Breastfeeding Babies that Bite
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Emma Howard discusses the topic of breastfeeding babies that bite.


Emma Howard: Hello! I'm Emma Howard and we're talking about breastfeeding here on the Baby Channel. With me is Heather Welford from the NCT, you are a Breastfeeding Counselor and sitting next to us today we've got Deborah with seven-and-a-half month old Anna. You've had a really good experience with breastfeeding, haven't you? You had an easy time and easier the most people I've come across, and yet you sought the help of a breastfeeding advice group. Why was that? Deborah Powers: Because when she was just under six months, she got her first tooth, well she got two teeth within a week. And it was okay for the first two or three weeks and then we had to face biting. Emma Howard: And that's very painful, isn't it? Deborah Powers: Yeah. During most feeds, her tongue actually sits on top of her teeth, so it doesn't hurt at all because she covers it herself, but I think she was experimenting and she was biting and dragging and it was really very painful. So I went in and asked for some advice about what to do? How to manage it? Emma Howard: And did you find talking to other mothers who had been through the same thing just invaluable? Deborah Powers: Yeah, yeah. I mean to have somebody who has actually breastfeed and say oh, yeah that must be - because I don't really -- Emma Howard: To grimace the way you did. Deborah Powers: Yes. That was very useful and touchwood it should be something that's gone away now. I have had it occasionally since -- but I'm told just to say no and to try and pull her away. Emma Howard: It's an interesting concept, isn't it, Heather that we're all told to pull our babies off the breast and look at them very firmly and say no, because some mothers say, but they are too young to understand this concept. Heather Welford: I think it's not so much pulling off, it is gently removing. I'm sure you were told to do this Deborah. Just gently remove and saying no. Emma Howard: But that's hard too isn't it? Gently removing when you've been bitten, because your reaction is to do it much more quickly. Deborah Powers: Yeah, so I put my finger into her mouth and she bites and then gradually pull away. Or the other thing I've tried is to pull her nearer so that she opens her mouth wider and she let's go herself. Emma Howard: That's a good idea. Deborah Powers: But I haven't had to do this too much. So I don't really know which is more effective. Emma Howard: So the idea though is not got with your instinct which is to go oh, and yank them all. That really must be avoided. Heather Welford: Yeah. Emma Howard: Easier said than done, isn't it? Heather Welford: I know, but it's great that Deborah found some mothers who tried that and it worked for them. It's good I think that we've got a lot of breastfeeding support groups up and down the country. And if mothers need to know where there nearest one is their health visitor or their baby clinic should know what is there, perhaps round the corner from them. If you're from the family where your mom or your sisters and your friends perhaps haven't breastfed and you're doing it on your own, this is a good way of finding other people who've gone through perhaps the same thing as you, and it gives you the good chance to have a break and babies like socializing often. Emma Howard: Yes and we could see Anna certainly. Heather Welford: Yeah. Emma Howard: But in the early stage, I mean lots of people think if they go at the beginning they have problems. You often have problems at the beginning of breastfeeding. It's the most likely time for lot of difficulties. Heather Welford: That's true. Emma Howard: But here is an example of somebody who went when they were further down the road. Heather Welford: It's a good place where people can go and then know that even if they're breastfeeding an older baby, perhaps that's a new thing for them. There will be other people there who are doing the same thing and it's like Deborah says, it's an informal supportive friendly atmosphere. Emma Howard: And If we look at Anna, this is a totally breastfed baby. I mean she is big and bony and thriving. Heather Welford: She is. Deborah Powers: She had her first cold last week. Emma Howard: She had her first cold last week and she is seven-and-a-half months. So she has done very well. That is one of the benefits of breastfeeding. Isn't it? The health benefits, just remind us of what they are? Heather Welford: That's right. The antibodies in the mother's milk give the baby's immune system a boost. We know this from research, not just in individual cases like Deborah, but we know from research that has looked at many thousands of babies. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to get the sort of infections that we expect as part of babyhood, but they'll get them less frequently and less severely. So chest infections and hospitalizations are all much more common in babies who are formula feds. So mothers are doing their babies a real good favor, and it's a lasting favor. Even after breastfeeding is ceased, the research shows that babies and toddlers and young children are healthier as the result of being breastfed. Emma Howard: We are all getting this message and have been given it for a quite a long time. So therefore the pressure on new mothers to breastfed is all the greater and they feel they've really failed very early if it's not going right. I mean those are the mothers that need to hear from people like you, modern moms like Deborah. It's lovely to see this wonderful coupling here. They've obviously got on with it very well. But for women at the very early stages, when you think it's all going wrong, what do you say to women like that? I mean you presumably say persevere. Heather Welford: Yeah. Well, we probably wouldn't say persevere because you need to give practical guidance to people rather than just encouragement. Emma Howard: Yes, how do you persevere? Heather Welford: Yeah. What do I need to do that's need to change or is my baby normal? Is what's happening normal? Is that part and parcel of breastfeeding? I think to -- the campaign and the suggestions, they remind us that breastfeeding brings measurable health benefits to babies. It has to be only part of the story. Women have to be supported and given good information, because that's a rotten trick to play on people, to tell them that breastfeeding is a wonderful thing to do and your baby will be healthier, and then make people in misery, in misery and pain. Emma Howard: And yet certainly women do tell this story, particularly people like you. Don't they? Heather Welford: Yeah. There is a really gap in good informal support out there. We need encouragement and friendship, this whole thing that you get at breastfeeding support group. Women also need some practical guidance; how to position their babies if their baby is causing them pain, not just persevere because that's not going to make those soreness -- Emma Howard: No, especially in the position perseverance would make it even worse. Heather Welford: Yeah. Emma Howard: To remind everybody that it's not just the learning experience for the mother, it's a learning experience for the baby, even now there is instinct and it's a very natural thing to be doing, they both have to learn how to feed. Heather Welford: That's right and it's something that doesn't always happen instantaneously. Emma Howard: No, for thousands of women, that's absolutely right. You wouldn't have these support groups if it was so easy. Heather Welford: That's right. We've lost a little bit of the knowledge of how breastfeeding works, because in previous couple of generations, it's been much more normal to bottle feed. Emma Howard: And here is Anna feeding from a bottle of water there. Heather Welford: Yeah, yeah. Emma Howard: She is enjoying it. She is ready to take her milk from that, do carry on Heather. Heather Welford: Yeah, we have lost the art of like of breastfeeding in societies where everybody has breastfed. Women don't have as many problems with breastfeeding. So we need to plug that gap little bit, as well as telling women they're doing a great job, they're making a real difference to their baby's health. We need to explain to them what is normal that a baby in the very early days and weeks may well feed very frequently, because breast milk is very easily digested and babies' tummies are very small. So round the clock feeding is part and parcel of normal breastfeeding. Emma Howard: Here we are much down the road with Anna who is seven-and-a-half months who is so interested in the world that she doesn't feed in a very focused way. Shall we see if she'll feed? She might give us a great demonstration of what it's like to be seven-and-a-half months, and I don't want you to feed now. She might not want to feed with a bottle of water in her hand. What do you think Deborah? Deborah Powers: We can try. Emma Howard: Let's she if she will, she has done for us in the past but -- why should she conform to our schedule, I don't know. Where are you taking that water, she is saying. So she wouldn't take milk in a bottle but she will take water. Deborah Powers: Yeah, yeah, we haven't tried for a couple of weeks. So let's see. Emma Howard: Talk us through what Deborah is doing? Heather Welford: Right. Well, she is obviously putting her in a position where Anna probably knows what's coming next. I wonder when Anna will twig; she will probably, yeah, she is already turning around. A new baby you would have tummy to mummy. An older baby like Anna can get hold of the breast - Emma Howard: Because this is very experienced duo that we've got here. Heather Welford: This is a very experienced -- yes, it's not like a baby aged a week or even a month. Emma Howard: Absolutely no. Heather Welford: Here we go nice and closing and Deborah is supporting Anna and Anna says no, thank you. Emma Howard: Yeah and Anna says there are interesting things around me. Heather Welford: And have a little lick but that's it. Emma Howard: Now she is going back on, she knows it; she knows what's to do. Heather Welford: Yeah, she certainly. I'm sorry. Emma Howard: Do you think you carry on for a long time, have you decided when you'll cut or -- Deborah Powers: I haven't got a specific time in mind. Emma Howard: But you want to go back to work, I know, do some part time work and carry on feeding her. So that's quite a transition to be managed. But you thought about how you'll do that. You are far more fascinating Heather clearly than the breast. Well, to be especially - she is going to have a bit. Heather Welford: This is really typical if an older baby who knows what she wants. She is very at communicating and we'll have a little play on sometimes. Heather Welford: Yeah. Emma Howard: The only time that's difficult, because you're very confident, your baby is very confident but you wouldn't be asked on a café because you've lost all that discretion that's so nice. When you're feeding which is a lovely thing to do, you just want them to get on quickly, so you can sit and continue your chat and your cappuccino but at this age -- Deborah Powers: Well that's what she is wanting. Heather Welford: Yes exactly -- chat and cappuccino. Emma Howard: Absolutely. What a fantastic demonstration of what it's like to be an aware baby in the world. We've run out of time so we will leave it there for now. Thank you very Deborah and Anna. Yeah, yeah I can thank you and hello and thank you Heather. Heather Welford: Thank you.