Breastfeeding Stories: Once Bitten, Twice Shy... Twice Bitten, Oh My!
by Jessica M. Lang
Hush, little baby, don't say a word... mama's gonna buy you a mocking-bird... and if that mocking-bird don't sing... OWWWWWWWWWWW!
My lackadaisical nursing session has been interrupted by the bite of a smiling squirming nursling... he has drawn blood!
According to La Leche League International in regards to when a breastfeeding baby bites:
(1) A bite from your baby can be truly painful, and worse, it keeps you tense in the fear that it will happen again. It's hard to relax and enjoy breastfeeding when your baby has bitten you. Babies who bite are seldom asking to be weaned. There are many reasons for a baby's biting, but the most common one is teething. Sometimes babies bite before their first teeth come in, but usually it's after the front teeth are in and the others are working their way down those hot, sore gums. Other reasons could be a cold or an ear infection (it's hard for your baby to swallow while breastfeeding if his nose is blocked), stress, or even a way of getting mother's undivided attention.
I remember being afraid of the prospect of nursing a child with teeth. During my first pregnancy family members and co-workers asked questions about my plans to breastfeed and of course wanted to know how long I would HAVE to do it. Then with a look of horror on their face they'd exclaim, "You're going to breastfeed for a whole year?! He'll have teeth by then!"
La Leche League International explains that when a child with teeth is latched properly, drinking productively there is no pain for the mother.
(2) Some people assume that when a baby gets teeth it's time to wean. They may believe that baby teeth make breastfeeding painful for mothers. But as long as a baby is breastfeeding correctly, breastfeeding won't hurt, even after two, or four, or a whole mouthful of teeth have poked through baby's gums. Like many other challenges in parenting, the anticipation of teething is often worse than the actual experience.
This definitely rings true with me. I nursed my oldest son for 23 months. Of course, he had a mouthful of teeth and I never had pain during breastfeeding (even when he was doing headstands and flips while latched... nursing toddlers is a totally different experience). However, at 6.5 months old with new front teeth, he too, bit through the skin... I have the scar to prove it!
So, now I've been twice bitten. I'll have a scar from both children. I'll nurse this wound for about a week... I'll wince when he latches and unlatches and latches again. I'll definitely be watching his little jaw with anticipation of another attempt to use mommy as a teething toy. I would not even consider weaning at this stage in my son's life. In fact I think I will cherish my 2 scars as badges to motherhood and the bond that I have shared with my little nurslings.
If Your Baby Bites By Barbara Taylor
Revised and adapted by Nancy Jo Bykowski from an article that originally appeared in NEW BEGINNINGS, November-December 1990
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 2, March-April 1999, pp. 36-39
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