Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sucking disorder in a goat kid?

It makes sense that if something can happen in one species of mammal, it could happen in another species of mammal, right? One thing that most people don't know about me is that I was an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a La Leche League leader in a former life that ended about 10 years ago. One of my mantras was that breastfeeding was not supposed to hurt -- if it hurts, something is wrong. Often, the baby did not have enough of the nipple (and breast) in his or her mouth, which made the end of the nipple red and sore. The same thing is now happening with one of Star's kids, and Star is not liking it. I don't blame her.

Normally, she could be nominated (and probably win) Goat Mother of the Year. She does things that I don't see other does do. For example, after a kid has nursed for a while, she walks over to another kid and encourages it to nurse. Most goat dams don't pay attention to who is nursing, as long as it is one of their kids. Star is an outstanding mother, but this is trying her patience. I noticed yesterday that the tiniest of her doelings was not nursing correctly. Star has very long teats, about 2-3 inches long at rest. This is pretty long for a Nigerian dwarf. Her kid is tiny -- less than two pounds. The little doe is sucking on only the tip of the teat. Yesterday, I looked at the tip and noticed that it was turning red, which is clearly a sign that something is wrong, because this goat has black teats. I also could not hear the doeling swallowing, which is another sign that she is not nursing correctly. Today, the little girl still is not nursing correctly, and Star is starting to side-step when the little doe latches on, which means she is pulling the teat out of the doeling's mouth. In other words, she doesn't want to let the doeling nurse. She is still completely willing to let the other kids nurse though.

Here is a picture of the little doe nursing incorrectly. See how she is only sucking on the tip of the teat. There is quite a bit of space between her nose and the udder.

Here is a kid that's nursing correctly. See how the tip of her nose is up against the udder. When a human baby nurses correctly, the tip of its nose also touches the breast.

I used to see the same problem in human babies, usually after they'd had a bottle or two or three. Bottle nipples for human babies are much shorter than a human nipple when it is inside a baby's mouth, so when human babies suck on an artificial nipple, some of them get the idea that they should be sucking on something at the front of their mouth. In the case of this little girl, I think her diminutive size is the main culprit. Her mouth is just too tiny for her mama's long teats. She'd probably be perfectly fine if she were the kid of a first freshener that had tiny teats.

But Star is her mommy, and we have to play the cards we're dealt. Contrary to what I would have done with a human baby, I have given the doeling a bottle three times now -- once last night, and twice today. The Pritchard teat is a long, soft nipple that is pretty similar to a goat's teat. In this case, I think it might be helpful because this little doe obviously doesn't like the idea of something farther back in her mouth. The Pritchard teat is long, hopefully helping her to get used to the idea of sucking on something longer. Tonight I heard her swallow for the first time when she was nursing on her mama, so I am hopeful that she'll make more progress overnight.


Anonymous said...

Ouch....the picture of the littlest one suckling just makes me say ouch.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story on the LLL facebook site. I am a leader as well, and was raised on a farm with goat and drank goats milk. It refreshing and enlighting!
thanx again

Jenny Holden said...

That's really interesting, I'll watch out for that with my lambs. I think that one of my friend's puppies have the same trouble. He isn't as big as the others and makes her nipple very red and sore. I'll mention it to them. Thanks.


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