The Biter

Now that Zoe has officially popped two bottom teeth, it's time to discuss: nipple biting. I bet you weren't ready for that one.

About 2 weeks ago Zoe thought it would be hilarious to start biting my nipples all the time whenever she ate. It was not fun, and my nipples were not happy. Feedings were going something like this - at night and the first feeding during the day - totally fine. But every feeding after that it was bite, bite, bite, bite. Multiple bites. Always at the beginning. From what I had looked at online, her biting at the beginning of eating was a little strange. It looked as if biting when done was a lot more common. A lot of times she wasn't even latching, it was just, "Oh, nipple in my mouth - " CLAMP. And it hurt. Those two little teeth are like fangs

My first attempt at fixing this problem is what my family affectionately calls "The Love Smother." Sounds so loving, right? The idea is that as soon as they start to clamp down you draw their face into your boob really tight so that they can't breathe for a moment, forcing them to let go. Sounds even MORE loving, right? Hearing the description it's hard to not initially feel like you're an abusive mother (joking. Kind of). Purposefully making Zoe not be able to breathe kind of made me feel bad. But several Dr.'s recommended it and I'd read it in our baby book and on several websites. And people said it worked great.

Zoe: nope, didn't work at all. In fact, it actually kind of made her clamp down even harder, "Hey mom, I can't breathe!" I tried this for a day or two for multiple feedings and it just wasn't doing a thing - she kept biting. And it was resulting in some yelps from me. And a couple times of me yelling at her, which I felt pretty bad about :( But holy shit, it hurt and my yelp and yell at her just came flying out of my mouth without even thinking about it.

Then the nursing strike happened - another thing I had read about. Apparently it is fairly common for babies to get a little upset about being yelled at and not quite understanding. And that turns into not nursing

More looking into what might help was ear pinching: as soon as they clamp down you pinch their ear so it gives them a little sting. You don't use your nails at all, but the pinch gives them a startle and they associate the little bit of pain with biting your nipple and they don't do it anymore. That's the idea at least.

Zoe: didn't do a thing. In fact, it almost seemed to make her do it more frequently. She's a little masochist. And I was pinching her ear so much that it made it all red, and she started to cry. Way to feel like a bad mom again. And then we had another little nursing strike. The second wasn't nearly as long, and only lasted a day (the first was about 2-3), but she was STILL biting.

Then I tried to think about if there was anything that was different between her nighttime and morning feedings and the ones later in the day which were absolutely guaranteed to result in the not so friendly love bit. I couldn't come up with anything and I was beginning to get very discouraged. I may have cried and I may have sent Chris a few angry texts telling him that I might rip Zoe's teeth out. Bad mom! I really wanted to keep nursing, but I was approaching a solid week of biting with no apparent letting up and I was starting to really get discouraged

Pretty much the best way for me to try and accomplish something is to turn it into a game I can win. Competition is honestly one of the biggest motivators for me, so I thought about it like this: I am going to WIN this little biting game you little stinker. She wasn't responding well to the yelling (although, who would, it was startling) and she wasn't responding well to the "Love Smother" or the pinch, but I didn't really have anything else in my arsenal. So I sorta thought about kind of combining things.

I waited for a time when things were really quiet and she was in a really good mood. I kept a teething toy nearby to give her in case she decided to bite, but popped a pacifier in her mouth and held her. Sucking on her pac and having some snuggles got her calm and in a lovey mood. We did that for a minute or two and when she seemed quite happy and pleased with the situation I slipped the pac out and popped the boob in - SUCCESS! I made sure to give her some little snuggles and tell her she was being a good girl for positive reinforcement. Things went well for a minute or two, but again, bites. Damnit!

So my body tensed, I drew her close and held onto her ear and sternly said, "No biting." I didn't yell, I didn't fully smother (god that sounds bad) and I didn't pinch. I just acted like I was going to do those things while I forcefully told her what she was doing wasn't okay - but I made sure not to yell. That seemed to do the trick, she didn't bite me. Yay! But that entire feeding she was really tempted to and tried again a couple times, but as soon as she did I did the same thing. And when she wouldn't stop, I just popped her right off and wouldn't let her nurse anymore

All those things seemed to do the trick for her. And still, a week after we've found the solution, she still tries to bite about once every other day. It still hurts, and it's still annoying, but it's not as discouraging. I just do the same thing - tell her sternly, "No biting," draw her in close to me, hold onto her ear and then she either doesn't bite at all or lets go very quickly. We try to nurse again and I give her one more pass. But after the 3rd time she gets popped off. She's only done it that many times once since we've found our solution, so I think she's finally getting the idea that she doesn't get to nurse if she keeps doing that.

Thankfully my nipples have recovered and Zoe seems to have figured things out. It's always something, right? I hope she doesn't try it again when she's got her upper fang teeth too. Oh god, the pain...


Anonymous said...

Kendall Aquaflo Hydrogel Wound Dressing. They're expensive, but so, so worth it. Your nipples will thank you.

Also, who is giving you smother and hurt your child advice?! That is ridiculous, no wonder Zoe didn't like it. You're doing awesome though. It is so painful and shocking sometimes, but it does get better.

Remember that she has foreign objects in her mouth and is trying to figure out life with them. Kelly Mom says to show her how wide you want her to open her mouth by opening yours wide and she may mimic. You can adjust her mouth by pulling her chin down to make it bigger if necessary. Make sure your latch and positioning (holding properly tends to get lazy over time) are correct. And if they still bite, end the nursing session for a few minutes and tell them why - "no biting." All calm, no punishing her for unknowingly hurting you. Explain to her why what she's doing is wrong. Teach her with love and wear wound dressing :)

meryl rose said...

Lol :-) Dr Sears had the love smother, and Kelly mom actually suggested the pinch! Maybe I was reading the secret evil pages! Ending the nursing and telling her why seem to really be helping. Thanks for more advice!

Anonymous said...

{Phoebe Buffay voice} I'm shocked! Shocked!


Shame on you Dr. Sears. My internet must be on the puppy dogs and rainbows settings because I never saw the pinch on Kelly mom...or I was blinded by the pain in my nipples. :-)

Erin said...

The biting is THE WORST. I yelped out in pain, as any sane person would do, and I was so lucky that scared her to never do it again. I'm not sure I could have gone as long with biting as you did...

meryl rose said...

Zoe must be a little masochist - she has her little strike, then she just keeps doing it. Little weirdo