Friday, June 14, 2013


June 15th marked our first bite with teeth. During a feeding, that is. My son has two teeth 1/2-way in on the bottom, and one tooth just coming in on the top. I screamed. It hurt.

I wasn't quite sure how I'd react, when the time came. He'd clamped down before, but with gums only. That hurt, too - I think I said, "OW! DAMMIT!" really loud, and passed him off to my husband while I walked it off in another room. When he did it again later, I'd say, "No bite. If you bite, it goes away." Then I'd give him to hubby, or set him to play by himself for a while before trying again. I was always very careful to watch his face and look him in the eye to make sure he didn't think it was funny.

The day of the teeth-bite, however, was a whole 'nother animal. He didn't just bite. He locked his jaw down around the nipple, and pushed against my chest with his hands while pulling his head back as if he were stretching taffy. His teeth scraped painfully against the flesh, and I screamed. Not proud of it, but there it is.

The look on his poor little face - he had no idea what he'd done, and of course it wasn't malicious. At 10 months, my son can do many things, but hurting anyone on purpose is not in his nature. He looked like he might cry. I quickly said, "No bite. That's called biting, and it hurts Mama. I can't let you bite me. If you bite, it goes away." Then, I used the same drill I'd established before, to give him to my husband, or have him play by himself. 

Now, the problem was, he nurses to sleep, and this was happening at bedtime. I was torn - I needed him to see the consequence of the action, but he was also really tired and needed to go to sleep (which wasn't helping)! I let him play for a bit, then brought him into my lap to nurse again. He did it again, this time, clamping down and turning his head really fast. (OW!!!!!)

This time, I had tears in my eyes. It was getting really hard not to take this personally; I knew, intellectually, that he was not aware he was causing me pain, but it hurt so bad! I repeated my admonishment, and redirected him, this time to books.

As we read the story, he kept diving for my boobs. I put him off and put him off, saying, "Since you bit Mommy, we have to wait," and went back to reading the story.

By the third time (yes, I am a glutton for punishment)) I think he got it. I said, "I can't let you bite me, but you can bite this teething toy." He went back and forth, nicely nursing, then stopping to bite the toy, then back to nice nursing! Every time he went back to nice nursing, I'd thank him, praise him, and kiss him. (He loves to hear, "Thank you.") Then he went to sleep. Whew.

I feel bad for babies: teething has got to suck. Pain in your mouth so severe it makes you cry, and an incessant need to bite, and chew, and grind, and drool - I don't envy them that. I'm so glad it happens in the time when the data banks are erased, before memories are fully formed. I don't remember any pain when my baby teeth fell out, nor when the permanent teeth grew in - the holes were already there. The new teeth just popped right into their places. The pain he's feeling now, as each new tooth makes its appearance through gummy tissue; well, I know how I feel when I get a canker sore or accidentally cut my gums with my toothbrush, and it's no fun. To have that kind of pain constantly gnawing at you without an explanation or clear understanding of why it's hurting you has got to be torture. It's a wonder they can sleep at all.

It's now June 24th, and we've made it nearly 10 days with only one or two biting recurrences. Each time, I repeat my, "I can't let you bite me" mantra, and I set him aside, giving him something else it's acceptable to bite on. If I can feel his jaw about to tighten, I give a warning, "No bite..." and he'll relax, and I say, "Thank you..." and we go on from there. I really do think he's getting it. I sincerely hope so. One hears horror stories of mothers losing part (or all) of their nipple to a ravenous toddler, and I'm just not that into body modification.

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