Does your baby play and touch the nipple that is free while he is sucking on the other one? This is a behavior popularly known as “tuning” (the child moves the nipple as if tuning a radio), and although it is completely normal and natural, it can be uncomfortable for some mothers.
We explain why the baby “tunes in” to the nipple while nursing and what you can do if this habit bothers you.
“Tuning” stimulates the ejection reflex
The milk ejection reflex is an automatic response that occurs when the baby is nursing from its mother’s breast. In this way, through the stimulation produced by suction, the milk begins to flow through the ducts.
The ejection reflex is especially pronounced during the baby’s first weeks of life, and in some cases it is even activated without the need to breastfeed , simply by looking at the baby, smelling it, touching it or listening to it cry. And it is that behind this reflex is the oxytocin or hormone of love.
In general, with the passage of time, the ejection reflex will soften , so it will take a few minutes for the milk to begin to come out since the baby begins to stimulate the nipple through suction.
Nipple “attunement” is an instinctive and natural behavior of the baby that consists of twisting, stroking, touching or squeezing the free nipple while nursing from the other. In this way, the baby will be stimulating the ejection reflex of the other breast in a manual way , so that when changing breasts, the milk flows quickly from the first moment and you do not have to make efforts to extract it.
Although it is usually a fairly common practice after eight months, not all babies “tune in” to the nipple, and if they do, it does not have to be a constant practice.
What can you do if it bothers you?
Many mothers are bothered by their babies “tuning in” to the nipple, especially as they get older, as they are stronger and can be bothersome. In addition, we cannot forget that the nipple is a particularly sensitive area , so pinching or twisting it can cause pain and even cause breastfeeding agitation.
If your baby has started to ‘tune in’ to the nipple while suckling, it is recommended that you address the situation as soon as possible, otherwise it could become a lasting habit (some babies continue to ‘tune in’ even after weaning).
Edulacta recommends carrying out the following actions:
– If your son is older, you can explain that what he does is annoying and ask him to stop doing it.
– Remove his little hand from the nipple and instead offer him a nursing necklace, a pacifier or any other toy that he can manipulate while he is suckling. We can also distract his attention by holding his hand , caressing it, kissing it or bringing it to our lips.
– In other cases it is enough to cover the nipple that is free so that the baby cannot access it manually.
Keeping your baby’s nails trimmed will also help prevent unwanted scratches or injuries.
Remember that your baby does not mean to hurt you
As we have been saying, the “tuning” reflex is something completely natural and is part of the breastfeeding process.
Remember that the mother’s breast is not only a source of food for your baby, but also provides calm, security and love. For this reason, many babies feel the need to touch, play or be in contact with the nipple that is free while they are nursing.
In no case, the intention of your little one is to hurt or annoy you. But if you don’t like it, redirect the situation in a delicate and loving way to continue enjoying your breastfeeding.