The next time you see a woman breastfeeding a baby who has begun growing their first set of teeth, buy her a cookie. Or a car. Or a margarita that comes in an oversized novelty glass and has enough alcohol to make up for the nine months she grew a human inside her and had to abstain from alcohol. That should be a good start when it comes to attempting to numb the pain of being bitten while breastfeeding.
Like most parents, I was relieved to see my daughter’s first tooth come in. It meant that the months my husband and I had used teething as the excuse for why we couldn’t get her to sleep through the night was accurate for once. But like any mother who was still breastfeeding their child when the first bicuspid made its debut, the tiny white tooth also sent a shiver of fear down my back. Then back up my back and over my shoulders, through my collarbone and directly to my boobs. How the hell was this going to work?
I quickly began reaching out to friends who had breastfed their little ones past the days of gummy smiles. Biting hadn’t been much of an issue for them. One friend was on her second baby and had been bit just as many times. “I screamed and they got it,” she said. That seemed easy enough.
My child did not get it. Shortly after her first tooth reared its shockingly strong and sharp head, the biting began. Pregnancy can be difficult. Labour is a bit more than a tickle. Recovery isn’t a walk in the park. Teaching your baby to latch can be a trial of errors. But like a paper cut or stubbed toe, the small action of a tiny tooth biting a place that you never want to be bitten feels akin to being stabbed. Everywhere on your body. All at once. Repeatedly. Then set on fire.
I’m not in any way trying to diminish the sacrifices and heroics of people who put their life on the line for the safety of others or those who have gone through seemingly insurmountable health challenges. I’m also incredibly grateful that after a long and painful start, I’ve been able to breastfeed. Let me be clear about that. But thoughts and prayers to moms who have been bitten, because sweet mercy, that pain makes you want to pass out, throw up, cry, and assume the fetal position all at once.
When the biting began, I once again consulted friends and specialists, but I quickly began feel as though I had birthed the only child in the world who could nurse and bite at the same time. My child doesn’t know the word ‘impossible.’ Yay.
Is it me? Am I too nice? My stern “No” after a bite just made her laugh, showing a level of defiance that the term ‘Terrible Twos’ had promised wouldn’t happen for another year and a half. My husband pointed out that this response was largely my fault because of all the times I pretended to playfully bite her fingers and laugh while wrestling with her, therefore confusing our sweet little cannibal about the signs of pain.
I’ll remember him fondly.
Kidding, but the man is brave. He did have a point, but I decided to keep that to myself, just like I kept my sympathy to myself when he would yell in pain after our daughter would bite him on the finger. Fingers come and go. Boobs are sacred.
When it came to sprouting chompers, my daughter seemed to be ahead of the curve. That’s not a #MomBrag, that’s a #BoobSympathy. At least that’s what I’ve gathered from the chalkboard updates on my Facebook feed. With seven teeth coming through strong at the nine-month mark and a continued refusal to take a bottle or eat solids, my daily dance with death(ish) has continued.
I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly tough person, but that ends here. Move over, all of the Chris’s. Moms are the true superheroes who can take down Thanos. (It’s been a long year and that was the last movie I saw in a theatre, are we still talking about Thanos?)
If you too have a biter on your hands, or more accurately, on your boobs, you’re not alone. I’ve read the parenting books, scoured the websites and followed the instructions. I remove her when she bites, say no, and usually yell, a reaction that is frowned upon on by breastfeeding experts, but in my defence is involuntary. The biting has now somewhat subsided and is more of a ‘once every few days’ episode of teeth grazing, just to keep things interesting. To my fellow moms, hang in there.
And to my daughter – your first word better be Mama.