Question: Is my seven-month-old son weaning himself or on a nursing strike? He's just gotten his top two teeth in and combined with a stuffy/runny nose, is biting but not willing to nurse. Though he is teething a bit and likes to chew on things, he never seems really bothered or in pain. I pump at work to keep my supply up as high as possible but he's supplemented with formula as its not enough and my supply is crashing into nothing as I can't get those night nursings in. Now every time I try to nurse, he BITES HARD and is more interested than cooing, smiling, and chewing on me than really feeding. He does this even when he's hungry and sleepy which used to be his favorite time to nurse, he will happily accept a bottle after these episodes and gets right down to eating. Everything I've read regarding this keeps telling me that its "extremely rare" for a baby this young to wean himself and that I should keep trying to get him back to nursing, it's really important, "breast is best" and so on, enough to make me feel really guilty. But the pain is incredible and after two bites on each side, I've had enough. I've tried saying no, using a nipple shield, nursing only when hungry, keeping a finger ready to get him off, pressing his face into me to get him to stop, not feeding for 30 minutes after a bite. So how long should I keep trying? It's been a week and I'm getting anxious about the pain of the biting every time I try to nurse and my supply is falling fast!
From: Sarah, Acton
We all feel your pain, emotional and physical, and I know that your question will elicit lots of responses from nursing moms who have been there, done that. I'm also certain there will be lots of good advice as well as plenty of women telling you not to give up. But I get to weigh in first!
So let me say, first of all, that I am an advocate of breast-feeding and I've written many times about why, if it's at all possible, it's important to breastfeed. That said, having nursed for more than six months, you have already given your son a gift of immunity along with lots of other good things. So, yes, I do understand the guilt, and nursing longer might be nice, but it isn't always possible. Some babies (mine included), are done sooner than others, and so are some moms. I was determined to nurse for a minimum of six months and I made it to seven and that made me very happy. Even though there are many reasons to continue, it just wasn't happening with my little duet. And that may be the case with yours, too. So don't beat yourself up.
If your baby was younger, I would say this is not likely a message that he's ready to wean. But developmentally, between 6- and 8-months, the typical baby loses interest in nursing because he or she reaches a heightened level of cognition and becomes more interested in what's going on around him and less interested in focusing on nursing. So nursing becomes more a way of nourishing the relationship than the body. Sometimes when moms are able to stay with it and express enough to keep the supply up, a baby will show renewed interest in the breast.
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