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Pinching during Breastfeeding

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20-month-old is pinching my nipple while nursing

I have a 20 month old who is generally very sweet. Aside from the age appropriate occasional grabbing a toy from another child type thing, he is not aggressive. He is still nursing, however, and has started to pinch the nipple of the breast on which he is not nursing. Whatever I try to get him to stop results in him being very upset and then he bites the nipple of the breast on which he is nursing. During the day, when he is nursing, I've tried conversation, rhymes and games (where's your nose etc.) to keep his hand occupied and to keep him distracted. sometimes this works and sometimes it does not. When he pinches I've tried saying gently ah, ah ah, which is how we ususally remind him that what he is doing or is about to do is not okay. I've explained that it hurts and he seems to understand this because afterwards he kisses me and says ouch, sore and points to my breast with a sad face. Sometimes when the pinch is very hard, i've yelled. none of this seems to help him control whatever seemingly uncontrolable impulse he has to pinch. The subsequent biting is the worst though. Any advice to get him to stop would be ever so greatly appreciated. Thanks.
When my daughter began to bite my nipples (at 11 months), I took that as her signal that she wanted to stop nursing. Three sessions with biting and we went for the bottle instead of the breast. She was happier and so was I.
I would suggest simply taking him off your breast immediately upon any hurtful action, setting him down (breaking physical contact) and not offering nursing again for an pre-determined interval. You could say, "You are hurting me. I can't let you hurt yourself or other people."
In response to the question about nipple pinching: My oldest did that when she was nursing, and some reading around revealed that it is common for babies to want to "twiddle" the spare nipple. Easiest, they say, is to stop it at the outset, like the first few times it happens, which is what I did with my second child. But with the first, it did become a habit, a comfort habit, like playing with mommy's hair, or snuggling blankie. It is because it is an comfort habit that my daughter (and your child, I imagine) got mad about having it interfered with. What I did, which took a couple of weeks, was simply to use a free hand or arm to cover the spare nipple, making it physically inaccessible. At first my daughter got quite upset, but eventually, found other comfort habits, playing with her own hair, or mine. You'll also have to deal with the biting, which I would probably approach the way I'd approach any nipple biting issue--a firm no and remove child from breast for first offense, "no" and end nursing session for second offense. It did take a little time for all of this to settle into happy nursing again, but with an older nurser, those pinches can really hurt!
You can call and speak to a lactation consultant at one of the local program at no cost:

Children's Hospital breastfeeding Support Center: 428-3137
Bay Area Lactation Center" 204-9703
Berkeley WIC: 665-7339

Good luck!


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this page was last updated: Aug 3, 2004


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