Google+ Authentic Parenting: What to do when your baby bites while nursing?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What to do when your baby bites while nursing?

There comes a time when every breastfeeding mother dreads. It's that time when your sweet cuddly baby turns into a drooling, biting monster. Some women fear this moment so much, they stop nursing altogether just to avoid being bitten. And that's a pity.
True, most babies bite when they're teething, or at least attempt to bite, and it can be pretty scary. But with the right attitude, some vigilance and swift crisis management, biting should quickly become a thing of the past.

Even before those tiny whites appear, babies can start nibbling on the nipple, to soothe the ache of their gums. This is uncomfortable but not yet very painful. Still, it might be a good idea to take action already at this point. When your baby starts to nibble or takes your nipple into a jawlock, calmly take him off the boob and put him down. Explain to your child that nibbling and biting hurts mommy and that he can't continue this behavior if he wants to nurse some more.
I can't press enough that you should at all time remain calm! Crying out would either scare your child (which might result in biting down even harder) or make him/her laugh because mommy is making funny noises. Getting angry at your child for biting doesn't help either. Your baby doesn't do this to hurt you! He does it because he's uncomfortable and biting soothes him/her. Of course, this same attitude can be held when the baby already has teeth and still bites.
Observe your child closely when he nurses. Babies can't bite down when they're actively nursing, their tongue being over their bottom teeth prevents them too. Most babies bite at the end of a nursing session out of boredom or because they are feeling tired/uncomfortable. When you notice your child is no longer actively nursing, take them off the breast.
Some babies bite because they are impatient. Waiting for the let down just takes to long for them. Same applies here: be vigilant, take your child off the breast when you notice he pulls his tongue away off his lower teeth. In this case put them back on imediately after (and hope the let down has come).
If you watch your child closely, you will find out when he manifests the biting behavior and you will be able to foresee and prevent it.

For my daughter, the biting lasted about six months. She now has a full set of teeth and never bites any more. She did bite down very hard once (on her birthday! She got spooked because the phone rang), and I had blood in my milk for a day - very scary. But we both survived and we're still nursing away happily at almost 21 months.

With the full set of teeth, sometimes she makes me think of a shark when she latches on. How about you? Did the teething go smoothly without biting? Did those pearly whites scare you off?



  1. The first time Ben bit me (he was about 10 mths old then), I calmly unlatched him, then very lightly slapped his mouth and said 'Ouch, no biting. Mummy feels pain when you bite'.

    It happened one more time after that (due to my slowness to feed him and he was really hungry), but still, I repeated the same thing.

    And since then, no more biting incidents.

    And he's going to be 2 years old next week and yes, we're still nursing and I'm glad I took immediate actions to this.

  2. Whenever my oldest would bite (my second doesn't have teeth yet and is not at the bitey stage), I would take him off, calmly tell him "No, biting hurts mummy" and wait for 30 seconds before letting him back on. He soon learnt that biting resulted in interrupted nursing, and stopped doing it.

    I never really thought a huge amount of it, and was a bit surprised to learn just how many people don't breastfeed past the "teeth" stage. I frequently got comments like "How many teeth does he have? And you're still nursing? Ouch!"

    And my own stepmother has told me she stopped breastfeeding her daughter at 3 weeks old (when she got her first tooth!)

    I'm hoping my second cottons on quickly with minimal bloodshed also ;)

  3. This is great, my son didn't bite for very long at all, probably 3 times in total - remaining calm and ignoring it was the key I think :)

    Thanks for linking up with the Breastfeeding Support Blog Party Link-Up! :)


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