Breastfeeding had finally become blissfully easy. I could continue with almost every day-to-day task while nursing my nine month old. I was breastfeeding while washing the dishes, breastfeeding while doing the laundry, breastfeeding on long walks.
I WAS EVEN BREASTFEEDING MY BABY IN MY SLEEP!
And then one night we were cuddled up in my bed, she was nursing and I was admiring her.
And it happened.
She bit me.
My sweet little breastfed baby bit my nipple so hard I was bleeding.
The rush of emotions that flooded over me was intense.
She’d had teeth for awhile and this had not happened before. I didn’t know how we were going to function without breastfeeding. I never wanted to offer my nipple to that human hacksaw again. Why would she do that!? Oh, the pain! I couldn’t sort it all out, so I held her close and held my night shirt closer and we cried. Together we cried through the night, drifting in and out of sleep and sorrow.
The biting incident ended our breastfeeding relationship. Some days I was relieved to have my body to myself again. Other days, I longed for the closeness our breastfeeding relationship added to our lives. I missed the way it slowed us down and reconnected us in the evenings. Most of all, I felt selfish and guilty for not making it to the 2 years recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). It wasn’t until my training with ProDoula, more than 14 years later, that I finally let it go, realizing how I chose to feed my baby did not correlate with my value as a mother.
I decided that next time I was going to be more prepared.
I did manage to survive (read: my nipples remained intact) the biting stage with my younger children and have since assisted many other parents through this phase. I find that pushing the baby’s face into the breast until they let go is the most effective method. Not only will this make it difficult to breath (only for a second), forcing baby to open his mouth, it also creates a negative association with the biting behavior. It works best if it is done swiftly and the mother does not react in any other way, no noise, and try not to stiffen your body, which is obviously easier said than done when your nipple is being chomped on.
With lot’s of encouragement and a little determination, you too can survive the biting phase of breastfeeding.
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