Monday, July 30, 2012

Someone replaced my baby with a land shark

I think most breastfeeding moms get a little worried once their baby starts cutting teeth.  Those little baby teeth are so sharp!  We have all heard that a baby won’t bite if they are latched correctly on the nipple.  The truth is that a baby will bite if they want to bite.  He would bite and laugh at my pain with a devilish smile.  Orion has bitten my nipples here and there and we just went through a very bitey stage which I thought would never end.  He liked to conclude our nursing sessions by dragging his teeth along my nipple.

Getting your nipples chewed on hurts!  I have a pretty high tolerance for pain but the biting would often come as asuch a surprise.  La, La, La, La, happy, happy nursing, oxytocin for me, la, la, happy, CHOMP, OUCH!  He would bite and I would scream and fight my knee jerk reaction to hit back. (There is never any reason to hit a child or anyone for that matter!)   I found that I would brace myself during every nursing session and hope to catch him so I could pull him off before the chomp.  It became so frequent that I would scream and put him down at which point he would start to cry.  If my husband was home, I would tell him that I needed some time and go into the office and close the door.

I have heard that you should NOT react when your baby bites you which is easier said than done.  I know my baby loves cause and effect like I press this button and the TV goes on.  I bite mommy and she makes a sound, awesome!  Maybe it was a new game he wanted to play with me.  I tired to stifle my scream but sometimes I would just have to let it out.  i would not exaggerated my pain but at times my frustration may have made it a wee bit louder.

I have also heard that you should make a noise, then put them down and tell them no biting mommy.

“A mother's natural response to pain may discourage further biting. Many babies startle at their mother's loud exclamation and immediately release the nipple. Some may even cry. This negative reinforcement seems to make many babies stop completely. In MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER, Norma Jane Bumgarner observes,

Perhaps the reason that the vast majority of children learn not to bite so quickly is that we invariably react immediately and firmly to biting at the breast. There is probably no instance in which we apply behavior modification so immediately, decisively, and consistently. Besides, our children love us and respond to the urgency and sincerity with which we insist that they must not bite.

Such prompt and direct responses occasionally backfire with sensitive babies, who may react by refusing the breast altogether. This sudden disinterest in nursing or outright rejection of the breast is called a nursing strike. A nursing strike can be distinguished from actual weaning by its sudden onset and the fact that the baby seems miserable. It may take lots of coaxing to persuade a baby who has been "on strike" that it's okay to resume nursing. Therefore, it is wise not to exaggerate your response to biting beyond what is natural for you.”

I know he won’t nurse forever and I hope he is fully weaned by the time he is 2 years old.  I would like to get pregnet again after his 2nd birthday but I would also like to spend some time neither breastfeeding or pregnant.  My body has not been my own since August 2010 and i would like a break before I do it all again.  Now that Orion is 15 months old but still nursing like a 4 month old and the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method of weaning has gotten me nowhere, I realize that I do need to actively start to wean him.  I am not a water fountain or squeaky toy. I am available for comfort which doesn’t need to involve my breasts.  I want him to separate food from comfort. 

When I nurse Orion, I promise to focus my attention on him.  Maybe he was biting to get my attention because I was reading on my phone.  We no longer nurse for hours, maybe a half hour at most.  I can take the time we spend nursing to look at his happy face, enjoy our time together, and watch my milk pool in his mouth (I am surprised I still have milk! I thought maybe he was biting because I had dried up but nope.) 

I will also try to keep him as busy as possible during the day.  We will have playdates, run errands, go on adventures.  If he is happy and active he will not think about nursing because he is bored.

I will also keep his belly filled with food!  In the morning I usually get him up and bring him into bed to nurse in the hopes of getting more sleep which never happens.  I need to get him up, changed, and then feed him something very yummy for breakfast like yogurt or zucchini bread.  I can’t just put him in the highchair and give him cheerios because he never fills up on them.  I need to offer him food every couple of hours.  He never took to the bottle and has not been too happy with a sippy cup of milk but I will keep offering it and using his leftover milk in my coffee or cereal.  I will also offer him a sippy cup of water which he really does enjoy.

Orion and I made it through our recent shark phase but I am not sure how or why.  Maybe it was seeing his mother cry from frustration.  Maybe he got the message that it hurts and he shouldn't make mommy scream.  Maybe that game got old.  Whatever it was, I am glad it is over.  I hope being more present during our nursing sessions and offering him more to eat and more activity during the day will prevent the shark from resurfacing.

Will i see you at the Great Nurse-In at the National Mall on Saturday?


  1. anything with teeth bites. It's true what they say.

    Jake bit me one time, not while nursing- he (unfortunately) preferred bottles and cups over the breast at an early age, I think he liked that it came out faster and he could fill up and get on with his day or something. that sucked for me.

    But he would suck on my shoulders when he needed soothing until he was about 2/5 or 3, and I'd let him and one time he bit me and my knee jerk reaction is one of my top three moments of being the worst mom ever. I yelped and pinched his back. Like you would a kitten who clamped on to you. It was so incredibly terrible so I started to cry. My tears were worse for him than the pinch, and he never did it again. He was a little older than Orion, but I do think that once kids hit that empathy mark the tears and the noises work.

    Now he'll bring up "the time I pinched him" every now and then. Out of nowhere, like when he's playing cars or whatever. It makes me want to puke, and I always tell him how sorry I am and remind him that he bit me really hard and we both cried and it was a terrible time for both of us.

    Terrible, terrible, terrible.
    But here we are today, SO incredibly well-adjusted.

    I don't think I ever typed that story outloud. I've told it a few times, but it seems worse now that it's sealed up in the internet forever!

    I'm glad that you guys got through Shark Week, and good luck with the weaning!

    1. Nice to hear that I am not the only one who gets the urge to return pain with pain. At least you pinched him and didn't punch him! Thanks for sharing!