Congratulations! Your bundle of joy is finally here and now it’s onto breastfeeding and bonding. There’s no doubt that breastfeeding is best when possible, however, when reality hits, there are some breastfeeding challenges you may encounter. For example, when those little fingers start exploring more body parts during feeding and discover…the other nipple! Mom’s life-giving breasts are sensitive enough and now a nipple-grabber? We fully understand! Here are 7 ways to “handle” your nipple-grabbing baby or toddler (or both!).
1Flick Fingers & Say No
This is not for all mommas, but for those tough-loving moms, it does work, especially for toddlers who are nursing more for comfort than nourishment (we don’t use this suggestion for babies). Whether it’s a midday snack or nighttime snuggles – your little one must learn to respect your body. When the nipple grabber begins to get rough, simply stop her from nursing, flick the palm side of her hand and sternly say “No.”
Yes, there may be tears and tantrums, that’s why this suggestion is for the tough-loving mom who can be sternly-loving and still comfort when it’s comfortable for both mom and baby during snuggle time.
2Take Them Off The Breast
This suggestion is again for the older child who wants more snuggles than actual feeding for nourishment (don’t get us wrong, any and all breastfeeding is beneficial). And because of this, let her cry. I may still hold her, but not nurse, and no nipple-boobie access. You can also give the option of a verbal warning before you unlatch. Say something like “We’re going to stop our cuddles/snuggles/nursing if you keep (pinching, pulling, etc).” They do learn pretty quickly that if they don’t stop pinching and grabbing, they have to stop nursing because it makes mommy’s nipple sore. This works especially well for those older than two who understand this concept.
3Prevent the Breast Feeding Challenge: Nipple Grabbing
If you aren’t in the toddler stage yet and still with a little one, prepare them ahead of time during feedings. As they start to ‘explore’, gently direct them away the first time it happens. Remember, constant routine and the frequent reminder will create the habit that your other nipple is off-limits. Allowing baby to do it while younger will create a hard-to-break bad habit once he or she is a bit older.
4Try offering A Nursing necklace/Distraction
Who can resist beads or pretty charms? Neither can your baby! Try wearing a long necklace either specially made for nursing babies that they can reach, or simply grab a long necklace from your jewelry box for your toddler to play with. Many companies make nursing necklaces that work as perfect distractions for some babies. For your toddler, have fun switching up which necklace she gets to play with during that nursing session.
Simply put… cover up your other breast and make it harder for them to access. You can simply leave your hand covering your breast and they can only play with your fingers. If you have a great fitting bra or nursing sports bra, this would be a great option as they are usually tighter and supportive. If they can’t access your breast/nipple, both you and baby can enjoy longer snuggling time without the physical discomforts of tugging-pinch-happy fingers on your already sensitive nipples.
6Distract with other “body” parts
Remember footsie? Does that ‘game’ still exist? Well, if you grew up during the 80’s and 90’s, you know footsie! Obviously, that’s not going to happen with your baby while nursing, however, the same concept applies. You and baby can play body games with each other. Try wiggling your fingers and hand against their free hand. Have them tap your chin after you mimic tapping your chin a certain number of times. The idea is to play body part games while teaching your baby the different body parts and further interacting with them. Don’t forget to have the baby touch her own face too.
Play the “where’s your…” game with the older nursing child. For example, ask, where’s your nose? Where’s your eye? Where’s your chin? Where’s mommy’s cheek? And so on. A great distraction to keep their hands occupied and off your nipples!
7Hold their hand/kiss it
Babies love being close and being held. No wonder they want to continue nursing by your heart…and they have a free hand. Take their hand and kiss it, make silly noises, or simply just hold their hand. They can pull away if they don’t want to, just make sure that the next target isn’t your nipple. If it is, a verbal reminder and more kisses and hand-holding can resume.
Babies and toddlers don’t always comply or realize what they are doing with their hands. Even so, it’s good to have boundaries and limitations to what they have access to on mom’s body. You don’t always have to give in and just tolerate it. After all, you wouldn’t teach an older child to tolerate unwelcome touching by another because someone else just wants to. Yes, that’s a bit more extreme, however, it’s still a crossed boundary and your life-giving nipples certainly deserve a lot of respect and tender loving care… not pinching, tugging, or twisting!
The Emotional Journey Of Breastfeeding is very real, so if this is your first time, Mom, read this.