Let’s do a little visualization activity!
Close your eyes. Sit back and get comfortable.
Picture this beautiful scenario with me…
You’re a new mommy. Holding your precious baby in your arms.
You worked so hard to get this breastfeeding thing down and the journey has been bumpy but it seems like you’ve worked out most of the kinks by now.
Breastfeeding has fallen into an easy groove. You know your baby’s hungry cries and you just love cuddling your bundle of joy while he falls asleep in your arms.
Perfection, complete with wonderful baby-head smell! You can now relax deeper and rest that you’ve arrived into motherhood and you are winning at this game!
OUCH!!! What the heck was that?? Did your 5 month old baby just pinch your ultra-thin, sensitive breast skin between her razor baby nails?? Was that on purpose or just a fluke? Probably just a fluke. You take a deep breath and relax back, resuming your afternoon cuddles.
AH! Shesh! The little bundle of joy just boob punched you and is now alternating between karate chops and those incredibly painful skin pinches from hell! What is the deal?? She’s never done this kinda thing before. First thought- I’ve spawned a serial killer that secretly hates her mother. (Apparently this is every mother’s deep, secret fear).
Boob punching, pinching, breast smacking, bread (I mean, breast) kneading and boob juggling….this wonderful combination of breastfeeding torture ACTUALLY HAS A PURPOSE! I know, crazy right?? Haven’t we been through enough?
It’s ok. I was as shocked as you are. After about a week or so of this occurring on a regular basis I contacted my trusty lactation consultant and asked for reassurance and an immediate remedy. She definitely gave me reassurance that this was normal behavior and that it actually served a purpose.
What’s the deal? What’s the purpose of boob punching and pinching? And um…is it absolutely necessary for my baby to knead my breasts in the middle of a sushi restaurant?
Image by moppet65535
At about 5-6 months my baby was going through a growth spurt. She was cluster feeding, which I’ll discuss more in another post. And she started locking down my breasts in medieval torture devices to produce more milk. Babies instinctively knead, pinch, smack, play, swat, juggle, jiggle, tickle and did I mention pinch the heck out of our breasts in order to promote milk production and to encourage the milk to let down.
Ever see a kitten nurse? The kittens will knead and paw at the tissue around the nipple to help move the milk and promote the milk to let down. Natural.
So what can we do?
There’s varying options depending on how painful, distracting, and uncomfortable the behavior is. Is it natural? Most likely. Is it tolerated? That’s up to you.
Image by Kai Schreiber
I decided that certain behaviors were unacceptable and others were ok. I didn’t mind when Boba kneaded my breast or squeezed. I HATED being pinched, especially by her nails. SO what did we try?
- At first I offered her a nursing necklace with baby safe beads on it for her to play with while she nursed. She wasn’t crazy about it but I’ve heard it works as a fidget toy for many older babies.
- Then I tried holding her hand but she resisted and would pull her hand away until I would let go.
- It helped sometimes to sing to her and play “itsy bitsy spider” up her dominant arm but it only worked sometimes.
- Eventually when she pinched I would tell her “ouch” and “no more milkies” and put her down for a minute or so. She would cry and I would wait about a minute. Then I would pick her back up and start again.
I tolerated most other acrobatics and craziness. She did go through a phase where she wanted to “twiddle” with the other nipple she wasn’t nursing on. Uh no! It just felt super creepy crawly for me and I couldn’t tolerate it. She was incredibly talented too and finding her way into a tight bra! She was older when she started that so I just told her she needed to stop or there would be no more milkies right now. She dropped that one pretty quick.
I also don’t tolerate her trying to “check” all my teeth with her fingers or pulling my hair. I’m telling you, moms go through quite a bit and some of it is downright hilarious and others, not so much! I will kiss those baby toes all day though!