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What is Twiddling?
Babies and Toddler alike love breastfeeding and twiddling at the same time. It is actually nature’s way to initiate a letdown and help your nursling get more milk. Twiddling is one of those phenomena that you only learn about when experiencing it first hand.
Just like other breastfeeding mama’s, I had never heard of this habit until I read a post in a Facebook breastfeeding group. Shortly after it started for me and my son too. So if you are on this page I imagine that your baby already twiddles, and you are trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
As a parent you have probably noticed that all babies are born with their distinct personalities. Although there is a ton of literature on child care, the information is really only a guideline. Reason being, your baby is UNIQUE (and that’s the best part, right?)
Twiddling is the same, not all babies will twiddle as some might enjoy something else while breastfeeding. Sometimes those other activities can be equally annoying though such as hair pulling or scratching.
Why do Babies Twiddle?
Twiddling is a soothing mechanism for babies and toddlers. In other words it feels good for them when they are twiddling. Usually though it’s the act of twiddling that they like and it doesn’t have to be the breast. Many mama’s try to replace the breast with a toy or nursing necklace.
Another reason why babies twiddle is because it helps stimulate a let down through the release of oxytocin. If you think about it, this is nature’s way of making sure the baby gets fed which I think is just absolutely fascinating. Breastfeeding itself is already such a natural act, so this phenomena makes me feel like we are part of a bigger picture.
Milk supply itself is a game of demand and supply. When your child twiddles it initiates a let down which results in your child drinking more milk. When the breast is thoroughly emptied it will start producing more milk.
Many guides on increasing milk supply guides will tell the nursing mother that it is important their baby empties the breast. Reason being, the more the breast is emptied the more it will trigger to produce. If your baby gets distracted and stops breastfeeding, the leftover milk will delay the production of more milk. This leaves less milk for the next nursing session.
At What Age do Babies Start Twiddling?
The age in which a baby starts to twiddle can vary based on personality. Keep in mind that some babies won’t twiddle at all. It seems to be of general consensus though that twiddling and other breastfeeding habits starts around 4 months when developmentally your baby becomes more distracted.
At 4 months your little one is no longer a newborn and instead a baby. At this age they begin to have more awareness of their environment. Therefore you might notice your baby being more alert, happily engaging with others and, not sleeping very well. (Also known as the 4 month sleep regression).
My son Luca didn’t start twiddling until later when he was at the brink of becoming a toddler. Up until then we had a pretty relaxing and easy journey, so when the twiddling started I was not amused. This new found activity took on a life of its own and I struggle with it still. Now at 2.5 years old I foresee this habit to continue until he weans. However its gotten much better with these tactics to reduce the twiddling.
Different types of Breastfeeding Activities
Although twiddling is mainly associated with breastfeeding, there are other activities that babies and toddler enjoy doing while breastfeeding. A place where I’ve found a ton of resources is actually Facebook Groups. Specifically breastfeeding related groups like The Beyond Sleep Training Project and Breastfeeding Older Babies and Beyond. These groups are private and you need to send a request to join (you will be accepted as a mama). Once inside you will find a ton of information through posts from other mama’s sharing their struggles. The best part is that all that experience from other mothers are in writing via the responses on posts.
Some common breastfeeding activities courtesy of our awesome children.
- Based on the mom-chat on these groups I’ve gathered these habits of other breastfeeding children:
- Pinching nipple or skin
- Slapping sheet or moms face
- Scratching check or neck
- Pulling Mom’s hair
- Twirling moms hair around their finger
- Putting their fingers in mom’s mouth or nose
- Putting their fingers in mom’s belly button.
- Stroking / Massaging the other breast.
Should you let your nursling twiddle
Twiddling is common because it’s a natural way to stimulate let downs. Therefore, the short answer is it won’t hurt your baby or your milk production. It can be VERY uncomfortable though and personally I don’t like it at all.
Twiddling is helpful in keeping your child still. As they get older it’s common for your child to want move around while nursing. They might turn and twist and do all types of acrobatics which can make nursing challenging. If you don’t like the twiddles, consider getting a nursing necklace for those wandering hands.
Read more about which Nursing Necklace is right for you: All you need to know about Nursing Necklaces
Cons of twiddling
There are a handful of cons to twiddling as you might know. This is why you’ve probably found a ton of articles advising on how to stop this act. As a reminder twiddling is perfectly normal and the cons listed are based on personal preferences.
So let’s look at a few cons to twiddling:
- They might want to twiddle in public which often is something many mothers would like to avoid. In today’s society we feel a need to be modest when breastfeeding in public. Therefore when a nursling pulls the other breast out of your shirt it can make a mom uncomfortable.
- A very stubborn twiddler might want to twiddle as a soothing mechanism even when they are not nursing. They might try and grab at your breast throughout the day leaving you very little personal space.
- Twiddling can become painful if they start twisting and pinching too roughly. Usually this is in response to being already overstimulated and channeling that excess stress into your (poor) nipple.
Bond between mother and child
It’s hard to believe that twiddling is not talked about more. I’ve noticed a lack of mainstream breastfeeding support and awareness, which is partly to blame. Thanks to the few blogs that handle this question there is information for the wondering mama. You just have to know where to look.
I hope with this post you’ve come to understand what twiddling is and why your baby likes it so much. Now you can make an educated decision on how to proceed. Remember it is always ok to tell your child you don’t like it. They might get upset but consistency is key so that you are being clear on what you need from them.
You are not hurting the bond with your child if you stop them from twiddling. Breastfeeding in itself forms a beautiful bond between mother and child. It is also a relationship and therefore you have a say of what the terms are to that relationship. Twiddling while breastfeeding might be nature’s way to promote a milk supply but it is not necessary. You will have to decide if breastfeeding and twiddling is manageable, or if it’s time to change things up.
Did your nursling twiddle?
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