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Hugs and…

January 28, 2010

I’ve been absent. I’ve started a post every day since last Saturday, but nothing goes anywhere. I want to keep writing about food, to actually write something substantive rather than tales of dinner-poop woe, for instance. Knowing there are some of you about to start the process, I want to impart those bits of wisdom I wish I myself had had, and such. Incidentally, a dear “in real life” friend just did the whole 4-month check up with her daughter yesterday morning, and the afternoon saw her excitedly shaking boxes of pulverized baby cereal at me. We are a strange bunch, new mothers.

But for now, let’s talk about what else Henry is doing with his teeth these days.

Henry is never without an upside down board book these days, pointing and intoning his complex self-made grammar in which every word is a differently emphasized “Dada.” (He slams the book shut: “Dahhhhh-Duh,” with finality). Last week he saw the familiar picture of kissing in a well-loved and now falling apart book, decided he liked what the ambiguously sexed and oddly twin-looking toddlers on that page were up to, pulled up on the front of my shirt and came in for a hug and quick sliming (his nose has been oozing for…the entire winter?). He is now obsessed with hugs, which made me weep with joy…at first…because he has never been a cuddly baby, and though I am not a soft one myself (tightly-wound I have been called, by virtually every romantic partner) I am not above begging for affection from my oblivious infant. Even as a newborn, even while sleeping in our bed, he would remain hooked up via the breast but push off my body with both arms and legs, to maintain maximum distance between us. He settles into me if he falls asleep while nursing, but the unconscious cuddle is not the same. But now! Oh! He pauses in his reading to throw his arms around our necks often.

But here’s the thing. Once hugging, he likes to bite. And he is not satisfied until he is deep into trapezius. And I’m a sucker–every time. He initiates a hug, I clasp him back, the Fates stop to smile upon our embrace–and then I realize what’s really going on. In my literal and figurative blind spot: tiny teeth.

As a parent, you can’t take anything personally. One of the ways we can gauge if Henry is definitely ready for bed is if he forcefully snubs his father’s attempt at a goodnight kiss (of course Baby Daddy is only home for bedtime a few days a week, so it’s not the best divining rod).

We have a firm no-biting policy (doesn’t everyone?) in this household, which gets you sat down on your butt (not ungently but with swift purpose), the words “No Biting” are said and the parent walks away a few steps. This should be a familiar practice to Hank and to myself (need I remind you of the unauthorized breast augmentation this kid has been known for?). But I’m more conflicted in this case than I am with the nursing biting. Putting him down when he bites while nursing only deprives him of nourishment. Big deal, right? But putting him down mid-hug deprives me of my due caressing. And, AND?! What if he confuses “No Biting” with “No Hugging”?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2010 6:19 pm

    Oh I so hear you. My little monkey hasn’t figured out the whole hug thing yet. She has never been cuddly. Lately she has been hitting, hair pulling, head butting, scratching and biting. I am at a total loss as to what to do! I mean you can’t discipline a 10 month old. Maybe I will try your “no” and put down and walk away. We have been trying to show her ‘gentle’ to no avail. I just wish I knew why the little monsters did this- we give them everything and then the literally try to hurt us!

    • Accidents permalink*
      January 29, 2010 9:03 pm

      Oh god, I hate to say “I’m glad” whenever another mom tells me their kid does the annoying thing my kid does (like not sleeping, or biting) because I wouldn’t wish most of this stuff on a person. But I’m glad we are not the only one with a biter.

      On the discipline thing: My two cents, or what’s worked for us in terms of using “NO.” So we do the sit down on butt and walk away (a few steps) thing. When I walk away? He SCREAMS. And is the saddest baby in the world. My solution at that point is to drop down on the floor with him and just be close, usually I start looking at a book near him. He always crawls the few steps over and joins me. I also don’t think you can really “discipline” babies this little, so staying away while he cries doesn’t seem like a good thing (plus I can’t do it). But I also don’t want to just create a situation that makes him upset and then comfort him the same way I would if he say fell down or something (picking up, kissing, nursing, etc.). So sitting down with him after that brief walk-away and engaging him in a quiet activity works for us. Letting him stay where I put him down, and giving him room to turn his attention to the new activity on his own, in my mind, sends a better message than setting him down and then snatching him up again, or trying to “distract” him with something flashy so he forgets why he’s upset in the first place (and the act that got him in the mess). But I can’t walk away completely, I think he’s a bit too little to calm down completely on his own.

      Hope that makes sense.

      • January 29, 2010 10:37 pm

        Yeah, it sounds like a really good method… we are going to give it a try.

  2. January 29, 2010 11:51 am

    Oh dear. We aren’t here yet, to say the least. Or maybe this isn’t a place we’re going to go. I somehow suspect that it’s completely and totally different for breast feeding and bottle feeding, and that is that. E, for example, chews the bottle nipple WHILE getting cuddles, because silicone feels no pain. As a result, I don’t see this as biting, I see it as chewing. Maybe it is biting? Dunno.

    Is it possible that H is hunting around to see if there are other milk dispensers on your body? That in his mind nursing-biting and hugging-biting are the same thing? Because E never bites, which might be due to the fact that he isn’t used to sucking/biting any of my body parts.

    • Accidents permalink*
      January 29, 2010 8:51 pm

      I think it’s fair to say that Hank has no sense of boundaries between his body and mine. I think that it IS in a large part due to breastfeeding, because he views his MOUTH on MY BODY as comfort, and if he is tired/teething/hungry/etc. he sucks/bites/kneads/grabs/pinches (he is a BIG pincher). For Hank, I know it has a lot to do with his relationship to my breasts.

      But that can’t be generalized, of course. Hank’s biting me has a lot to do with breastfeeding, I expect, because he doesn’t bite his father, for instance, or any of his care providers or other children…yet. If he did, well then he’d be more of a “biter” and less of a “bites-MOMMY’S-flesh-er.”

      But I know of a lot of formula fed babies who had similar body-pain-fetishes, you just lucked out with E.

      Our bodies are their comfort regardless of where the milk comes from, as you know–E spends a large part of his day strapped to you I hear…

      • February 2, 2010 3:30 am

        The pinching. Oh, the pinching. He’s just so GOOD at it, what with the tiny fingers and the tiniest pieces of flesh. Incidentally, the Mr. is strapped to me right now, kneading my shirt….

  3. January 30, 2010 12:51 am

    Neither of my children are biters…thank goodness. Because I, myself, am. It’s a weird compulsion that I can’t explain, really. I think you’re right on with the whole “comfort” thing, but it’s also something completely different, something just visceral.

    I realize this is making me sound like a vampire. I don’t bite NOW, okay? It was a childhood thing.

    • February 2, 2010 10:46 am

      I was a childhood biter, usually of things, not people, but the things were a SUBSTITUTE for people. I still get impulses to bite as an adult. Not in anger, but in…well I don’t know. You’re right, biting is so visceral. It also tests the limits between your body and another’s, is, like any form of touching, a connection between your body and an others, and it’s a power thing, to a certain extent. But I don’t indulge. I have to be civilized and adult. Sigh.

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