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Biting the Breast That Feeds You

Nothing prepared Jenn for the searing pain coming from her left breast. She let out a howl and looked down at her son. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was Josh with a big smile on his face. He pulled her nipple out another inch and let it go. He stared at her and tried to nurse again when her hand and a loud “No!” stopped him. His smile turned to a cry and he burst out sobbing.

Jenn felt terrible and confused. It hurt! Why would he bite her? Why was he so proud of hurting her?  Her first impulse was to push him away, then tears came to her eyes and she hugged him in.  A quick look at her nipple showed bright red teeth prints but no blood.

There is not much worse than a baby who bites. The most dedicated nursing mother can give up hope when faced with round two or three of nursing after a hard bite.

Why do babies bite and what can you do to stop them?

Most mothers report that their baby started biting at around 4-6 months of age. A baby usually bites because he wants his mother’s attention and her attention is elsewhere. A baby wants to be in constant connection with his mother because she is his lifeline. When she is away, even if it’s only on a mental vacation, he will try to bring her attention back. Other reasons a baby might be biting is because the milk flow slowed, his teeth hurt or he sees he’s getting an unusual reaction from his mother and he’s curious about it.

The easiest way to avoid being bitten again is to pay attention to your baby while he is nursing. There are clues that a bite is coming. In every feeding, you usually have three stages. The first is active feeding time, when the baby is gulping. That is usually a low risk time for biting. Then comes a transition time where you may feel your baby start to become restless, stop sucking or start squirming. Right after this, there may be a pause followed by the bite.

During the transition time, focus on your baby. If he tries to bite, be prepared to unlatch him with your finger. Alternatively, you can pull him in against your breast so his nose is blocked. When his nose is blocked, his mouth will pop open and he will release your breast. Most mothers have a preference to one way or the other.

At this point you can offer him something else, talk to him about nursing correctly or just end the nursing session and hold him. Try not to overreact by pushing him away or setting him down away from you. This just reinforces the feeling of separation that he was bringing to your attention by biting you.

Some babies bite once and never do it again. Others need a little more coaching. All babies stop because they love breastfeeding and you. They don’t want to hurt you or their ability to nurse.

Mother to Mother - Keeping it Real

Who Loves YOU?

Your baby, of course. Your partner, of course. Your friends... Of course!

How about you? Do you love yourself?

Most of us do. Probably not all the time. Maybe not even most of the time. Having a baby can exacerbate this lack of self love. Somehow, that little being brings out your worst: your impatience, your sadness, your anger, your low self esteem, your GUILT!!!!!

You fall into the comparison trap. You see other mothers at their best. You watch TV shows and movies with "Mom Impersonators". Screen writers condemn and make fun of your very worst moments while highlighting the Kodak Moments. You start to think "That's how it really is".

You start to think there is something wrong with you when your baby cries and you can't soothe him. You start to think you have no milk because your baby fusses at the breast, or because your breasts are small. You get anxious when your partner is due home because you are still in your pajamas, breakfast is still uneaten on the table and dinner is some sort of dim oasis far on the horizon.

You just want your mommy. Not just any mommy... but June Cleaver, Mother Theresa and Aunt Jemima rolled into one. Someone who will Take Over, GET ALL THOSE THINGS DONE, and hold you while you cry.

Honey... I got news for you. She's not coming. She doesn't exist and never has. If she ever did exist, she had Staff and probably drank to smooth it all out in her mind.

So what is possible?  A dose of acceptance. A little, or a lot of, "Letting go". Making some new friends who understand where you are at and how it is with a new baby.

Most importantly, you have to ask for help. People want to help you. They really do. See all those gifts, cards, emails, likes, phone messages, texts? That is because they want to help. They want you to feel proud, because they are proud of you. They want you to feel good about being a mother. Your job is to get over this mistaken belief that you have to do it all yourself.

It's not easy. Help doesn't always come in the right sizes, shapes and colors. Sometimes it comes with strings attached. Or guilt. Sometimes it's like a bag of hand-me-downs. You have to sort through it and take what works for you.

Sometimes, you have to be REAL specific about what you want....with your mother...who didn't raise you the way you are raising your baby. It's part of growing up and you can learn how to do it. She may grumble, or criticize (Painful!) but stick to what you want and she'll come around. Probably.

Grieving and Mothering

By Lisa Bullard

 

GrievingandMothering“Mom, this card says ‘Don’t worry about Nancy anymore,’”  Ember says, as she hands me a sticky note she scribbled on.

I wipe away a drifting tear, and take it from her. “Thanks, sweetie. Why shouldn’t I worry anymore?”

I want to know what is happening in her mind, partly because I’m feeling guilty about crying in front of her, and am trying to assess how I may possibly be messing her up by being a mess myself.

Also, I am wondering if with her fresh and innocent mind, she may be more in touch with the ethereal world, and be passing me a message.

“Because you don’t need to cry anymore. You should play with me.” She doesn’t like seeing me cry.

I miss my Aunt. She passed away recently. Having a child did not make me less emotional. I’ve always been emotional and have never done well at keeping my feelings inside. Grief seems to be out of my control, and it comes and goes as it pleases. Then again, so does every other emotion I feel, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Along with the grief comes some guilt. Logically, I don’t know why I expect myself to be somebody different, as if a mother should not have a gamut of emotional reactions and responses to situations. I tell myself, and sometimes convince myself, that it is okay for my daughter to see a range of emotions. My Mom was stoic. She hid her hurts and angers, her passions and fears. I come from a long line of women who always show a happy face to the outside world, a strong face. Perhaps it stems from their prairie pioneering blood. I broke tradition. 

Along with other mothering situations I navigate, I find myself in uncharted territory. My Mom and Grandma did this differently. I have to find what works for me, for us, for my family. I have to be who I am, even if I find it is different than I thought I was supposed to be. Weeks later, Ember asks toddler girlme about dying. I’m glad I can be honest with her. My heart breaks when she asks, “Will you die, Mommy?” and then, “When will I die, Mommy?” I didn’t read about this in any parenting book. I try to be honest, but not scary. “We all die someday, honey, and that is why it is so special to be alive right now, and together.” She seems to be thinking about what I said. “Mom, why is that fire extinguisher red?” she asks, and just like that the conversation is over, for now. 

"As much as I want to protect her from things that hurt, emotionally and physically, I want to share the world with her, and the depth of our human experience."

Besides, I don’t think I could hide my grief from her even if I wanted to. Mothering, rather than making me more stoic, has actually deepened what I feel, and perhaps even made grief more powerful. There is no getting away from it. 

But, grief goes hand in hand with love, and mothering has made me feel love in a way I never felt before, too. For that, for that powerful love, I am so grateful. 

Bottom Line: I Was Never Going to Use Cloth Diapers

I was born at the dawn of the ecology movement, the same year Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a groundbreaking book about the devastating effects of DDT on birds and other animals. I was cloth diapered in big white diapers with pins and plastic pants, as were my brother and sister.  My memory is imprinted with my mom dunking and swirling dirty diapers in the toilet.

Ewwww....She didn't use cloth diapers because she was eco-minded. 

She used cloth because everyone used cloth diapers. Disposable diapers were just being developed. She used disposable when we went on a cross-country trip in 1965. She described them as bulky white Pampers that you pinned onto a baby. She vaguely recalled pulling plastic pants over them.

When I babysat in the late 70s, Pampers were the best-selling diaper - disposable or other wise. They were wood pulp-filled bulky diapers with an outer layer that was the same material they make plastic garbage bags out of. The fasteners were tape that had a removable paper backing. I would peel off the little tab and stick the diaper onto baby Jason or his sister Courtney. Sometimes, I would get the angle wrong and try to peel the tape off, ripping the plastic cover, ruining the diaper. 

Fast forward to 1994 Diaper Utopia

I am pregnant and everyone uses disposables! You can buy big cases with hundreds of diapers at Costco. This is a new concept in 1994! They have some kind of really absorbent gel so they hold a lot of pee. They have a clothlike cover and they don't crinkle. Velcro tabs! They are trim fitting which means babies can walk easier and the diapers will take up less space in landfills. In addition, they are inventing all kinds of things like composting diapers and incinerating diapers to create electricity so that disposable diapers won't take over the earth. 

And...My Mother-in-Law's unwanted gift

Fran, told me that when she was a new mother, someone had given her eight weeks of Diaper Service. She considered it to be the perfect gift! It was so much easier and much more sanitary (She's big on sanitizing.) than washing your own diapers! She was excited to find that they still had diaper services and had purchased eight weeks of diaper service for me and for my sister-in-law.

I was shocked and appalled. How quaint! Where on earth had she dug up this best- forgotten, shriveled relic of disgustingness?  Who in their right mind would willingly dunk and swirl dirty diapers? Who would stab their thumbs and baby with diaper pins? And Crinkly Plastic Pants! Are you kidding me? 

I was polite. 

Because of the Bridal Shower "Microwave Gift" incident, I kept my mouth shut and made my husband talk to her and... she didn't listen.
About 6 weeks after my son was born, the phone rang. It was the Diaper Service. "Did you have your baby, yet?"
I've never been good with snappy comebacks and that day was no exception. "Um, yeah." 
"That's great! Congratulations! Frances Bruschi has gifted you with eight weeks of diaper service.We normally deliver to Hicksville on Fridays. Does that work for you?" 
"Um. Yeah, I guess so." I've never been very good with telling people "No." either.
"Great! We'll see you Friday!"

I felt kind of sick to my stomach. 

On Friday, Diaper Dave arrived. He explained that my gift included 80 diapers per week, 6 diaper covers, (they were plain white Pro-Wraps with velcro tabs) a big white diaper pail and a nylon diaper pail liner.  I would get 80 diapers delivered every week. All I had to do was put the nylon bag of dirty diapers out every Friday morning. He would pick them up and leave me with 80 more, bright white, sanitized, prefold diapers. He showed me how to diaper my son. It was easy enough.

He assured me there was no need for dunking and swirling.

I put the diapers in the nursery. I was curious. I took them out of the bag. They were very white! They didn't have any particular kind of smell. They smelled clean but I wouldn't say they smelled like soap, sunshine, chemicals or bleach, for example. I squished my son's fluffy butt. It was soft and hollow sounding. I stacked the diapers on the changing table and waited for the next diaper change.

I changed a few diapers, folding the prefold into the cover and pulling the velcro snugly around James' waist. They were a lot bulkier than disposables. They were also incredibly soft. They were almost as soft as his skin. And, by some amazing coincidence, they soaked up his pee and poop. 

A few weeks went by. I liked using the cloth diapers! I was curious about washing them. So I washed some of the diapers myself. Amazingly, they came clean! I researched and mail-ordered prefolds and covers which arrived just before the diaper service ran out. I had the washing routine down tight. I washed every other day.  I bought a new washing machine. I figured out how much money we were saving and bought a new dryer too. 

I've always been an idealist, a perfectionist and a reformer.

I loved my new washer and dryer. It had a built in second rinse. Washing diapers was a breeze. Every other day, I put the dirty diapers in the washer, set the washer for rinse and spin, reset the machine to hot wash/double rinse, added soap and sat back while the machine did the dirty work. I moved them to the dryer, set it for 65 minutes on hot. I stacked them up: 30 white diapers. I didn't have to go to Costco anymore. I held my nose high as I walked past the perfumed disposables in King Kullen and CVS. 

Once Upon A Child had a tiny store near me.

One day, I saw a garbage bag full of Bumkins All-In-One diapers for $100 - I couldn't believe my luck! There were 4 sizes in the bag and enough in each size for a full stash. I bought them, took them home and washed them. I ditched the prefolds, certain that I had found my true love. 

But you know that's not how cloth diaper stashes work

My friend, Donna, was showing me her latest purchase: Kushies All in Ones. Unlike my sometimes leaky, nylon-shelled Bumkins, Kushies had PVC covers and more layers of flannel. They had cute prints and colors. I had diaper envy. Of course, I quickly realized that I needed Kushies to make my life easier. I bought a 5 pack. AT LAST, I could stop buying diapers- I had enough diapers to diaper the next two or three babies.

Except, next pregnancy, I had twins. I told all Gift Givers to buy me Kushies and received 2 matched sets of 36 small diapers and 36 large diapers. Now that I really was done buying diapers, I went off the deep end with cloth diaper reform.

I move from Fan to Zealot

The twins never wore disposable diapers after the meconium poop passed. Using All-In-One diapers was just easier than buying disposable diapers for an enthusiastic mother on a mission. I bought 40 washcloths to use instead of wipes. Of course, we used cloth when we traveled. When the washer went on the fritz, I packed up the kids and went to the laundromat for our daily adventure. I did feel weird until I saw a guy washing his oil-covered mechanics clothes - at least my dirt was organic in nature and didn't stick to the inside of the washer!

Trash hadn't been such a big deal when we lived in a town with trash pick-up. Now, we lived in the country and took our trash to the transfer station. With three little kids, it was hard to take the garbage weekly. Most of our garbage was "clean" garbage - empty packages and wrappers. We composted food and rinsed cans and meat trays. I imagined the awful stench of two or three week-old disposable diapers sitting in the shed...

I appreciated my washer and dryer and I used them for years. The washer lasted 12 years and the dryer 16 years. (I line dry a lot in nice weather.) Even though I didn't pay for the Kushies, I still saved thousands of dollars by cloth diapering three babies. Each baby goes through about 8000 diapers. I don't have to tell you how much they cost!

I climb onto my "Free and Clear" Soapbox

We don't really think about trash much because our garbage goes AWAY, somewhere. It doesn't sit in our backyard, unsightly, stinking up the place. When thrown away, 8000 diapers is about 30 large black plastic bags of non-compostable plastics, chemicals and bio-waste. When my children were done with diapers, the prefolds went under the sink for spills, dusting and cleaning.  The Kushies fit into one white tall kitchen garbage bag and went to a friend who used them for her next two children.

In the 15 years since my twins have potty trained, cloth diapers have evolved even more. There really is a cloth diaper for every baby and every lifestyle. While I lean towards one extreme, there is value in part-time cloth diapering, too. I share this story for your consideration and invite you to think about the many aspects of reusable diapers and how they might fit into your life.

Every April, we host a Great Cloth Diaper Change. Please join us. We provide the cloth diapers. Even if you only change into one cloth diaper, that is one diaper less in our trash stream.

How Long You Gonna Breastfeed that Baby?

The number one, nosy Nelly question, stated or implied with an eyeroll.

laraVariations include:

  • When are you going to stop breastfeeding?
  • You're STILL breastfeeding!?
  • You'll stop when he has teeth, right?
  • You know, there's no nutritional value after a year.
  • She doesn't take a bottle!?
  • It's time to stop nursing now. You did it long enough.
  • The "say-nothing-but-wrinkle-their-nose-raise-their-eyebrows-and-look-at-you" look

 

 

Ending breastfeeding is full of emotions for you and your baby.

It can be hard to be OK with all of your own feelings around weaning, let alone articulate and share them with random strangers and rude relatives.

Weaning might be forced at a few weeks or months due to lack of support, misinformation or medical cause. It might be an independent one year old too busy with his big brother to nurse. It may happen after 5 or more years of mutually satisfying breastfeeding.

Even in relationships where baby-led weaning is desired, you will swing between overwhelming love and feeling trapped. Closeness and connection can quickly turn claustrophobic with 24/7 soothing and feeding. You can dislike your larger, leaking breasts, and breastfeeding related problems like plugged ducts and mastitis, even as you love your baby's robust health, milk drunk naps, loving looks and snuggles.

The obvious neediness of a normal baby doesn't look like normal in our culture. 

We pride ourself on bootstrapping independence. Many nursing mamas feel, and are told that they are somehow "causing" this innate neediness, because their baby insists on connection and reconnection with their mama. While there are many variables in personalities, babies who are breastfed longer tend to develop greater confidence, security and independence in the preschool years and later.

When asked for responses to "How long are you going to breastfeed?" Moms find many ways to answer, and their overwhelming reaction is this: 

"It is an intimate question; one that shouldn't be asked!"

Rude people are everywhere and the best defense is a good offense. It can be helpful to practice a few responses. Write down ones that pop up after the offender has left. You may find a few responses here that resonate with you. Practice saying them and you will gracefully handle this question every time it pops up!

People are curious about breastfeeding.

If this might be the case, try a straightforward answer, grounded in life as you know it. You might say:

"When he's ready."
"Whenever my baby decides she's done."
"When we are both ready."
"Whenever it feels like it's time. I'll follow my baby's lead. No specific age in mind."
"Whenever my baby wants to."
"When my daughter decides to or I stop producing... whichever comes first."
"I was surprised we got to 1 year...now she's 3 so I gave up guessing. One less thing for me to worry about as far as her being a picky eater."
"When my baby is done or when she becomes too old for me to be comfortable with continuing."
"When it isn't working for us anymore. He's 3.5 years and we're still going strong... Very, very strong."
"My first was 4 when he stopped. my second just turned 3 and the baby is 9 months, so I have years left."
"My son just turned 1 and I am so done. I am slowly in the process of weaning."
"I'm hoping to make it at least a year. Anything after that will be a pleasant bonus. We'll wean whenever we're both ready after that.

Being evasive is a time honored way of subtly letting rude people know that their question is not welcome!

"Some day."
"Eventually."
"In about fifteen minutes."
"After we switch sides."

Be prepared for what happened when other mamas were evasive: 

"I told someone 'When he's ready' this weekend. She went all bug-eyed and said, "WHAT IF THAT'S NOT TILL HE'S FIVE?" My response was a shrug."

"When he doesn't want to anymore. I love the look on everyone's face when I say that.

Another milestone, college, is often mentioned to politely deflect the question.

"Maybe the day I drop her off at college."
"I just say college and change the subject, because it's no one's business."
"It's hard to side-lie in a dorm bed!"
"Of course if he decides to stay local as opposed to going away, say SUNY New Paltz, well, obviously we'll have reassess weaning.

'I'm sure he'll quit by middle school..."

If they don't take a mild hint? Bring out the big guns!

"When are you going to stop minding my business?"
"When you pry this baby from my cold dead hands!!!!
"Never! She's gunna breastfeed til I die."

Finally, there's nothing like confidence and personal experience to educate another:

"I would like to be completely weaned before she turns 2. I went to 18 months with my first."

"I've breastfed two kids to their second birthdays and they self-weaned. I plan on letting my baby do the same and hopefully she'll go longer than her older sisters! When my baby is done, that's when I'll stop breastfeeding."

"I remember holding my 3 year old child, who wasn't breastfed, and thinking I wouldn't be comfortable breastfeeding a child this old. Of course, it may be different with my second, because I have a breastfeeding relationship with her already....we shall see."

"I say one, but I love it so much, I don't know. I'll let her decide. I never realized what a bond it is. I love it. My hubby knows how much it means to me too, so he is good with it. We were at my mom's yesterday and I was feeding the baby on the couch. He pulled down my shirt. He was being funny! He said "I don't care if your boob is out, but cover the belly." Ha! I never thought I would hear that one."

"We are at 7 months. I would personally like to stop at 1 year, but she seems to be on her own schedule, as usual, so whatever her majesty wants, I guess her majesty gets!"

"There are days when I'm over it- when she still nurses like a newborn. She's 19 mos, but for the most part I'm so glad we're still at it!! Especially when she goes through eating strikes or when she's sick...I'll let her decide when to wean."

"I used to tell people that my minimum goal was the guideline set by World Health Organization and talk about the importance of that. If pushed, I'd tell them that my goal is baby-led weaning."

"In the end, none of my four were entirely baby-led weaned and I would have liked things to go differently. My first was 4 years 9 months and cut off cold turkey in desperation when baby-led weaning, tapering feeds slowly and discussions didn't work. It was a HUGE mistake. It affected our relationship for years. I nudged my second, third and fourth along a little faster than they were ready for, but I was never going to cut my kids off cold turkey again. The second and third were 5 years when they weaned. The last one weaned a bit before her 3rd birthday because I ran out of milk, dry nursing was very uncomfortable and she wasn't especially upset."

"When my pediatrician and I agree that the baby is no longer breastfeeding. (this puzzles them) I often had a diaper bag full of articles and research that I would offer to family members who had something to say about it. I told my MIL that when she graduated from medical school and completed her residency in Pediatrics, I would be happy to discuss the care and feeding of my child with her, but until she is a doctor I will not discuss these issues with her at all. That shut her up."

"I went to 2 1/2 last time. Not really thinking I want to do that again. We'll see how it goes."

"When baby feels like it. My first weaned around 16 months but I hope my second makes it to 2 years."

Whenever you and your baby decide to wean, whether breastfeeding is measured in days, weeks or years, know that it is a highly personal decision that is rarely based in hard facts. It's often unpredictable and complicated. When you are finished, you will have appreciation for nursing and for yourself, and probably some regrets and 20-20 hindsight. But, you will never forget how breastfeeding and weaning made you feel.

My thanks to the mamas of Café Mama's Breastfeeding Café for their wise comments and quotes.

If you are needing information about weaning your breastfed baby or child, please call/text Donna Bruschi at 845-750-4402 or read more here.