Bad Nights

Do not expect good writing from this post. Please forgive my vulgarity. Do not critique this post for typos. I did not write this to be a masterpiece—I wrote this as a cry for help.

These are the nights where I contemplate weaning.

Having been sexually molested multiple times in my life, I’ve taken great care to draw a large and distinct line between sex and breastfeeding. I think that’s part of the reason it is so infuriating when people try to connect the two things. I think that’s part of why it’s become such an important cause to me. It’s also why I’m so infuriated to have made the connection myself.

From what I hear, I’m not the only mom who’s mind has drawn a line here, but as far as I know I am the only one who is having this affect her breastfeeding relationship so dramatically. So dramatically that on nights like this I contemplate weaning.

While nursing on one side, Peanut grabs, gropes, molests (words that I never wanted to associate with my toddler, but I must describe in full detail for you to understand how severe this is to me) my other breast. Moms in La Leche League and on the internet have told me to just put my hand over my other breast and brush her away, but I can’t handle even that. I think it’s the fact that she continues to persist against my resistance. She doesn’t even care that I put my hand (well, forearm really) there. She just keeps trying.

She’s fine 90% of the time. It’s just that other 10% that is so vicious for me. It makes me go to a very dark place that I have worked so hard to stay out of and of all times that I wouldn’t want to go to that dark place, regarding my daughter is definitely the top of the list. I feel so angry with myself that I want to cry because I shouldn’t ever have to go to my dark place because of anything surrounding my beautiful, sweet daughter. I shouldn’t have to go to that dark place because of anything regarding our wonderful breastfeeding relationship. I can not handle this anymore. This is so fucked up!

So what do I do to fix this? I know that I should talk about this with my psychologist, but I need something more immediate. Everything in therapy takes so much time and I am at my wits end. I need it to stop entirely too. I’ve noticed that when I’m wearing a shirt over my tank top she doesn’t do it so much. Is there some piece of wonder clothing that would help? Possibly wearing a necklace to bed? I thought about doing that because it’s helped with other nursing manners issues in the daytime past, but I thought maybe it’s a choking hazard?

Do I need to stop co-sleeping? Maybe I’d feel less trapped by it all if I could put her back in her own bed and go back to mine. I’m not sure. Is it worth sacrificing better sleep 90% of the time though? Surely there must be a less drastic answer. I will not stop breastfeeding, so don’t even give that suggestion.

So please interwebs, I know that one of you out there must have the cure for this. I know that someone must have been here before and gotten through it. Please, please help me.

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26 thoughts on “Bad Nights

  1. I’m so sorry that you’re having this problem. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for such an ugly thing from your past to be intruding on such a beautiful thing as your breastfeeding relationship with your daughter.

    My Peeper isn’t much of a twiddler (she’s more about the toes-up-the-nose, or standing on her head while nursing!) so I don’t have a ton of experience from which to speak, but here are a few things I’ve thought of.

    You’ve probably already tried them, but in case you haven’t, I thought I’d share.

    When you’re nursing sidelying, can you roll over to the point that you’re lying on top of the “near” breast so she can’t get to it while nursing from the “far” breast.

    Perhaps a zip-up or button-up shirt that you can pull to the side, so that only one breast at a time is exposed would help?

    If it were a zip-up, maybe you could entice her to “twiddle” the zipper pull instead?

    Will she hold / play with your hand instead?

    I hope you’re able to distract or deter her soon!

    • Thanks for all of the suggestions! Actually a lot of them were said in LLL.

      I’ve tried lying like you’re talking about which keeps her from the other breast, but I can’t relax enough to go back to sleep. I do flip over and do that sometimes when I can’t get her to stop though.

      When I’m in the nursing tank I do have the other breast covered, but she sneaks her hand in so I’ve been wearing a t-shirt over that (which goes up over one breast, but covers the other) and it’s been helping.

      I haven’t gotten her to hold my hand. She gets angry when I try to hold her still at all. I’m going to try giving her a stuffed animal or blanket though.

  2. What an awful thing to have to go through. Whozat had great suggestions. My baby wasn’t much of a twiddler, but I always kept the other breast covered just because I preferred it. My favorite pjs had low v-necks (not always pjs, henleys or other tshirts with the right v-neck) that I easily pulled over. Does she twiddle through your shirt? If she does, would wearing a bra or nursing pads help? Maybe she would hug a toy or twiddle a nubby piece of fabric like minky?

    • I already wear a nursing tank, but she sneaks her hand in. I’ve been wearing a t-shirt over that and it seems to be helping. I’m also going to try a blanket.

      Thanks!

  3. Sorry you are going through this. I cannot imagine how awful this must be for you to have something terrible from your past affecting your BFing relationship.

    Here’s my 2 cents. My second son would sometimes scratch and hit me while nursing. He had a silk blankie that I started to put between the two of us and he did start to hug and twiddle that instead while nursing. You might want to try covering up your other breast with a blanket. It may not be the most comfortable or convenient but at times where she is being really persistent it might help.

    As far as the co-sleeping, I’m not sure. I was able to co-sleep with my first son with no problem, then my second son was a different story. He’d basically kick my husband and I out of the bed with all of his kicking and scratching and it was like a wrestling match. After battling it out night after night I eventually had to put him in a crib and after a while he did better being in his own space and we all started to get more sleep. This change in the sleeping arrangement did not affect our BFing relationship, so it might be worth giving it a try for a night or two.

    Good luck, I hope you find something that works for you and the two of you are able to get past this together.

    • I’m going to try a blanket. Maybe a stuffed animal.

      Also, I’ve tried to get her to sleep somewhere separate in the past, but she always wakes up more often when she’s not near me. I already plan on getting her a twin mattress so that she can nap somewhere besides our bed (because it would be nice to have my own room while she’s napping) so if none of the suggestions work, I may try putting her in the bed at night too.

  4. typing one handed sorry
    i also like the blankie/stuffed animal idea.
    sometimes my son, who’s same age as Peanut, snuggles his soft monkey that i put between us.
    what if you gently said, “don’t squeeze mommy, squeeze the monkey?” or whatever she likes to cuddle.
    hang in there, this will pass.
    also i always wear shirt over nursing tank and he often squeezes and pulls on the shirt- can u try layers?
    good luck!

    • I’ve been wearing a band t-shirt over my nursing tank and it seems to help. I’ve tried to get her attached to a stuffed animal or something, but haven’t had any luck yet. I’m going to give it another go though.

  5. Awful. 😦 I had the same unhappy things happen to me, but luckily I never noticed a real problem with our breastfeeding relationship. then again Sophie always had her blankie. She would often wedge it in between us and play with that while she nursed. Does Dea have a “lovey” of some sort?

    most of the time i just wore spaghetti straps with the built in bra thing. so come nursing time, I would just pull one side down, and the other boob was safely tucked away.

    I’m sorry you have to deal with that. I didn’t have that specific experience when nursing Sophie, but other things have triggered my “dark place.” I can safely say I have a pretty good idea of how bad it feels. I’m always here for support 🙂

    I wouldn’t stop the co sleeping, that would be too much for me. Then again I’m a big baby. Maybe you could gently help her towards the end of nursing if she’s ready? our “weaning” was a slow process that took like a month and a half.

    I hope you guys can find a solution. 😦

    • I’ve tried to get Dea to have a “lovely” but I can’t seem to get her to attach to anything. I like the idea of a blanket though. I could at least use a little baby blanket for some separation between us while she’s nursing.

      I also wear a spaghetti strap tank top (nursing tank actually), but she’ll find her way in the other side unless I have another shirt on. I’ve been sleeping wearing just a regular t-shirt over it and it seems to be helping.

  6. Like you, I have had the same things happen to me and I have also had the same problem with my 20month old nursling. I never quit co-sleeping but, I wore a nursing tank top to bed and that helped. Sometimes we would put his hands in my shirt just to touch my skin but I’d tell him he had to stop or be done nursing. He usually stops or if he doesn’t I take him off the breast. After a while I’ll let him nurse again. The same tricked worked with teething so I used it again with those types of situations. I know it sounds harsh to just take your kid away and not let her nurse but I figure it’s better then getting upset and feeling angry.

    And don’t feel bad about feeling the way you do. Other people feel the same way. Like myself. I’m extremely thankful that you brought up this issue because I have never talked about it out loud because I didn’t want people taking it the wrong way. So thank you for being outspoken and I hope the advice I’ve offered will help you.

    • I’ve done what you’re talking about with the “stop or you can’t nurse” when she’s awake and it’s worked really well. When we’re both awake, it’s just annoying to me so I tell her she can’t do it. The problem is that when she’s doing it at night she’s half awake so I don’t think she even realizes that she’s doing it. If none of the other suggestions on here help, I may end up just giving up on sleep for a few nights and correcting her when she does it (and thereby waking her up), but I like my sleep so I don’t want to resort to that.

  7. I’m so sorry you’re having trouble with this… I don’t have the issue that you do surrounding it, but it makes me very uncomfortable when my son tries to “twiddle.” It makes me want to push him off of me, and I hate that.

    We co-sleep too, and so I started wearing my regular non-nursing bra to bed. It’s a little difficult to get out of sometimes, but that’s exactly how it gets him to leave the other one alone while he’s nursing. He can’t get his hand in it, and the material is thick enough to keep him from doing anything over it. He gives up pretty quickly.

    I really admire your efforts to work through this. Your daughter is a lucky girl. 🙂

    • Thanks! I’ll have to try that. I’ll have to see if I even have a non-nursing bra anymore though! lol

  8. “I will not stop breastfeeding, so don’t even give that suggestion.”

    That is the most beautiful line in this whole post. I have never been in your shoes and I can’t even imagine, but when I read that, it just jumped out at me. Look at that strength. Good for you, doing that for your daughter even though this is so tough for you. Good. for. you!

    Now, as I said, I have never been in your shoes, so I don’t know if what I’m about to say is wrong, out of line, or really insensitive — if it is, I apologise wholeheartedly. But what I was thinking is, would it help you to think of this as a victory of sorts? That by feeding your daughter, you can take back and make good something that was taken from you? Maybe you’d need a practical solution (as others have suggested) to help make it easier to deal with, or a psychological way through from the psychologist, but I just thought, maybe if you could grab some of that strength and determination that you’ve so clearly shown in this post, and use it to claim this a victory, maybe that would be a help too.
    And, again, if that’s completely crass and crap, I apologise.

    • I do view breastfeeding as a victory for me. I know a lot of moms who have been abused don’t breastfeed at all so I feel lucky that I am able to handle it in the first place. I don’t know if that will help so much with my current problem, but it’s always good to remind myself of that.

  9. Hey – I have the same issue – my bub is only 9 months so just started the groping and it does give me shivers of repulsion for same reasons. Anyhow I use a “Booby Bib” – an Aussie product I think but like a super dooper nursing top with padding – so only one side is out at once and the other side is locked away!

  10. To be honest, I have no advice. 🙂 My 11mo DD has already weaned herself 😦 and wasn’t much of a twiddler. But I’ve BTDT with the other stuff you mentioned and I know how painful it can be. It’s worth remembering that it won’t always be like this – there WILL come a time where that dark place won’t be as dark and won’t affect you in the same way. Maybe not much consolation now when you’re going through it, but hey. 🙂 Thinking of you.

  11. I would love to know what babies see in boobs. My baby has never nursed (despite three lactation consultants and many LLL leaders) but I do exclusively pump. She’ll scream and flail when I try to get her to latch on, but, despite all distractions, she’ll crawl all over me when I’m pumping so she can twiddle my free breast. What the???

    The only thing that stops her is if she can’t see my nipple; if it’s covered with a shirt or a blanket or even my hand. Because you’ve nursed Peanut, I’ll bet she knows it’s under there even if she can’t see it, so what works for me might not work for you.

    I’m sorry about your past. Know that you are an amazing, powerful women who is giving her daughter the very best future. Know that you are teaching Peanut that the real value of women’s breast are for babies, not for men. Know that you are teaching her to be confident in herself for what she is, not for what other people thinks she is.

    Sending love.

  12. When I was pregnant with my son, and my daughter was still nursing, her “fiddle” of choice was my belly button. She liked to DIG into my belly button, like drill into it furiously with her finger while nursing.

    Prior to being pregnant, I could deal with it. It wasn’t awesome, but it was manageable, and I was grateful it wasn’t something “worse”, like my other nipple (I feel for you).

    However, once I became pregnant, particularly as my belly began to grow, the fiddling became more & more uncomfortable, irritating, even teeth-gritting.

    I’d curl my toes, bite my nuckles, hum, pretty much anything to get the feeling of repulsion to go away. Because I wasn’t ready to wean, and neither was she.

    But it was affecting our nursing relationship. I was starting to dread our nursing sessions, and I hated that feeling.

    So I realized I had to face the problem, and take steps to change it. My feelings about it were real, valid, and not directed towards her. I wasn’t a bad mom for not liking her button drilling, but my irritation about the situation could be directed towards her, and she didn’t deserve that. So, I decided to take concrete steps (which, granted, a toddler doesn’t like), to curb her fiddling behavior. At the same time, we also curbed nighttime nursing, because nursing while pregnant was becoming painful to me – particularly during latch on.

    I told her that the fiddling was bothersome to MY body. That I loved her touch, but didn’t want my belly button drilled. It didn’t feel good on my tummy because my tummy was sensitive. Period. (repeat ad nauseum)

    Next, I made alternate suggestions, and allowed her to make a “choice”. She was only 2 at the time, so her choice really would have been to keep going the way she was going, so I had to ENCOURAGE a choice, but I still gave her options, each of which I preferred over belly button drilling. She was not happy, but we repeated it, over and over, in very short increments, every time we nursed. We talked about it during the day. We practiced at nap time. We put it into action at night. All told, it took about 2 months to fully change the habit.

    We started slow, like I’d ask her to sing a song & bounce on the ball instead of nurse. For 5 seconds. Then we’d nurse. When the button drilling started, I’d ask her to put her hand flat. She’d resist, but I’d gently move her hand to a flat patting hand, for 5 seconds. Never having her get super frustrated, nor myself. Just very gradual, very slow, very gentle — and I was able to keep myself calm knowing that even though it was 5 seconds today, it would be 10 seconds tomorrow, and 20 seconds the next day… there was a light at the end of the tunnel, so so speak.

    We maintained our co-sleeping/family bed arrangement. We maintained our daytime nursing. But at night, we were able to move from constant (every hour) waking & nursing & belly button fiddling, to waking every 3-4 hrs, cuddling, singing back to sleep with belly button patting.

    It made breastfeeding while pregnant doable for me, and I was so glad that we maintained our nursing relationship because once baby brother was born, she went back to nursing, and I tandemed for a year & a half – which was the best.

    The key point was choice. Which song do you want to sing? Which way to you want to put your hand: flat or rounded?
    And patience.

    I hope some of this is helpful to you mama. ((hugs)) and strength.

    • That’s a really great idea. I mostly like the part where you said that you talked about it during the day, practiced at nap time, and put it into action at night.

      Right now, I’m trying to search for an alternative to actually waking her while she’s doing it, but if it gets to the point where nothing else works and I do end up having to have a few bad nights, this method is definitely something I’ll try!

  13. Sadly, this is why I’ll wean my 10mo at 1 year. I’ve tried everything (the blanket, stuffed animal, tank, etc) to no avail. Lately he also pinches my nipples when he unlatches for a second or two. I’ve tried to say “no” and move his hand; that just made him think it’s a game 😦

    Hugs!!!

    • Dea went through that stage too. Actually, when she hit around a year or so is when she started understanding “If you don’t stop {insert bad behavior} then you can’t nurse.” It took a few times of not letting her nurse anymore, but she understood pretty quickly. Stick in there!

  14. Do you have a nursing necklace? I’ve heard really good things about those for babies who like to twiddle. I think a lot of the other suggestions are great too!

    If nothing works at all, there is nothing wrong with side caring or find a good alternative to cosleeping, or even try nursing sitting up. If it comes down the the ultimate last option and nothing else is working and the dark places are becoming more and more frequent weaning might be more important. I hope it doesn’t come to that though.

    I would also bring it up with a therapist while working on finding a solution with your daughter. Therapy is slow, but it might help with future problems or prevent other flashbacks. I don’t know if you intend on having other kids, but it could prevent those flashbacks all together with them or significantly reduce them.

    I think it’s great you are continuing to breastfeed and that it worked so wonderfully despite what happened. You are one strong mom!

  15. Bless your heart, I truly feel for you. I second the idea of wearing a non-nursing bra. I wear them about 95% of the time anyway (mainly because of my own self image). My 8 month old is a part-time twiddler. He will pull at the breast he nurses on also and it drives me up the wall. my solution during the day (because we don’t co-sleep) has been to wear non-nursing clothing and just pull up from the bottom. It creates a barrier between him and the other breast (can’t get a hand in there!) and gives him something to pull at other than the tender skin of my boob! I can see where that might work at night too with a ribbed tank or something like that. Best of luck to you!

  16. Pingback: Night Weaning Questions « The Adventures of Lactating Girl

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