Here’s What to do When Your Breastfeeding Baby Bites
Sometimes when your sweet little bundle of joy get a bit bigger and starts to understand cause and effect, he might begin experimenting with biting.
It’s enough to make the quietest mom squeal in pain, no matter her surroundings. (I speak from experience!)
I remember sitting in my in-laws’ backyard nursing my baby when she was about 11 months old. My husband, his dad, and his brothers were playing a yard game, and I was chatting with my mother in law.
Suddenly, my sweet angel bit me (it was the first time) so hard that tears welled up in my eyes.
Of course, I let out a yell, which prompted all of the men to come running! Once they all started asking what was wrong, I was laughing/crying and too embarrassed to explain what happened!
Oh, I know how badly a bite to the nipple can hurt!
I’ve been bitten many more times since then in my 17 plus years of nursing.
But with the proper attention, breastfeeding biting doesn’t have to mean that nursing is over. You just need to understand what to do about it.
Does Biting While Breastfeeding Mean the End of Nursing?
Not at all!
Just like anything, your baby just needs to learn proper “dinner” etiquette! Biting while nursing is simply uncool!
Don’t let this annoying, and very painful habit lead you to wean your baby sooner than she is ready.
According to many studies, the longer a baby is breastfed, the smarter and healthier she will be, so it’s definitely worth it to work with your baby and gently teach her how to breastfeed without biting.
Perhaps it will help you to understand why babies bite while breastfeeding.
Why Do Babies Bite?
- Your baby could be teething. During teething time, babies will gnaw on anything, including your nipples! Just…OUCH!! Keep in mind, however, that baby’s can teeth for a very long time. Just because you don’t see teeth coming in, doesn’t mean they aren’t there and moving under the surface. This can cause both pain and discomfort, which can ultimately lead to your baby feeling the need to bite. (If teething is the case, then check out my post on all natural teething.)
- Sometimes your baby needs attention. I’m mean, let’s face it! Nothing gets a mama’s attention more than a bite to the breast! OUCH!!! Your baby might learn that by biting you, she suddenly has your full attention. Not necessarily good attention, but it’s something.
- Sometimes babies think it’s funny. Likewise, if your baby finds out that breastfeeding and biting gets your attention, then it might become a game. Not a game you particularly enjoy, mind you! I’ve had a couple babies bite me and then laugh. Meanwhile, I had tears running down my cheeks. Needless to say, I don’t think it’s funny! And I’m guessing you don’t either!
- Your baby might be bored. Letting your baby linger too long at the breast after a feeding is finished, could result in your baby biting you. If a baby gets bored, she’s going to try and find something to do!
If My Baby Starts Biting, Do I Need to Wean?
Many people think that when the baby gets teeth and has the ability to bite, then the nursing relationship has ended and it’s time to wean.
If your baby is nursing properly, then you should not feel teeth, even if baby has a mouthful of them.
And keep in mind that it’s physically impossible for your baby to nurse and bite at the same time, because the tongue covers the bottom teeth/gum when baby is nursing.
Some babies never bite, but for most babies, biting is a behavior that at some point they like to try, usually when they are teething.
Rest assured that biting can be stopped with a little persistence on the mother’s part.
Biting is, for the vast majority of moms, a temporary issue that only lasts a few days to a couple of weeks.
And when dealt with properly, it doesn’t have to define your nursing relationship.
What do I do to Stop It?
First, if you can:
- Try your absolute hardest not to respond harshly. Don’t scream if you can help it. I have let out some involuntary yelps that have made the baby stop biting, but immediately start crying. And then I felt horrible!
- Stop the Nursing Session and then calmly, but firmly say, “No.” Touch the baby’s mouth gently so she can associate your instruction with her behavior. Be careful not to touch too her mouth too firmly, and in doing so, hurt your baby.
- Don’t yell at your baby (on purpose). Yelping in pain is one thing. Yelling at your baby is another. Scolding your baby harshly could cause a permanent disinterest in the breast. Not to mention, it’s just not kind.
What to do if Your Baby Won’t Stop the Bite?
But definitely know this plan:
When your baby bites, the natural reaction is to pull her away from the nipple. Instead, once your baby starts biting, pull her more tightly against your breast. This buries her nose temporarily (you want to be careful not to cut off all air supply. This is done in a quick manner) in the breast, causing her to open her mouth to breathe. When she releases the biting pressure, immediately resume your normal nursing.
Alternately, you can try this option:
Instead of yanking feverishly when she clamps down, work your index finger between your baby’s gums and gently pry his jaws apart. Hook the end of your finger around the nipple to protect it as you take it from the baby’s mouth.
How to Prevent Biting
Make sure your baby has a proper latch. No one really knows the exact reason babies bite while breastfeeding.
We can only assume.
But having the proper latch will help make it less easy for your baby to just bite you.
She would have to change positions in order to bite down if she’s latched on properly, thus giving you a slight indication that she might be thinking about biting.
Watch your baby intently. If he finishes nursing, remove him from the breast right away. Don’t let him linger or boredom might set in.
If You do Happen to Get Bit, Watch for Infection
First of all, I’m sorry! And I feel your pain, literally! I have been bitten enough times to empathize with you.
Applying ice soon after the injury and even between feedings can be very helpful.
Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are safe to use while breastfeeding and can be used as needed.
Though it doesn’t happen often, your baby could bite you and cause damage to the nipple.
Be sure to inspect your nipple and keep an eye out for infection.
Additionally, if you have a bite bad enough to cause skin breakage, it’s more difficult to nurse both emotionally, and physically.
Also, be sure to watch for signs of mastitis or a plugged duct.
Recommended by MovingBabies
This is a good time to get out your breast pump. Be extra vigilant to pump and make sure your breasts are emptied.
Hopefully These Tips Help
If you’ve experienced breastfeeding biting, then you know how awful it can be. Follow these tips to stop breastfeeding biting and make your nursing experience pleasant again.
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