We Don’t Bite!

We don't bite!“Did you just swear at our baby?”

My husband attempted to disguise his concern with amusement. I would have cursed the unraveling excuse I had given as to where our five-year-old had learned some colorful language (“Oh, kids at the parks these days!”) if I weren’t frantically exploring my nipple for what had to be a gaping wound. It was evident from the sharp pain in my breast and the sadistic grin on my daughter’s face that we had entered the teething stage.

The interwebs are awash with helpful solutions for preventing biting during breastfeeding. These excellent resources encourage looking for signs that the baby is bored, praising the baby for a correct–and toothless–latch, offering alternatives that do not involve cannibalism when baby wants to chew, and gently removing the baby when incisors grind into your flesh.

Unfortunately, many of us reside in the real world, one where women are meant to “have it all!” and it can be difficult to carve out time where your undivided attention is given to your baby during feeding time. There are other children with needs to be tended to, emails to be answered, dogs to be let outside, and the constant scanning of the household environment to make sure nothing is being destroyed or set on fire. “Undivided attention” rarely exists within a role that is dependent on constant multitasking.

So what do you do? Ideally, you set aside the time and energy to work with your babe to nip the nipping of the nipple in the bud. But for all the times when you are doing a million things at once and your babe needs to eat, here are some ways to make sure you can keep the swearing to a minimum and also feel less like a human hoagie:

  • Remember that it isn’t personal. This is more of a conversation to have with yourself at the beginning of the nursing session rather than in the midst of a painful bite. Most of us can count on one hand how many people in our world we love enough to put their boob in our mouth, and you’re one of those for this kid.
  • Make sure your cup is full. Patience is much more accessible if you’re taking care of yourself, and setting aside time to do it is a lot easier when you’re only depending on your needs in the moment, rather than when she needs to eat. So scrapbook, go running, check in on the Kardashians–whatever it takes. Your kids are better served when you’re in a good place.
  • Give yourself permission to feel frustrated. Parenting is hard. Keeping so many plates spinning at once is tiring without adding bodily injury. This is a tough gig, and when we are honest about the hard stuff, we give others permission to acknowledge the hard stuff too, and our village is strengthened. Letting a swear word slip is a lot more productive when empathetic ears can hear it.

Hopefully, when you are taking care of yourself, you will notice a positive ripple effect on the world around you. You will feel better in your interactions, and those around you will respond in kind. You’ll probably still have ground meat for nipples and your other kids will probably still destroy all the things, but you’ll feel better about it. And that’s really all you can ask for.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

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