Breastfeeding is Hard

I’m lucky enough to know really helpful and amazing women who are comfortable talking about just about everything. When I freaked out, yesterday, because my son, Walt, hurt me, again, while nursing, my friend Avi responded to my exasperated tweet with some fantastic advice and an e-hug. He has been scratching and pinching me, so she suggested holding his hand and firmly stating, “That hurts Mama” and stroking his hand softly. I was freaking out, so I didn’t do that at the time, but I’ve tried it since and, to my shock, I felt better. And, because I was holding his hand, Walt had to stop pinching me.

Until now, I haven’t had any trouble breastfeeding. I’ve been so blessed. The first weeks of Walt’s life, about half his diet was actually donated breastmilk, so that we could give his little body time to adjust to whatever amount of my anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medication makes it into my own breastmilk. Even though I pumped an ounce for every ounce Walt got via bottle, I think that the bottle feeding must have given my body and skin time to get used to the whole thing. I never had the kind of soreness I’ve heard about. I just assumed that everything would continue to go on without like it has–drama free.

I’ll just say it: breastfeeding has been easy.

Until now. I am now being bitten, scratched and pinched until I am red, black and blue. My son is teething s l o w l y and bites down on anything and everything he can get in his mouth. He recently decided to start fighting with the nail clipper, and at the same time, began exploring nearby textures by scratching at them in a repeated motion. Finally, he has figured out how to pinch things between thumb and forefinger.

I don’t know how, but I managed to snip those razor-sharp little nails, today. Even so, look what he did to himself before I finally could clip them:

My poor baby.
My poor baby.

I’d show you my wounds, but I don’t want to put pictures of my nipples online and I can’t photograph the place on my arm where he pinched me hard enough to leave a bruise. And the big scratch on my neck has pretty much healed.

I’m just trying to be real and show all the sides of this mom thing. It’s really hard to be the main source of nutrition for a seven-month-old who has, on several occasions, clamped his gums down on my nipple and then turned his head. I’m frustrated. I’m a little skiddish. I’m starting to wonder if I should be pureeing food to spoon-feed him, rather than letting him eat whole foods, like we have been. (Baby-Led Weaning. It’s definitely the coolest. Until breastfeeding starts to get hard. Then, I kind of wish my kid was dropping a feeding or two due to calories consumed via spoon. More on that later.)

So I’m having a tough time. I panicked last night, because I thought maybe I couldn’t power through or follow through on my commitment to nurse until Walt was ready to stop. I want to nurse him until he’s at least a year old, like the AAP recommends. I’m not giving up on that. But this is a bump in a road that, until now, was really smooth. I believe in sharing the tough stuff, not just the pretty things.

Has your child ever hurt you? How did you respond?

11 Comments

  1. Muddledmama said:

    Unfortunately, I think most people get prodded, scratched bitten or hit by their children. I have to say that I follow the approach of your friend. I take their hand and use it to stroke wherever the target zone has been. At the same time, saying “gentle, isn’t that nice…” My smallest (who is the same age as Walt) is currently fascinated by trying rip my bottom lip off.

    On a different note, and I hesitate to even write this because I realise that you already know it. Nothing in parenting requires an all or nothing approach. You could offer Walt some purée and it won’t affect his approach to whole foods. But again you have a brain of your own and you know your baby so go with your own gut.

    P.s was so excited to see your Hypnobirthing career decision. I think it sounds perfect!

    May 26, 2013
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      I’m totally happy feeding him some things with a spoon. I think it’s more that because it’s not in “The Plan” we don’t have jars of baby food around, and I just can’t bring myself to buy a jar of peas or whatever “starter” food I’m supposed to buy. It takes more energy to think about how to mix that in.

      I do feed him soft-boiled egg yolk, and your comment gave me a great idea: I’m going to giving him spinach sauteed in a cast iron pan once a day. The pediatrician says he’d like Walt on an iron supplement, and I can’t find one without artificial crap in it. I think this may be a great way to get him a full belly once a day without involving my body *and* get him more iron. (My body just sucks at maintaining a decent iron level and always has hovered just above anemia. I think the doctor’s right about supplementing with him, just not about the Enfamil drops–yuck.)

      Oh, and it’s a developmental milestone for much, much older kids to realize that they are hurting another person and stop doing something because of that. It’s way too sophisticated to expect from an infant or young toddler.

      May 26, 2013
      Reply
  2. Meryl @ Expat Travels said:

    Oh, let me count the ways! We had a horrible start to breastfeeding – tongue tie (cut at one week old) which left nipple damage that took 9 months to heal, and on/off breastfeeding aversion I still feel now at times. And she’s a three year old nursling these days! I do remember the first time I was bitten and scratched, wondering “is this the beginning of the end?”
    It wasn’t, far from it. But your breastfeeding relationship does need to evolve and adapt, much as your parenting relationship will always be changing.

    I totally feel you on the solids issue, too. We also did BLW and my daughter wasn’t really interested in food until 18 months. Sorry if that’s not reassuring – on the flip side, I am glad I wasn’t forcing her to eat at 6 months if it was that premature!

    For us it boiled down to respectful parenting. I respected that she knew what she wanted to be eating and that she would know when she was ready for solids. I was frustrated that for a long time that what she wanted was 99% milk, but I managed to stick with it. We’re far beyond that stage now and I look back and am glad we did things the way we did. My goal for breastfeeding was at least two years, which the WHO recommends – that was quite a good motivator early on!

    Breastfeeding for us has never been easy, but I truly don’t regret a second of it.

    May 26, 2013
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Walt had a tongue tie, and it’s only thanks to the planned bottle feeding and some marvelous midwives and doctors that it wasn’t really awful on us.

      He’s totally interested in food, just not in swallowing much of it. I’d love to make it to two years; I do enjoy the bond, the time together. It’s really great to read your comment, because I often feel like I’m just a totally crazy hippie for not filling him up with fortified cereal for “just one meal” or whatever it is. It doesn’t help that our pediatrician had never heard of BLW. I don’t know how that’s possible, in this neighborhood. I was literally speechless. My friend who has no kids and doesn’t hang out regularly with anyone who has babies visited later in the day of the check up, and SHE knows what BLW is. Even the WHO site is all about purees, then chunks, and BE CAREFUL with “adult” food! I knew that if I wrote this, I’d feel less alone. Thank you!

      May 26, 2013
      Reply
  3. story3girl said:

    I had an easy start to breastfeeding both times too. No soreness, no problems. But the biting phase with my older girl was HARD. I want you to really hear that though – it was a phase. She stopped. I nursed her well past a year, and it got easy again.

    People told me that when she bit me I should stop and put her down. That helped a little, but a lot of the time, she would bite me because she was actually done nursing and bored. So, one thing that worked for me was just to pay attention to when she stopped actively sucking and pull her off before she decided it was time to play.

    May 26, 2013
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Oh, BG. Why does it not surprise me that she bit? She doesn’t seem to cut her mama many breaks. But so loving and so cute!

      I do think that bites after he’s done. Especially when he’s like “let me keep the nipple in my mouth as I look over in that direction…” {ow} He’ll also just sort of slowly clamp down if he’s fallen asleep while nursing. He’s so into The Next Thing and suddenly needs to see where every sound is coming from, etc. That’s new, so I need to adjust to it. Of the two of us, I’m a little better at modifying my behavior.

      May 26, 2013
      Reply
  4. I feel your pain ~ I went through a similar phase with both my kids once teeth came in. But that’s all it was, a phase. This too shall pass!

    {p.s. I just discovered your site and love it ~ I am also a mother dealing with anxiety and depression, and I love that so many of us are sharing our stories. And I like your links ~ I was totally addicted to Fertility Friend when I was TTC}

    Thanks!!
    ~Sarah

    May 26, 2013
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Thank you so much for reading, Sarah! I love meeting other parents who are willing to open up about it. I think comments like yours help readers who haven’t yet spoken up, too. The “me too” is getting louder!

      May 26, 2013
      Reply
  5. Lindsay Okruch said:

    I can make you a nursing necklace that he can hold on to while he nurses, lmk! My first baby clawed the heck out of me when she was little. It’s just a phase, and I think communicating that he’s hurting you is a good step. It also helped when (if she hurt me) I said, OW! and ended the nursing session. She learned very quickly not to bite. ;)

    June 1, 2013
    Reply
  6. pam said:

    My first daughter bit me a few times, a firm no each time knocked it on the head. My new daughter is 6mo and just got first tooth, she has bitten me a couple of times and yeah. ..ouch! First daughter also had a phase of scratching my chest horribly when being held. I thought I’d damaged her pschologically in some way! Funny now but it wasn’t back then ;) again, a firm no each time, and it stopped. Fed first to 16 months when we both decided to stop. This one I plan on a lot longer than that if she wants to. Wish you all the best on your bf journey!

    Just found your blog now. I have pnd. Gonna follow you.
    Pam :)

    June 9, 2013
    Reply
  7. pam said:

    Oh and re solids, you could give some purees as well as whole foods? That’s my plan this time x

    June 9, 2013
    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.