Breastfeeding at 13 months: Boob Bites and Nipple Tweaks

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I haven’t written much about my experience as a breastfeeding mum which is a nonsense really, given that it has pretty much informed every aspect of how I parent but now that it’s so embedded in my day to day life it’s hard to know where to begin.

I have numerous half-started posts in my blog drafts box about breastfeeding-related highs and lows which seem redundant now because with every change my baby makes, there seems to be a change in the way I feed and my attitude towards breastfeeding.

I’ve been spurting the white stuff out non-stop for the past year so it has become something of a constant in the chaos of motherhood. I’m now at a point where the fact I’m still breastfeeding, even though my daughter has turned one and is fast outgrowing babyhood, is far from the norm so perhaps it’s relevant for me to talk about the issues involved in extended breastfeeding.

The fact I’m still going doesn’t surprise me as my own mum – font of all maternal knowledge – breastfed us until we self-weaned (9 months for my sister, 18 months for me, which goes some way to explaining my incessant appetite for all things sweet) but I haven’t made a conscious decision to do so, much like many mums don’t make a conscious decision to stop. I don’t know how much longer I’ll feed for, I’ve not really thought about it to be honest and I don’t want to put a deadline on it, especially as I have the liberty of flexible working hours. When the time comes I hope Eliana will just give up of her own accord as I have no idea how to do it otherwise. I think it would end up in a battle of wills and without a doubt, hers is stronger than mine.

In recent weeks quite a few people have commended me on my continued breastfeeding which I take entirely as a compliment but while I’m equally impressed by my peers who are also still nursing I can’t decide whether it’s worthy of congratulation or not. It’s just what I do. Where other people introduced bottle-feeding when they couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed or when they wanted to do both, we failed to do so (don’t get me started on the pitfalls of expressing milk and bottle feeding a breastfed baby) and therefore there was no choice but to breastfeed, which has worked for us, for the most part, with the added benefit of being good for my baby, if not for my social life.

There are countless benefits – I haven’t had a period since April 2014 for one – but it has required perseverance and there are some additional hurdles thrown in the path of mothers who breastfeed beyond the recommended minimum of six months that don’t get mentioned in all the bumpf that’s chucked at you in the late stages of pregnancy and early days of motherhood. I’ll come back to some of the deeper stuff at a later point but for now I’m going to turn my attention to the current phase we’re working through: boob biting and nipple tweaking (and on that note, if you happen to have stumbled upon this page via a Google search and are a little confused by all the baby references then I think you’re probably looking for something altogether more adult than I can offer here I’m afraid.)

In the past few months my babe has gone and grown herself six shiny, white teeth and without anything much tougher than an overpriced baby rice cake to blunt them, they’re still razor sharp. She’s also at the stage where she’s started making up her own games and (I’m sure you can guess where this is going) boob biting is one of them, largely because it has the added effect of eliciting a strong reaction from me, which she finds hilarious. On one incident she pierced the skin and as my fear of mastitis far outweighed the pain of latching onto an open wound (anyone remember those toe-curling days of cracked nipples from early motherhood?) I just kept going and wound up in the doctors surgery with a lumpy boob full of milk and a throbbing nipple. Fortunately I recovered and it seems the novelty of this game is wearing off in favour of far greater distractions.

Like nipple tweaking. Now this is one habit I can’t see abating any time soon. These days my baby gets a bit preoccupied while she sups and where she used to like putting her hand in my mouth while feeding she now slips her spare hand inside the other cup of my unattractive but ever-so-comfortable, wire-free nursing bra and aims straight for my nipple with the stealth of a teenage boy trying to cop a feel, although with a tenderness of touch that could teach the boys a thing or two. I’ve read up on this and apparently it’s a ‘thing’ some babies do. And adults, if you think about it. I’m the human equivalent of the beer bottle that you absentmindedly peel the label off while you swig, except my nipple isn’t detachable, however hard she tugs. Call me peculiar but all in all I find it quite an endearing habit, and like the biting, not one that would make me want to stop breastfeeding. Thankfully it’s come at a time when her feeds are reducing in frequency and there aren’t many occasions when it’s necessary for me to breastfeed when we’re out and about anymore so the public displays of nipple affection are limited. I’m all for normalising breastfeeding but for any non-mums, being in the company of a toddler who is squirting milk at you out of one of my boobs while giving you a sidelong glance from the cushion of the other is enough to make everyone a bit uncomfortable.

I never thought I’d write something for public consumption with such intense overuse of the word nipple but there you have it. Nipples nipples nipples. I daren’t think what they’ll look like by the time breastfeeding comes to an end but they’ve stood me in good stead over the past year, with the scars to prove it so they deserve an honorable mention, or two.

 

MODEL MOTHER

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