Do you find your baby tugging, wiggling, pinching, pulling, fidgeting, or even hitting during nursing sessions? Has your calm, peaceful nursing newborn turned into a seemingly aggressive, active older baby during breastfeeding sessions? Surprisingly, these behaviors are actually fairly common for breastfeeding infants - and here’s why.
Even though this behavior might strike parents as being overly aggressive and even mean-spirited, nursing mothers shouldn’t take this behavior personally. Hitting and flailing during nursing is simply a developmental phase of infancy. Babies flail, hit, and smack during nursing sessions for a variety of reasons.
Your baby might hit during a nursing session simply to get your attention. In the age of modern technology, nursing mothers often seek to multitask while they breastfeed their infants, either through scrolling through their social media, watching TV, listening to an audiobook, or talking on the phone. Your baby craves your attention at all times! Even though your sweet little one might spend a lot of effort concentrating on latching and sucking, she still wants to know that you’re paying attention to her. If you find your baby swiping your phone out of your hands, or smacking your chest as you’re trying to talk on the phone, try eliminating distractions during the next feed and concentrate on watching your little one eat. This may help your little one feel more calm, secure, and relaxed!
It takes several months for babies to outgrow the quirky reflexes they are born with. If your baby is hitting you during every nursing session, the behavior might just be a part of normal baby behavior! The arm movement involved in “hitting” might be a reflexive motion that your baby is exhibiting, and the soothing and calming nature of breastfeeding might enable your little one to relax so much he doesn’t realize he’s engaging in the reflexive motion. Your little one’s aimless swings will eventually become the basis for more graceful coordinated movements in which your baby can reach for and grasp objects.
Anyone who has spent significant time around a baby quickly observes that babies thrive on repetition. If your baby is hitting you at repeated intervals during nursing sessions, she might just be enjoying a simple repetitive behavior. Repeating an action over and over demonstrates a significant development in your child’s brain. She is practicing a particular motion, and in time, that motion will give way to more productive (and less painful!) motions such as reaching, pulling, grabbing and grasping.
If you react to your baby’s hitting by flinching, scolding, laughing, or simply looking at your baby, he might begin to repeat the hitting motion more often! Babies love to understand cause-and-effect relationships, and what better person to test their theories out than on mama? If you have a strong reaction, whether positive or negative, to your baby’s hitting behavior, he’ll realize that he will likely receive a response every time he does the behavior. This is actually a big step in your baby’s social and cognitive development - which might as well be celebrated!
When a baby is born, she probably doesn’t understand that her arms and hands are attached to her body and that she can control them. As babies grow and develop physically and cognitively, they soon learn that they have a certain degree of control over their bodily movements. Some of the first parts of the body babies take interest in are their hands and arms. Babies learn to grasp, pull, and reach for objects within their eyesight range. If your one-peaceful baby suddenly begins to slap you during nursing sessions, she may have discovered her control over her arms and is practicing using them! If this is the case, your baby might be placated by offering a stuffed animal, rattle, or blanket to hold and play with during each nursing session.
If your little one is hurting you with his hitting, try distracting him while you’re breastfeeding. You can offer a toy, a burp cloth, or gently play with his arms and fingers while he’s nursing. You can also try to bring your baby into a different environment - one that is dark and quiet so that he is more relaxed while he eats. Chances are, your little one isn’t causing any harm with the behavior, and there isn’t any need to try disciplinary measures on young babies! It’s a reflex that he’ll most likely grow out of soon!
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
|I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.|