A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Twiddling While Breastfeeding

  • For our entire episode on Twiddling on The Badass Breastfeeding Podcast click here

Twiddling is defined by breastfeeders as the thing your baby does with their hand on your non-nursing breast. It’s when they stick their hand in your shirt and play with your nipple; scratch it, twist it, flick it, etc. Sometimes it doesn’t bother a person. With my first son I never noticed. It didn’t bother me. When I became pregnant and for the rest of my breastfeeding and tandem breastfeeding journey it made me feel like pulling my eyelashes out, stabbing myself and running through a wall. Or all of those things at once. I had to stop it.

While no one knows exactly why this bothers some people and not others or bothers some people at some point but not at another point, we feel fairly safe saying that it is related to hormones. Hormones pretty much run our bodies and they are running fast and loose during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

At first I felt bad for stopping it. My kids got so upset. But I learned that it was OK for me to put up this boundary. It’s my body. It makes me uncomfortable. And it’s OK for me to have boundaries. This is a relationship. I also realized that it was new territory for me. I wasn’t used to putting up boundaries and it being OK that someone was upset about it. Most of my life, and I imagine the lives of many women, we are taught to keep quiet and not make people upset, even if we are uncomfortable and upset. I’ve decided that’s nonsense.

I just love the lessons that my kids bring to me.

Because I also realized that putting up boundaries for myself teaches my kids that they can do the same for themselves. I am giving them that gift I was never given. People have boundaries. We learn this when people put up boundaries. And we learn how to protect ourselves. The beautiful circle of life.

Ok, now that you are ready to put up this boundary let’s talk details.

Your baby twiddles in part because they are wired to fidget with their hands. It helps them concentrate on breastfeeding. We also believe it helps to stimulate letdown. Twiddling can be seen in many primates.

  1. Hold their hand. You can try holding their hand when breastfeeding, play with their fingers, create this breastfeeding tradition from as early as possible.
  2. Wear a tight bra. I wore a sports bra and squeezed my breast out to breastfeed leaving the other one difficult to access. Once my kids got to a certain age, though, they were still able to get in there. Why are they so strong??
  3. Get a breastfeeding toy. Create a breastfeeding-only toy. A soft animal, squishy stress ball, anything you like that they can hold in their hands. Some babies like to play with tags. Make sure this is their special breastfeeding-only toy.
  4. Pull their hand away. This boundary is like any other lesson they need to learn. It will take time. Pick a phrase such as “Please stop” or “I don’t like that” and be prepared to say it 5 million times. Sat it gently over and over while you pull their hand away. My kids eventually stopped. After a while. A long while.

They won’t be happy about it. And that’s OK. You are there for them being the loving parent that you are. This boundary is a good thing. They won’t like it. And that’s OK. It’s hard to hear them cry. But they will get through. You will get through this together. Just like you’ll get through many difficult things together.