There are a lot of unexpected bumps in the road when you breastfeed. Most moms expect to struggle with things like low supply, engorgement, latch, or even a distracted baby as they get older. But one thing most moms never expect to ask for help with is finding gentle ways to get baby to stop grabbing your other nipple while nursing. t can seem strange, and maybe even comical at first. Or maybe you're asking "what's the big deal? The baby isn't hurting anything, right?"
The thing is, many moms don't enjoy their non-nursing nipple being pulled, tweaked, fiddled with, or otherwise touched while the rest of their body is already occupied with feeding their baby. However, they might feel like telling their baby no is too harsh a way to go about it.
Most babies "twiddle" as a way to keep themselves occupied during nursing sessions. It's more common in older babies and toddlers, but can start earlier as well, according to Children's MD, and it can be difficult to get them to stop if you're bothered by it. Luckily, there are lots of gentle ways to redirect your baby's attention from your nipple to other less invasive things.
Breastfeeding is about nourishing your baby and establishing a healthy bond, so the concern about forcefully stopping your baby from grabbing your nipple is certainly valid. But with these gentle tips in mind, you can redirect your baby's hands to other options that will keep them happily occupied and give you your personal bubble back. As much of a personal bubble as a mother can have, anyway.
Give Them An Alternative
Make It Harder For Them To Get Access
Unless you have a persistent child, making it more difficult for your kiddo to grab your nipple can help deter them. Try keeping your bra and shirt up and fastened on your non-nursing side, or wear a fitted camisole or sports bra to make it harder to reach into. The aforementioned Children's MD article suggested that mothers even cover their other nipple with their own hand as a more obvious sign that it is off limits.
Use Redirecting Words
If that doesn't work, IBCLC Rachael Anastasio Collins tells Romper that gently pushing baby's hand away and telling them "no," while distracting them with a different game has worked wonders. "We would play a game of finding each other's body parts," she says. "I'd point to my nose and say 'Mommy's nose,' And then her nose and say, 'baby's nose.'"
Keeping your reaction neutral and not making a game of the actual twiddling can help too.
Hold Their Hand
Another equally gentle way to distract your child is to simply hold their hand, as IBCLC Julie Gladney tells Romper. She says this small redirection can encourage bonding and give your child something else to hold in a way that won't make them feel like they've done something wrong.