My 5-week-old son has started clamping down on my areola when he nurses. It's cutting off the blood flow (my nipple blanches) and I assume the milk flow as well, since he's gone from nursing for 20 minutes to nursing indefinitely (he'll keep at it for an hour until I finally give up and then I can still pump out an ounce easily, which is half the amount I'm normally able to pump when he's not nursing).
Have you any suggestions for breaking this habit? I notice that he doesn't do it as much in the morning, so I'm able to BF, but in the evening his clamp is so severe that I just can't suffer through it for more than a few minutes.
Thanks in advance.
Re: clamping down
Ouch. Before they have teeth, that clamping down thing is what we call BITING! Definitely not a habit you want him to develop. I repeat -- ouch.
Get your pinky finger in between his gums at the first sign of a clamp and get him off the breast. Be vigilant. Any signs of nipple soreness or damage?
If you take him off when he clamps, soothe him for a moment, and then try again to nurse -- repeating as needed -- he should soon learn that if he wants that breast, he can't clamp.
You are quite right that he's not getting any milk when he does this. To bite or clamp his jaws shut, he is probably pulling his tongue back -- so even if he's still sucking, he's not drawing any milk. If you pay really close attention, you might be able to catch the moment his latch changes as he prepares to clamp, and get your finger in there before those jaws slam shut on you.
My son started clamping (and sliding his clamped jaws side-to-side) when he was about 7 weeks old. I eventually figured out that this was pre-teething behavior -- it's possible for babies to have teething-style discomfort long before any teeth get near eruption. You might try letting him gum a cold teething ring. But definitely put your foot down about the clamping on your breast. Good luck!
Re: clamping down
Thanks for the tip about soothing in between delatches -- I've just been delatching and going straight back on (or giving up and pumping when it was just too painful). My areolas are quite bruised up, fortunately the nipples are far enough back in his mouth that they're spared. Let's hope he doesn't start teething any time soon! I've been telling my husband that if my son had teeth, I'd have lost the nipple by now :)
He does retract his tongue sometimes when he's not clamping as well. That action makes the little bumps on my areola burn like crazy. Fortunately, he only goes it for a short while and stops.