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Breastfeeding Manners

While I absolutely love feeding my baby at the breast I don’t love his current etiquette at the boob. I mean come on, isn’t this supposed to be sweet cuddle times where we just gaze into each other’s eyes while I snuggling? He definitely has a different idea. Lately I’ve been coming out of nursing sessions having been bitten, scratched, hit, punched, squeezed, you name it! If you are like me then your little one is exhibiting one or more of the following offenses. Here are a few tips on how to curb the behavior so you can once again return to those sweet nursing moments and not come out of a feeding needing an ice pack or a bandage.

The Offenses

1. The Scratching Post. My first baby used to sweetly tickle my sides while she nursed. For some reason my second does the same thing but has managed to make shivs out of his fingernails so it isn’t nearly as pleasant. Sometimes I feel like he’s treating my chest like a scratching post. If your baby scratches your side or breast as he nurses, try starting out the nursing session by tucking that hand underneath the baby or under your arm. Restraining baby will only make him more upset but you do want to remove the opportunity and the thought. If it happens anyway, gently move the offending hand and give him your finger or hand to keep him busy.

2. The Oral Examination. As I write this I have a huge scratch on the inside of my lip from my 7 month old the dentist. He loves to reach up, put all of his fingers in my mouth then squeeze and scrape as he explores my mouth. I tried the same techniques as for The Scratcher above, plus used the time to teach him how touse gentle touch. A simple, repeated request to “use gentle touch” along with my hand guiding him hand to stroke my face teaches him a more comfortable way for him to explore.

3. Biting. There are so many opinions on how to handle this one, so it’s especially tough for moms to curtail. When babies start teething they sometimes like to soothe their gums or try out those new teeth by clamping down on you. It also does not necessarily mean that the baby does not want to nurse. It’s another way for baby to experiment and he just needs some reminders that it’s not okay. It can be near impossible not to react, but try your best. Then work on anticipating and preventing any clamping down. Babies usually bite at the end of a feed and when the sucking slows down, you can break the latch with your pinky finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth. If the baby was truly done nursing, he won’t get upset. If he needs to nurse, he’ll let you know.

If your little one does manage to bite, break the latch right away and as calmly as you can, remind the baby “no biting.” Generally this brings about one of two reactions: the baby thinks this is hilarious (which infuriates you most likely) or your baby will get upset and cry. You don’t want to encourage the laughing with a big reaction of your own. If the baby cries, take him off the breast to show that it’s not okay to bite. You can even say, “If you want to nurse, you cannot bite.” If you are not up to nursing again, try offering your finger or a teether.

4. Stretch Armstrong. At around 4-6 months your little baby will become incredibly interested in the world around them. Great for them, not so great for you if they turn their head the opposite way while they are still attached to your nipple. I honestly didn’t know my boob was capable of that kind of extension. To help curb this, find a quiet place to nurse away from other distractions (hard I know, especially if you’ve got other kiddos). Talk to your baby to keep his focus on you. You’ve got to be more interesting than what’s around him. At least for the nursing sesson.

5. Grazing. Like Stretch Armstrong, the Grazer might be so excited by the world around him that he can only sit still long enough for a sip or two here and there. This is one of the times to remind yourself, “This too shall pass.” If you find yourself annoyed by this behavior, use his excitement about the world to divert him from wanting to nurse again. Sometimes babies like to check in with mom for some reassurance after each activity. Provide another transition to the next activity and you can prevent the behavior.

6. Acrobatics. Some babies are constantly moving their bodies during a nursing session. It can help to learn how to breastfeed while baby-wearing. The key to this is practice, practice, practice. Commit for a few weeks of trying to nurse while wearing and baby will usually get the hang of it.

7. The Stress Ball. Sometimes your baby will treat your breasts like their own personal stress ball, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing! This actually is a very intentional behavior. While the intensity of the squeezing can be reduced, your baby is actually massaging milk from your breasts. This behavior greatly influences your supply as baby can get much more milk out of your breasts with a “hands-on” effort. If the squeezing is too hard try to show him how to gently do it by guiding his hand accordingly.

No matter which offenses your little one is committing, give your behavior modification efforts time to stick. It won’t fix itself after one nursing session but after some time they’ll learn with your help and guidance… If not, stock up on band-aids, salve, and ice packs. Happy breastfeeding!

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