By Mirranda Reinhardt for Pregnancy Awareness Month®
If you’ve had the joy of nursing a baby who has outgrown the newborn age, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced what I lovingly like to call “nursing antics”. There’s nothing sweeter than the newborn days of watching a soft sweet smelling new life suckle to sleep. As babies grow however, they get better at resisting the sleep inducing properties of breast milk and that’s when the real fun begins. Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding an older baby is still incredibly rewarding; but it sometimes comes with its own special set of challenges.
As empty bellies fill with warm milk, chubby little hands grow tired of sitting still. I’ve heard dozens of moms relate tales of their baby’s “lingering hands”: poking fingers up noses, grabbing lower lips, pulling hair, rubbing arms and yes even “twiddling” the free nipple. Mom is of course the subject of all this attention. This is a stage that many babies never go through; but if you’re there you may find yourself frazzled, frustrated and seeking a solution. Most babies will grow out of this stage on their own, but if you just can’t take it anymore you might be able to help speed things along.
Get a nursing necklace: A nursing necklace may not be the ultimate fashion accessory, but it will help keep baby distracted. Nursing necklaces are made of colorful, baby friendly beads or discs on a sturdy string. Wear one around your neck and you’ll find those little fingers occupied in short order. Nursing necklaces work best for babies who poke, prod, grab and twiddle. A great source for nursing necklaces is the craft marketplace Etsy.com. There you’ll find dozens of nursing necklace options, many made by mom’s who have been in the same boat you’re in now.
Find a special blanket: If your little one prefers to rub your arm, pat your chest or stroke your cheek your best bet at distraction may be a special blanket. Hunt through the baby section (or even the fabric store) for something with a soft comforting texture. Keep the blanket close by when nursing, and redirect baby’s hands to it. Be forewarned, if baby takes a liking to his special new blanket you’ll probably want to purchase an extra.
Hold their hand: Babies that grab at lower lips or cling to the neck of mom’s shirt may just need something to hold onto. Try holding baby’s hand while nursing. Stroking the back of her hand while her fist is curled around your finger may provide just enough distraction.
Wear well-fitting bras: Keep baby from “nipple twiddling” by wearing well-fitting bras. Most babies end up with their hands resting on mom’s chest while nursing. This is a sweet and beautiful part of breastfeeding, which only becomes an issue when baby’s hand happens to find mom’s other nipple. A snug fitting bra with separate cups (underwire free!) is the perfect deterrent. You’ll want to look for something that allows you easy access by pulling it up or down without exposing the other breast. Avoid sports bras which move as one piece and allow baby easy access.
Remember, this is only a stage and baby will eventually outgrow it. In the meantime, keep redirecting baby’s hands in a gentle and loving manner.