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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.


The Truth About Twiddling While Nursing

What is Twiddling?The Truth About Twiddling While Nursing The dictionary says that to twiddle is to, “twist, move, or fiddle with (something), typically in a purposeless or nervous way.”  So what does that mean when it relates to breastfeeding?  The truth about twiddling while nursing is that, across the board, moms seem to have a love/hate relationship with it.  That is because when a nursling twiddles, it typically means that they are poking, pinching or playing with the nipple opposite the one they are nursing on.

Why do Babies Twiddle?

Interestingly, it’s very difficult to find any literature about the physiological reason for twiddling.  A google search will find you endless threads and blog posts from desperate mothers trying to get their nurslings to quit twiddling.  It has been said that twiddling while nursing is a natural mammalian response to encourage a second or even third letdown by the infant while nursing (much like a kitten who kneads her mother or a calf that head-butts the udder of his mom to bring in more milk.)  Alternately, the truth about twiddling is that it’s something that keeps a baby’s opposite hand and constantly-moving mind busy while their body is required to be still – a focus point to allow your nursling to nurse longer, and calmer.

Should I Let My Baby Twiddle?

Twiddling while nursing can be sweet and beneficial for both the mother and the babe, but each nursing couple must do what is best for them.  If, as a mother, twiddling makes you so uncomfortable that you’d rather not nurse, it would likely be in your best interest to discourage twiddling.  Twiddling, by many, is considered a disadvantage of breastfeeding. However, many mothers find twiddling to be nothing worse than mildly irritating, and see no reason to ask their baby to discontinue the practice.

Pros of Twiddling:

  • Encourages a good milk supply by allowing more letdowns per nursing session, leading to a better emptying of the breast.
  • Allows baby to focus on the task at hand.
  • Can be very calming or comforting for a nursling.

Cons of Twiddling:

  • Baby may pinch, twist or pull the nipple, which can be painful.
  • Some nurslings may become so attached to twiddling that they become upset when not allowed (as may be the case in certain social situations.)
  • It can be really annoying.  (Sorry, just being real!)

How Can I Stop My Baby From Twiddling While Nursing?

When it comes to twiddling, it may be easier to discourage the habit from forming rather than trying to encourage your child to stop.  Methods to discourage include keeping your opposite breast covered, giving your baby something else to play with, and gently pulling his or her hand away when attempting to twiddle.  Each of these methods can also be used to help your baby stop twiddling once they have started.  While most women find that they can’t stand even the thought of twiddling, many more have found it to be a perfectly normal, biologically functional and acceptable part of nursing.

Does your baby twiddle?  How do you feel about it?

Sharing at My Joy-Filled Life.


Mandy is the mother to four year old Ronan, two year old Ruby and ten month old Ryder in the Carolinas.  She is passionate about birth, breastfeeding and gentle parenting.  She believes strongly in the power of honesty, and supporting all mothers.  She also blogs at Honest Mothering and can be followed on Twitter or Instagram.

Comments

  1. Can NOT stand it, lol. Once they’re old enough to twiddle one arm firmly covers the other breast or I’ll hold the offending hand. I think it’s just too much stimulation for me, I can’t do it.

    • Omg that is exactly how I feel about it. It makes me so uncomfortable! Especially when someone walks in on me nursing my baby and she’s doing that. Lol

    • That is how I feel as well , can’t handle it ..almost makes me feel like chalk on a chalk board sensation .
      I love nursing but not the twiddling I wish it would stop .. I can tried covering with my bra but she puts her hand underneat the bra and gets at my boob , lol .. Same with shirts ect .. If I bloke with my arm or hand she cried and starts pulling on her eye lashes or wants to switch boobs .

  2. My baby never twiddled the opposite breast, but constantly flings her free arm up and down, sometimes smacking it. She also like to grab my face; chin, nose, cheek. When it hurts I yelp to try to get the point across, but I usually just hold her hand.

  3. So annoying! My first didn’t do it, but my second did and he nursed a lot longer than the first.

  4. then there is the baby who does gymnastics while nursing, my third would end up totally upside down hanging from my shoulder — seriously child, just nurse and get on with the day!!! lol

  5. My first never did anything like that. She wanted to eat and be done. My 2nd would run his hand on my chest. My 3rd was obsessed with playing with my belly button! I nursed him for 2.5 years and I think the hardest part of weening him was the belly button thing. By that time I was pregnant with #4, and he constantly played with my pregnant belly! If I’m changing my shirt and he sees my exposed belly, he runs over, puts his face in it after saying, “I still love your belly!” My #4 has been the only one who tries to “twiddle” but I’m more comfortable with her just putting her fist in between my breasts, lol…she’s usually okay with that. Silly babies 🙂

  6. My current baby has become quite the twiddler. I don’t mind it at all!

    Thanks for linking up at the Babies & Beyond Link-Up! I’m going to be featuring this post at this week’s link-up (tonight).

  7. Interesting! I almost always have the other breast covered while breastfeeding, but once my son is done nursing, he almost always wants to “twiddle” my nipple. I stop him because it hurts! He doesn’t usually knead my other breast though. And I don’t remember either of my twins twiddling. Is it more of a son thing?

    Also, you should link up to How do you do it?’s weekly link up! http://hdydi.com/2014/02/03/parenting-link-10/ It’s for all mothers, though especially for those who have multiples.

  8. My son did it but not my daughter. Once he started, he always wanted to stick his hand down my shirt even when not nursing while he sucked on his fingers on the opposite hand. Then he began doing it to OTHER women, friends, Grandma, even the elderly nursery worker at church! LOL

  9. Oh I think it’s sweet. My son pats me behind my back, or pats the booby while he drinks. If he is tired he rubs his eyes with his free hand.

  10. Sarah D says:

    This is funny. I didn’t know there was a “name” for it! I can’t remember if my first one “twiddled”, but the second did a little, and the third did it a lot. It seems like a natural thing for babies to do, like little animals do as you mentioned. Mine never did it with the other breast, but would pinch and poke the breast they were nursing on or my arm. It would really only get to me when they pinched hard or had sharp nails. Sometimes, I’d look at my arm and wonder, “Where did all those little red marks come from?” lol

  11. Allison L says:

    My 19 month old son is a big time twiddler! He pokes and pinches constantly and absolutely will not nurse without twiddling the opposite side. It makes me crazy because it hurts!!! I haven’t yet been able to find a suitable substitution. Anyone have any thoughts on what really works to help them stop without hurting their feelings?

  12. It doesn’t bother me really, but sometimes it can be annoying. Lol and my daughter gets very upset when I try and make her stop. I start to laugh and then give up because she HAS to twiddle. It’s either rubbing the whole nipple with her palm or pinching and stretching it out. Or sometimes she’s pushing it in. I think it Bothers me more during her twilight feedings bc I want to sleep through it. She’s 20 months btw. Mom of four. 🙂

  13. My son never ever did this. He’d play w/ my face or stick his toes up my nose and twist all around and try to be busy w/ out having to unlatch but never twiddled w/ the other nipple….UNTIL around 18mo! It’s driving me insane! I’m about ready to bit the bullet and buy a nursing necklace because though I discouraged it as soon as it started, he fusses tirelessly to the point of I latching and crying if I don’t allow it. :/ I’ve tried instead to distract him by caressing the arm he’s trying to fidget with and that helps at times.

  14. Love my child, but absolutely cannot stand the twiddling. It hurts!

  15. He bruises me it hurts! But he won’t eat unless he can. I thought we were the only ones.

  16. I have 13 month old twin twiddlers. My first son who is now 9 twiddled and it made me uncomfortable (he tried to continue to do this after i stopped nursing). My twins literally snatch my breast out of the others mouth and immediately grab the nipple. Its funny to see the boys reactions but the teeth scraping my breast is no fun lol

  17. My 9mo old son started twiddling around the same time he started crawling (7mo). I thought it so funny that I told him if he pinched my nipples, I’d tickle his. I’d then tickle his chest and he’d giggle and stop twiddling…. Until next time.

  18. Though it can be extremely painful and annoying (especially in the morning when my daughter’s bored and/or trying to wake me up and is more likely to pinch and scratch during twiddling), I usually find it endearing. It’s cute, she’s just trying to relax and is absendmindedly playing with one of her favorite parts of her her mommy for comfort. She obviously greatly enjoys it so I see no need to discourage that relaxation method.

  19. Most of the time I don’t mind and totally understand why she does it!! The only time the twiddling becomes annoying is if she’s been sucking for a long time and has pretty much sucked both sides dry, then it becomes a bit much..but I can say the same for the sucking! I think it’s cute how they refer to our little ones as “nurselings” sounds like a fluffy little animal 🙂 Still breast feeding my 27 month old and still loving it! Breastfed my oldest daughter till 24 months( she’s 9 now)

  20. My 6 month little girl does it and I love it. It’s adorable and sweet. Yes, sometimes she’ll pinch or twist hard but I know she doesn’t know any better. It’s endearing and I know she’s just relaxing and content. They’re only little for such a short while and I want her to have a comforting experience. (:

  21. My 7 month old son twiddles when he nurses and I really don’t mind it. Only when he punches really hard I’ll say “ow!” and he’ll usually be more gentle. He even twiddles when he’s done nursing and just plays with my nipple. I’m sure he wouldn’t if I didn’t let him, but I don’t mind as I feel it is a sort of bonding.

  22. I don’t breast feed anymore I only breastfed for about 2 months because my baby didn’t want to latch on, he is 3 now going to be 4 and he just tries to touch my boobs and I can honestly say I hate it I make sure he knows it’s extremely inappropriate to do to me and to other women I makes me feel gross and I don’t let him do it idk why mom’s think it’s ok for ther kids to do this to them even if they are still toddler’s. Remeber mom’s it’s your child and he doesn’t control u, u are the boss not your child.

  23. My 2-year old always twiddles. He asks to “see other num num” – we only nurse from the left breast. And he likes to just look at it and tap it gently or hold it. It seems to comfort him immensely. And it doesn’t bother me at all.

    When he asks to see it in public or at daycare, I say “only at home.” And he accepts it with a little whine of protest. I say, “I know you like it, but Mama wants to stay covered in public – we’ll see num nums at home.”

  24. My daughter is 2.5. Her twiddling didn’t bother me to much when she first started doing it. Probably around 14 months or so, but now it drives me CRaZY! Around 6 months she started playing w her own ear. Her gma kept thinking it was odd and must of meant she had an ear infection, but to me I could tell it was clearly just something to play w while she nursed. Now she twiddles the opposite nip so much she cries when I try to stop it. She even enjoys using her toes to do it! When I do stop her, she cries and has to switch to that side suddenly. Of course then attempts to continue her twiddling on the other side. It’s the worst at night while I’m trying to sleep. Though I’m trying to cut back on night feeding a cause it’s affecting her teeth! 🙁 we now brush her teeth then I go “to work” meaning I sleep on the couch and let her sleep w daddy. It’s been nice getting to sleep w out being twiddled! It annoys me so much I crave to wean her just for that reason. At least I now know I’m not alone. She is so emotionally attached to nursing I’m thinking i won’t have the heart to officially wean her for sometime. If I could just stop the twiddling!!!

  25. britt91 says:

    My 2 Boys didn’t twiddle but my 9 month old daughter started doing it around 6 months old. I can see it keeps her calm when nursing but it’s annoying & Sore, she uses all her like strength to pinch. When I can’t take it I Cover my breast with my shirt although she goes and pull it back out. She also gets upset and refuses to nurse if she can’t

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