Hi readers! I’m Natalie, writer and mom of two. I am so excited to join The 16 Minute Club’s new blog, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you. My pudgy breastfed baby, Jackson, is 8 months old and looks like he subsists on whipping cream. You would never know he was once “failing to thrive.” Breastfeeding has certainly had its ups and downs. Like most moms, I spend my days wavering between maternal bliss and horrification at some of the realities of motherhood. After my first child, I was sure I had things figured out. I just knew breastfeeding would be easier with my second. But the truth is that every baby is different, and they each present new challenges. Sometimes they even present the same challenges, but require different solutions. Which brings me to…
Biting. Jacks was 4 months old, and I was enjoying some of that maternal bliss I mentioned. I was listening to his little nursing noises, admiring his golden hair, and feeling like I was born to breastfeed babies when I felt a startling pain. Before I could react, he bit down harder and shook his head like a dog with a bone. I yelped in horror, tried to control my desire to toss him across the room, yanked him off of my breast, and stared down at him in shock. He seemed equally surprised. He frowned up at me, and his lip quivered as he tried to decide whether or not to cry. Then, he smiled. I didn’t know it yet, but I had just made several mistakes. Thankfully, he didn’t have teeth at the time. Here are a few tips on how to handle a booby biter better than I did:
- Don’t panic. You will be taken off guard. If you are like me, you probably like your nipples right where they are, and the fear of a nipple alteration may override your good sense. Despite how it feels, your baby will not physically remove your nipple from your body. However, if you yank the baby away suddenly, you will inflict more pain on yourself than necessary. So, try to remain calm.
- React intelligently. My first instinct was to scream like someone had lit me on fire. Don’t be like me. If you scream, yelp, or jump up and down (or all three) your baby may actually find this amusing. Believe it or not, your baby is already learning cause and effect. If he thinks he can get a funny reaction out of you, he will bite again. Don’t say anything. Instead, try gently hugging your baby closer. His natural instinct will be to pull his head back and open his mouth. I found that this worked extremely well. Now, if I’m afraid he is about to bite down, I just apply a little pressure to his back with my fingertips, and he stops. If that doesn’t work for you, release your baby’s latch using your finger.
- Find the cause and prevent. Whatever you do, don’t get angry with your baby. There are several reasons babies bite during breastfeeding, and a desire to cause you pain isn’t one of them. In the beginning, I had an overactive letdown, and Jacks would clamp down to stem the flow. I learned to express a little milk before each feeding until my letdown resolved itself. When he began teething, painful biting episodes like I described above became frequent. I almost gave up on breastfeeding. Thankfully, I learned the signs of an impending bite, and hugging him close prevented it. He stopped biting when his bottom teeth came in. Also, some babies will bite out of boredom. So, try watching your baby and removing them from the breast as soon as they finish eating.
- Repeat after me: This too shall pass. This probably isn’t the first painful experience you’ve had as a mother, and it won’t be the last. Keep in mind this is just another phase, and remember you aren’t alone. Many moms before you have experienced near nipple removals and lived to tell the tale. Stay strong, laugh in the face of danger, and don’t throw in the burp cloth just yet.
P.S. If you have survived a booby biter, please share your story in the comments! Misery loves company.