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Managing rough feeding behaviour

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Lili 9 Rep.
member

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!

Lili commented on answer ago
    1
    Philippa Pearson-Glaze 259 Rep.
    admin
    ibclc
    ago

    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.

    Lili commented on answer ago
      • Thank you so much for your reply. The restlessness and feeding a lot at night has happened since he was born, with little change to the pattern since I went back to work in January – the only difference there has been that he won’t let my partner settle him or get him to sleep anymore. We’ve been looking into medical causes, and have just undertaken a hospital sleep study, so we’ll see what that reveals when the full report is complete (they were surprised by just how restless he was, though there seemed to be nothing immediately obvious as to why). I did try an exclusion diet while he was exclusively breastfed, eating no dairy or soy for a month, but there was no discernible difference. His skin and breathing seem fine so I hadn’t explored or thought more about allergies – do you think there’s something else we could look at here? It is even worse when he’s ill or teething, what I’ve described is the average night – and to be honest I’m almost resigned to this now. The roughness is the new thing that I’m finding hard, and he just constantly wants to feed whenever I’m around – getting very upset if he can’t, which is upsetting for me, as I feel I unsettle him by my presence. He does feed well on solids when I’m not there, and drinks plenty of water. I’m trying to be clear and consistent that he’s hurting me when he gets rough, but that’s hard to do at night, when I’m trying to keep things subdued. Really appreciate your feedback, and if others have or have had a similar experience I would be really interested in how they’ve dealt with it. Thanks!

      1
      KatrinaLC 6 Rep.
      ibclc
      ago

      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!

      Lili commented on answer ago
        • Thank you for your reply – I’m sorry I’ve only just seen it! Maybe you’re right, perhaps I do need to give him more one-to-one time. We never got the hang of a sling, even as a newborn (he complained vociferously the three separate times I tried it), though he was always held around the house (still is quite often now despite being 11kg – when he’s not toddling around himself). He only slept on either my partner or I until 6 months, and we still cosleep, largely because it was and is the only way any of us gets any sleep, as broken as it is! From before I went back to work we started finding baths tricky – he just wants to breastfeed if I’m there and gets quite agitated, while seeming to enjoy it more when it’s just my partner bathing him, so we do that now. He was reviewed by an osteopath at about 4 months, who had a thorough look, not least as he was born by emergency section after getting very stuck for quite some time trying to come out back to back and face first! He said everything looked good all things considered. I’m going to try pumping more during my work days, and taking some supplements to boost my supply, and spending more time with him on my days off to see if it calms down a bit. Thank you.

        1
        Philippa Pearson-Glaze 259 Rep.
        admin
        ibclc
        ago

        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.

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