Congratulations, your smile is now bedecked with two pearly razor-like
fangs err.. teeth that are almost as sharp as they are cute. And they are so very cute as they poke up on the bottom and shine with every smile.
Now that you have two teeth I should wean you.. Right? That’s the questionable wisdom that seems to be floating around amongst mothers and fathers that talk about such things. Because teeth equals biting and biting equals pain and pain means stopping.
I suppose that because your little teeth bit me first on the shoulder while I carried you that you should now be transported only in a stroller. And that because you followed that with a nip as I hugged you, that hugging has also come to an end. And because you have bitten me a couple of times with those little teeth of yours, that breastfeeding should definitely be done with.
Yes. It does seem odd to place a sensitive body part into a mouth full of teeth that can easily chew apart a steak. But then, you started gnawing on steak a good two months before you had any teeth to call your own. I’ve seen what those little gums can do to a piece of bread, a strip of steak, a piece of chicken, or a hard uncooked carrot that you have slowly ground down through persistence. All before you had those teeth. Had you bit then it would have caused damage as well.
As your teeth grow in they are itchy and they hurt and so you bite down on everything. You chew on your hands, you chew on toys. And sometimes without thinking you bite down on me. And it hurts. It hurts when you bite my shoulder. It hurts when you bite my arm. It hurts when you bite my finger as I try to brush your teeth. But I do not stop holding you, I do not stop hugging you, and I do not stop brushing your teeth.
Instead I try to see when it is that you bite. I watch you more closely while you nurse to see if you begin to get distracted. Close to the end of a nursing session when you begin to get distracted I pop my pinky finger into the corner of your mouth between the backs of your gums into that empty place that will be behind all of your teeth once they grow in. I lever your mouth open and pop you off. If you are still needing to nurse you will latch back on and nurse with renewed attention. If you’re all done you’ll be ready to play. I know that you cannot bite me when you’re fully latched on.
When you do bite me I quickly unlatch you and say “Ouch. No bite. That hurts mama.” And you cry sometimes because you were not done nursing. I latch you back on and your little chin wobbles as you nurse again.
I see this as the start of discipline. That magical crossing point where your wants begin to conflict with your needs. You need to be able to continue to nurse. You want to bite.
And just as your brothers learned… You will learn too. And just as your brothers learned as babies- we don’t bite. And because you learn this now at just a year old, you won’t be the one biting your classmates in preschool. You’ll have learned now as a baby that teeth are not for biting other people.
I don’t need to wean you for this, I don’t need to stop hugging you for this, I don’t need to fear the little ways in which you can hurt me. I just need to do my job and teach you gentleness through being gentle and consistent.
So rather than fearing this change and those little white teeth, I see it as a learning experience. We can go through this together, little girl. No need to part ways over a few sharp teeth.