Biting by the baby while breastfeeding can be a painful experience.Mothers may misinterpretbiting as an indication that the baby is ready to wean. But that may not be the reason for a baby to bite, and you should continue to exclusively breastfeed your baby up to the age of six months.
You can prevent your baby from biting. But if they tend to bite often, then you may seek your doctor’s help or visit a lactation consultant. Read on to know about the causes of breast biting while feeding and ways to prevent it.
Why Does A Baby Bite While Nursing?
There are various reasons for baby biting while breastfeeding. Sometimes, improper latching and position can make the baby’s teeth press against the breast,and you might feel as if the baby is biting.
Here are a few reasons why the baby might bite while breastfeeding (1):
- Teething: Sore gums due to teething can be one of the most common causes of biting. A baby may bite to relieve the soreness of the gums.
- Too little breastmilk: Babies can become frustrated when there is low milk supply and might resortto biting.
- Too fast milk flow: Babies may become overwhelmed by fast milk flow or overactive letdown of milk, and may bite accidentally.
- Boredom: Distracted or bored babies may bite unknowingly.
- Attention seeking: Sometimes, babies may bite when the mother is not sustainingeye contact or is talking to someone else.
- Fall asleep: The baby may unknowingly clasp their jaw on the nipple when they fall asleep while breastfeeding. It is good to take them off the breast if they fall asleep while nursing.
- Ear infection or cold: This may interfere with swallowing and sucking and lead to biting.
If you suspect the reason behind the biting to be cold or infection, then see a pediatrician. It is also good to see a doctor or lactation consultant if the reasons seem to be inadequate milk production, strong letdown, and poor latch.
How To Stop A Baby From Biting While Nursing?
There are variousways to prevent ababy from biting nipples
- Say “No” when the baby bites: Say “No” or “No biting mommy” in a calm and firm voice if they bite the first time.Continue to feed the usual way. Do not shout since it may frighten the baby and may cause breast refusal (nursing strike).
- End nursing: If your baby bites repeatedly, then say a firm “No”, and end the feeding. This negative reinforcement method mighthelp your baby understand that the biting is not acceptable. You may calmly take them off the breast until they learn to feed without biting. During this phase, you can feed expressed milk to the baby.
- Offer something to chew: Biting can be reduced by offering something to chew before nursing. You may give them a chewing ring or a cold or wet clean cloth. This method can be especially helpful for teething babies.
- Pay attention: Paying attention to your little one while nursing may help reduce biting for attention-seeking. Try to give them warm touches and look at them while feeding. Always ensure that your baby is actively sucking and swallowing breast milk. The likelihood of biting is low during active feeding.
- Do not feed when they are lazy or sleepy: Lazy or sleepy babies do not latchwell. A shallow latch may increase the chance of accidental biting. It is best to feed the baby when they are alert so that they can feed actively.
- Ensure a proper latch: Your baby’s lips should open wide while the tongue should cup around the nipple. The tongue will also cover the gums in a good latch, and, thus,may prevent biting. If your baby has trouble establishing a latch, then place the baby as close to the breast as possible. The tongue will cover the baby’s gums during a proper latch and positioning. It is not possible to bite while actively feeding.
- Change feeding position: If nipping continues to occur, then you may try to change the feeding position. Try reclined or laid back breastfeeding positions to reduce scratches from baby teeth.
- Keep a finger near their mouth: This may help remove their latcheasily when they start biting.
- End feeding when the suckling is slow: Most babies bite at the end of nursing when the milk flow is slow.You may end feeding when they start sucking slow.
- Feed frequently: Frequentfeed helps maintain milk flowand reduce the chances of biting.
- Express milk: Some mothers express milk at the beginning of feeding if they have a slow letdown of milk, to get the flow going faster.
Baby biting can be controlled and prevented with simple measures. Switching to expressed milk is not an ideal way to cope with nipple biting. You may seek advice from a board-certified lactation consultant for personalized strategies to handle baby biting during breastfeeding.
Unexpected baby bites can be temporary. Keep the baby as close to the breast as possible so that they can open their mouths wide. Also, take a biting baby off the breast gently. If you suddenly push the biting baby away, then they may bite even harder.
Teething: Is It The Time To Wean?
Teething is not a sign to start weaning your baby. The World Health Organization recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding with no other foods or liquids (including water) (6). The baby can be given solid foods after the age of six months, along with breastfeeding, which can continue up to two years or beyond for optimal growth (7).
Usually, babies begin teething around six months of age (8). Some babies may be born with one or more teeth, known as natal teeth. In some babies, teething can happen even at 12 months. Since teething can happen earlier or later, it is not an indication for weaning your baby.
Nipple Damage Due To Baby Biting
Although it is rare to have severe damage from baby bites, the unexpected bite in the nipple area can be painful. Sometimes, a baby could bite harder when pushed off the breast while biting. In such cases, there is a chance ofskin damage to the nipple.
Bite breaks on your nipples can lead to infections if you are not taking care of them. You mighttry the following tips if your baby bit your nipple while nursing.
- Clean the skin with saline water to reduce pain
- Apply ice or cold packs for pain
- Use nipple creams
- Nurse with undamaged (opposite) breast
- Express milk until the wound heals
If the pain continues, then take over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol after discussing it with your doctor. Always ensure that you are taking medications that are safe during lactation. A board-certified lactation consultant can help you figure out the need for pumping and recommend some best breast pumps.
Explore all the probable reasons for your baby to bite your nipples. If you can identify the cause, it would be possible to avoid the trigger.
Biting should not be a reason to pause or stop breastfeeding. Engage with your baby while breastfeeding to ensure they are comfortable. You may also join parenting and breastfeeding support groups in the local area or online for support and encouragement or consult a lactation specialist.
2. Breastfeeding: why babies may bite and how to stop it; National Childbirth Trust
3. What can I do if my teething baby bites during breastfeeding?; Department of Health; The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
4. Steps and Signs of a Good Latch; WIC Breastfeeding Support, U.S. Department Of Agriculture
5. Breastfeeding Your Teething Baby; WIC Breastfeeding Support, U.S. Department Of Agriculture
6. Breastfeeding; World Health Organization
7. Breastfeeding; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
8. Eruption Charts; MouthHealthy; American Dental Association
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