, even the (often larger) males of their species 1

"Back it up there, fellas. I ain't got no time for your shit."

And that's not all. According to research published in "Psychological Science,"2 lactating women and other mammals alike show lower blood pressure responses during aggressive actions than do formula-feeding or never pregnant counterparts. This suggests that not only does breastfeeding play a role in stress reduction postpartum, but it also allows women to protect their young aggressively without the undesirable effects of chronic stress. 

So, you can contemplate yanking a stranger's heart out of their chest for getting too close to junior without worrying about your own heart. 


This system is critical to understand for many women dealing with aggressive tendency postpartum. Anticipating these changes and being able to explain them to yourself--and possibly the old lady in the grocery store--can go a long way towards reducing anxiety surrounding these feelings. 

For everyone else: don't mess with mama.

(Disclaimer: Do not mutha fucking cut anyone regardless of biological imperative.)

Related Posts:



Topic-Relevant Resources

Mother Nature
Women, sex, competition, cooperative breeding and monkey heirarchies.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
Information on breastfeeding practices, including how to do it and advice for breastfeeding problems

This Isn't What I Expected [2nd edition]: Overcoming Postpartum Depression
A great guide on combatting postpartum depression. You're not alone.

The Mother-to-Mother Postpartum Depression Support Book
A book on postpartum depression written by mothers, for mothers.