Managing rough feeding behaviour
Hi, I am looking for advice on how to manage my 13 month old son’s rather rough breastfeeding behaviour. He has always been a very enthusiastically breastfed baby, with no sign of this slowing down any time soon. He is breastfed on demand, and we cosleep. He has always been an incredibly restless sleeper, often sleeping only 40 minutes before waking and needing resettling, which can take up to 2 hours on a bad night. Increasingly he can’t be settled back to sleep on the boob, and during the night and in the morning his feeding can be quite rough and aggressive as if frustrated. He pinches and scratches the skin around my breasts, under my arms, and up my throat. He sometimes thumps at my chest, and while he doesn’t nip me like he used to when he first cut his teeth (he has a mouthful) he tries to take as much of my breast in to his mouth as he can, and I think sucks so hard that when he releases I have clear indentations all around from his teeth. It feels like he’s chewing on me. He can quite literally do this for hours at night, and if I try to remove myself he instantly starts crying. I am back at work now, 4dpw, and don’t always have space to pump, so my supply has definitely been hit – could this be related? I thought it wouldn’t matter now as he eats solids and drinks water well, and he’s a very ‘bonny’ baby. I’m pretty exhausted and feeling quite battered, so any advice would be much appreciated!
This sounds very hard to cope with. Perhaps one possibility could be that your little one is frustrated with slow flow, particularly as you know your breast milk supply has dropped. Wanting to nurse all night can also be a common reaction to separation when mum goes back to work as some babies want to catch up on missed feeds and mummy time during the night. Is he eating well when he is away from you? It is still developmentally normal to wake frequently at night at this age, there is more about night waking in Baby Waking up at Night. Could there also be a medical or physical reason for his particularly restless sleeping? Could he be suffering from discomfort due to allergies or intolerance to something in his diet, ear ache, cutting some new large teeth or be physically uncomfortable when he lies down for some reason? I do hope it settles down for you soon. Trying to add in extra breastfeeds on your days off may help boost your supply. I hope other mothers will have ideas for you too.
Hello Lili. It sounds as though you are feeling really exhausted at the moment. I had a very physical baby who used to constantly pinch and pull at my breasts- I had little marks all over my breasts from her nails unless I kept them super short. I think she just got into the habit but it was really irritating! However your baby seems to be much more forceful and I agree with Philippa’s suggestion that he could be getting fretful if the flow of your milk is slower than usual (you mention a drop in supply). He could also be reacting to the separation- it takes a while for mum and baby to properly adjust when there is a change like this. Lots of mums have to really focus on baby a lot at this time- bathing and sleeping with baby, putting him in a sling so he gets lots of physical contact and trying not to be too busy with other stuff. Ruling out physical reasons would be a good idea- tummy or mouth discomfort perhaps. Sometimes some treatment from a cranial osteopath can be helpful. I really hope that things settle for you soon Lili!
Allergies can be linked with fussy behaviour and insomnia so may be worth considering again. Some of the symptoms are included in this article Milk Allergy in Babies for example alongside skin, tummy or breathing problems a baby could have trouble sleeping or an inflamed oesophagus making feeding painful. A book called Milk Matters: Infant Feeding and Immune Disorder by Maureen Minchin talks about this in more depth. It’s a trilogy of three books in one and the third book may be of interest to you as it has an in-depth allergy questionnaire to help you piece together likely clues and symptoms. The author links food allergy with many things from bed wetting into teens to having rages and being unable to sit still. Might be worth a closer look.