How Rosy Is Your Baby? AKA: The One Where the Baby Stops Nursing and Starts Biting

Childhood illnesses man. Ugh.

So a couple of Wednesdays ago, Eleanor suddenly started getting really fussy and clingy, nursing every 2-3 hours around the clock, and spiked a fever of about 101.5. A barely noticeable runny nose was her only other symptom, so I was a bit at a loss for why she had the fever. Zoey had a temp of 99 with every single tooth she cut, but Eleanor’s seemed to high to be teething related. (I vehemently reject any and all statements about how “kids don’t get fevers when they get teeth. Lies I tell you. Lies). The fever stayed until Saturday when she woke up with a normal temperature. However, throughout the course of the day, a rash slowly started spreading across her body. It started on her face, then traveled to her neck, back, chest, abdomen, tops of her thighs…it was everywhere.

It had been pretty hot around here, but Ellie had been in the house all day where it was at least tolerable so I didn’t think it was heat rash. Also, the rash seemed to be spreading pretty quickly. Worse, I couldn’t get Eleanor to nurse at all the entire day. Every time I would try, she would bite me. HARD. Not a quick nip either; she would clamp down and I would have to pry her jaws open while yelping in pain. The poor baby was also refusing to eat more than a couple nibbles of solid food here and there. When bedtime came around, Eleanor finally nursed, and did so again a couple times overnight.

Then came Sunday. Eleanor nursed at 5:30 in the morning and that was it. All day. Until MONDAY NIGHT. That’s about 36 hours folks. In 90 degree weather. I would try and try and try and just keep getting bit every time. I was in pain and frustrated, Eleanor was rashy, hungry, dehydrated and frustrated. We were both hot and doing a good amount of crying. I took her in to see a doctor first thing Monday morning after it had been 24 hours since Eleanor had eaten anything. I had been pumping milk as much as I could but, over those 24 hours, Eleanor had only taken about 8 ounces in her little straw cup. And that’s not discounting what she drooled out onto her bib.

By this point I had long since put my nursing Googling skills to use and was pretty sure Eleanor had Roseola. Sure enough, the doctor agreed that it was either Roseola or 5th Disease (a.k.a. Hand Slap Disease. It was definitely NOT 5th Disease – her symptoms were almost textbook Roseola). So I went home with a baby diagnosed with mild to moderate dehydration, advice to get her to take some liquids (Really doctor? You think so?) and not much else. In theory “she should already be feeling better.” Right.

I talked to a lactation consultant later that afternoon who suggested trying to nurse Eleanor after she had already fallen asleep and would be less resistant. So around 10:30 pm Monday night (remember, the last time she nursed was 5am Sunday!) I did just that and it actually worked! She didn’t nurse quite as long as she usually does, but I still called it a success.

Words can’t describe how I felt as I sat there in the dark, rocking and nursing my baby. This thing we had done so many times without a second thought now seemed so huge, so momentous. It had gotten so bad with the biting that I was sitting there, internally cringing, my fingers at the ready very near her face in case she clamped down again, dreading the moment when I believed she would inevitably bite me again. I didn’t trust her and I didn’t trust my ability to nurse her anymore. That felt awful. So after a minute or two of Eleanor successfully staying latched on and suckling, the flood gates of emotions opened and I had to try to stifle my tears so I wouldn’t disturb her and ruin everything. I was just so incredibly grateful that my tiny, hungry, dehydrated, exhausted baby was finally getting the nourishment she needed again. That I could give her what she needed. She woke up and nursed every 1-2 hours all night long that night, making up for missed calories and fluids.

My relief was somewhat short-lived as Eleanor again refused to nurse all day Tuesday. She wouldn’t bite so hard anymore, but just pull away and shake her head no. If I kept trying to push her to nurse she would eventually nip at me, but no unbearable chomping. It was as if the biting was her way of telling me, “No.” That night, she again was willing to nurse to sleep and several times during the night. Wednesday morning I talked to the same lactation consultant again who told me it was a good sign that Eleanor was nursing at night and that she suspected it may take another week for her to get back to nursing normally again. She was so encouraging that I actually cried both times I talked to her. She suggested that I try to cosleep with Eleanor if at all possible and snuggle as much as possible during the day to help encourage her to breastfeed.

It took a couple of nights of cosleeping and a lot of perseverance, but as of Sunday Eleanor was back to nursing “normally.” That is to say, she is now nursing three times a day (where previously she had been demanding to be breastfed every 3 hours) and two or three times during the night. I’ll take it.

Have you had struggles with breastfeeding? Did your babies ever “go on strike” or start biting you? What did you do?

4 thoughts on “How Rosy Is Your Baby? AKA: The One Where the Baby Stops Nursing and Starts Biting

  1. Totally. She didn’t do it on purpose, though, I don’t think. My daughter sometimes drew blood. It was extremely painful. I had to put a bandaid right around my nips, and she just had to deal with it. I would also nurse in different positions so she would latch in different places as well. Fortunately, it was just a phase. She hadn’t been sick or anything. I still don’t know what brought it on.

    1. Yeah, I kind of wonder if we just happened to hit that “phase” at the same time as being sick, but the two aren’t related. Who knows? I’m just glad she’s eating again and not biting!!

  2. Occasional nips here and there with both kids. But Keira chomped hard and consistently when she self-weaned around 15 months. All the die-hard breastfeeders around me said kids don’t self-wean before age 2, but she seemed determined to do it. I pumped for about 2 weeks in an attempt to maintain my already bad supply. I tried to have her nurse while asleep, while in the bathtub, while reading, while walking with her in my arms . . . you get the idea. It basically meant I was topless A LOT and in constant fear each time I tried.

    Wow, that got long. Probably because I’m still so upset about how breastfeeding ended! So glad that things are back on track for you guys.

    Also, do Roseola and 5th Disease just clear on their own?

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