Sometime in January this year Jett discovered the joys of biting, just in time to hone in on his biting skills before the grand debut of his first two teeth (which took him a whole 9.5 months to erupt).
Let me make this clear, when I say biting, I don’t just mean a little nip here and there, I mean he really seemed to enter a trance like frenzy and nothing was spared, no part of me was safe. From my shoulders to my neck from my knees to my poor nipples – all was fair game.
When it first started, I thought it quite sweet but at the same time, I also knew to put a stop to it as soon as possible as only more teeth were on their way (as I write this, his top two are about to erupt and Jett has just gone 11 months). I remembered reading Dr. William Sear’s advice in The Baby Book (aka my bible) that the best way to stop this habit in it’s tracks was to gentle push your baby’s face into your breast, which would cause your baby to release his grip at the same time teaching him that biting would have an undesired result. Well, let me tell you this did not even remotely work… not one bit! What did land up happening was that Jett would extend his head as far off me as possible while grinning with a mischievous smile and twinkle in his eyes. With the threat of actually severing a body part. Not to worry thought I… I will try the next thing in my box of tricks…
Whenever Jett would bite, I was to ask him in a firm voice not to bite mommy as biting hurts and that we would try feeding again later. I was to take him off the breast and not make any eye contact with him thereby demonstrating that biting would have an undesired outcome and giving him his first lesson in empathy. Well, the joke was on me as Jett didn’t seem phased by my actions in the least bit and his grip was improving substantially. I was starting to get real nervous that a nipple might just be severed as he had drawn blood on more than one occasion.
I decided that I would need to research this problem I was facing a little more in depth so I turned to the net, where one can find out anything about absolutely everything…. Well, I found zip, zero and zilch that was applicable to my situation. The only two bits of advice I would find over and over again was that I should bring Jett into my breast when he bites or that I should put him down and avoid eye contact of which none of this advice was working and I was getting more and more desperate.
Of course I found other bits of advice suggesting I bite back, shout etc which I would not even entertain in a thousand years! I would only ever treat my beautiful boy with the respect that he deserves.
Both in my online, and offline life I was advised to just stop breastfeeding as my boy was already 10 months old and he would be just fine without mommy’s milk. This wasn’t an option either, I wasn’t going to just quit on my boy.
I did however receive some amazing advice from a beautiful woman I know. She said that Jett could be struggling with his latch as his mouth and suction was changing with his teeth coming in and he may just need to relearn to latch. Although great advice, I didn’t think this was the problem as he wouldn’t bite with every feed. He would ONLY bite if he was tired or frustrated (because he was tired).
The second bit of information she gave me was incredible and I was surprised that I hadn’t stumbled upon this train of thought earlier. She referred to the writings of Dr Winnicott who was both a paediatrician and a psychiatrist. He said that “The most primitive instincts of our life are felt early … At first the infant is carried away by these impulses, and only very gradually there comes the realisation that the thing bitten is a vulnerable part of the mother … The excited infant violently attacks the mother’s body in fantasy although the attack we see is but feeble; satisfaction comes from the attack as it does from feeding and for the time being the attack ceases … ” I was so moved by this and felt even stronger in my conviction that I was not going to quit. I did a bit of reading on Freudian psychosexual development and felt even more convinced (as if I needed anymore convincing) that I wasn’t going to do the disservice of weaning my boy.
But I was getting more and more desperate and I felt like I was starting to loose my mind. Then one evening in early March I was attacked yet again and in a moment of insanity and desperation, I sang the words “no biting” in the craziest lady, sing song accent (not scary sounding, just a little disconcerting sounding) and I haven’t been bitten again – That’s not to say the attempting to bite has been absent, just the follow through of the bite. As when it looks like things are about to go south, I bring out my crazy lady alter ego. Coming to think of it…. I’m not sure when the last time was the crazy lady had to visit.