Susanna was having a fussy day. She is mostly a very sweet-natured baby, which I attribute to cod liver oil. Several years ago, my sister told me that to get sweet-natured babies, take cod liver oil when pregnant. Her evidence was her second child, who was all sweetness, as compared to her first, who was more difficult. She's since had four more children, so maybe her advice has changed. As far as scientific experimentation goes, her sample size is far too small. But I really wanted a sweet-natured baby, and the doctors recommend fish oil for brain development anyway. So I took cod liver oil.

I have a sweet-natured baby. We are up to a sample size of three. When I say I attribute it to the oil, it's because I don't want to attribute it to luck. Luck can run out; fish pills can be purchased.

But even babies all loaded up with fish oil in the womb have bad days. She'd had a really rotten day, the kind where I come home from work and have the baby shoved into my arms as my husband is on the way out the door to go buy beer. She'd also started chewing on her hands and was requiring outfit changes due to the drooling. My knowledge of babies is limited, but even I recognized these as teething symptoms. I consulted the new parent's best friend, Dr. Google, to tell me what other symptoms I could check for, and just how long my sweet-natured baby would be replaced by this cranky one.

I didn't learn anything particularly definitive, but one of the symptoms of teething was the baby being "fractious." Most parenting information I'd seen had described periods of baby grumpiness as being fussy or cranky. But whoever was writing the baby articles that day must've been feeling that their English degree was underutilized and decided to educate the masses.

As a result, "fractious" became my new favorite word. It's a good word, one I knew from reading but maybe had never heard in use. Something about that hard 'c' sound in the middle really emphasizes the kind of irritability we're talking about here. It's a step up from plain old "fussy," describing an extended period of unpleasableness.

As for that day when she was fractious, it did not appear to be teeth, though I got a lot of mixed information on how long it takes to actually sprout a tooth. Her first little chomper did appear a few weeks ago. She was fractious one day, and woke up in the night twice in a row. Finally, we a tiny white and pointy thing appeared in her lower gums over the weekend. Its neighbor was not far behind.

Immediately, our nursing relationship was changed. She bit me. It was like when you get to the end and you start playing with your food. Like absentmindedly pushing your food around, except instead of pushing, it's biting, and instead of your food, it's my nipple. I yelped and pulled away. If you look up what to do when your baby gets teeth and bites you, this is exactly what you're supposed to do - take away the snuggling so she knows that biting = no snuggling. I'm not sure why anyone needs to be told to pull away from something that bites you, but it's entirely likely that many parents are masochists. I was on edge for the next couple of days, always scared that I was just about to be bitten. But it hasn't happened since, so I guess she figured it out. Must be the cod liver oil.

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