Biting while breastfeeding is NOT a stage anyone hopes to go through – but many mothers do. It doesn’t mean you need to stop breastfeeding. Here are a few tips for getting this this challenge phase.
As soon as my kids get their first tooth, I get a little nervous.
Will they bite me?
My first son never bit me that I can remember. My second did a few times, but he had a terrible latch, and it often just felt like I had little razors digging to me every time he nursed.
My third son just got his first two teeth, and yep…he’s a biter. Fortunately this time around, I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, and it seems to be less and less.
If you are breastfeeding your baby you might have experienced the pain of your baby biting while breastfeeding. Chances are, if you are reading this, you are going through this right now!
Breastfeeding biting is a common problem in breastfeeding, but there are solutions to help overcome your breastfeeding biting baby.
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- Why Is My Baby Biting While Breastfeeding?
- Causes of Breastfeeding Biting
- What Should I Do If My Baby Bites Me?
- Act Fast
- Replace with a Teething Toy
- Get a Deep Latch
- Be Firm
- Express Milk Before Breastfeeding
- Do Not Pull Back
- Give Praise
- Make sure there is nothing in their mouth
- Is It Time to Wean Now that My Baby has Bit Me?
- Will My Baby Stop Biting?
- How to Heal Bitten Nipples
Why Is My Baby Biting While Breastfeeding?
Is your baby biting while breastfeeding and you are wondering why?
Many breastfeeding moms wonder why their baby is biting while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and biting could be caused because of a variety of reasons including being distracted, sick or a handful of other causes. Once you figure out the cause of the biting you can come up with a solution to end the biting while breastfeeding.
Causes of Breastfeeding Biting
There is no time chart to when a baby starts teething. Every baby does this at different times and it could be a long process or you may just suddenly notice a tooth with no signs of teething!
Teething is a big reason why your baby may be biting while breastfeeding. They are using you as a teether. If this is happening a lot, offering them a teething toy or breastmilk popsicle can help soothe their gums and they will hopefully use it instead of your breast!
In between feeds you can offer comfort measures, such as a wet rag on their gums, or camilia teething gel.
On a similar note, it’s possible that they have always tugged on you during nursing at one point or another, and you just didn’t notice it until they got teeth. With my current baby, I’ve discovered that he clamps down a little bit when he’s done nursing. Didn’t bother me when he didn’t have teeth – but now it hurts!
When your baby gets older you may notice they want more of your attention and may resort to biting while breastfeeding to get your attention.
If you are trying to let your baby know that you are paying attention, try giving them direct eye contact while breastfeeding. You can also try rubbing their arms or talking to them while they eat. This will help keep their attention and let them know they have your full attention.
You should also avoid being too dramatic or yelling or even saying no. Negative attention is still attention, and some babies will think you are playing.
Milk Supply Drops
Babies tend to bite and pull back on the nipple when they are trying to get more milk from your breast. Your milk supply may be low due to hormonal birth control methods, becoming pregnant while breastfeeding, medications, or even stress. There are many reasons to consider when you have a sudden drop in milk supply.
Be sure to check with a lactation consultant if you have questions about milk supply. Just remember if your baby is gaining weight and thriving they are getting enough milk.
Baby Has a Cold or Other Illness
If your baby is biting while breastfeeding check to see if your baby has a stuffy nose or has been pulling at their ear. It is more difficult for your baby to get a proper latch on your nipple when they are having a hard time breathing out of their nose.
The more difficult it is for them to breathe out of their nose the more frustrated they become and may resort to biting while breastfeeding instead of properly latching on.
If they get a cold or are stuffed out use a nasal aspirator to give your baby some relief before breastfeeding. It will help them feel more comfortable, but it might also prevent some biting.
What Should I Do If My Baby Bites Me?
If your baby is biting you, your initial reaction will probably be to yell and cinch up – you are feeling a lot of pain! But what should you do if your baby bites you?
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Act fast by watching to see if your baby shows any signs that they are about to bite. You can sometimes feel this about to happen by a pause in their eating and a tightening of their jaw. This is when you quickly unlatch their mouth to save you from getting bitten.
This has been the #1 remedy I have found with my third. I just pay attention to when he seems to be done actively eating, and he’s just kind of “hanging out”, and I make sure to pull away.
Replace with a Teething Toy
I actually picked this up from learning about what to do about biting puppies…ha! Chances are, if they are biting, and it’s because they are teething…it’s because they need to CHEW – and what better than their mama’s breast that they love so much?!
Replace immediately with something else that’s more appropriate for biting and chewing – and make sure it’s similar in feeling and texture. Anything silicone is great – I am a BIG fan of the Senso Teething Tubes. They are soft, flexible and babies LOVE them. Definitely have a couple in your pocket when you are dealing with a baby shark (use the code BFMAMA20 for 20% off)
Get a Deep Latch
So many breastfeeding problems can be resolved with a good latch. If your child has a nice, deep latch, their tongue will go over their teeth, and they simply won’t be able to bite you WHILE they are nursing.
As I mentioned, with my second son, he didn’t have a very good latch due to an undiagnosed tongue tie. it got lazier the older he got, and if I didn’t pay close attention, I would surely get bitten or just have his teeth dig into me while he nursed.
When I made sure to get a deep latch, it helped a lot.
When you are breastfeeding take this time to talk to your baby. Breastfeeding is not the time to skim through your emails or catch up on text and phone calls. You will find as you are talking to your baby you are distracting them from any ideas they may have to possibly bite or stop eating to play.
Stop the feed immediately and just be done.
Being firm is ok if you get bitten. Your baby doesn’t know that biting while breastfeeding hurts. Right after they have bitten you it is ok to firmly say “no bite” or “ouch do not bite me” and stop the feeding. Be aware, as I mentioned above, this may result in negative reaffirmation.
You should comfort them after a firm “no” has been given but do not offer the breast again unless they are still rooting in hunger.
You should never flick or smack their mouth in anger if they bite.
Express Milk Before Breastfeeding
Your baby could be biting because your milk is not coming out fast enough for them. They get lazy over time and get upset when the milk does not come out fast as they like.
Expressing milk before you begin your breastfeeding session could help with less frequent biting while breastfeeding.
Do Not Pull Back
All breastfeeding moms will tell you the same thing about breastfeeding and biting it is to not pull back once your baby has clamped down on your nipple and is biting you, especially if your baby does not release right away. Trust me this is easier said than done because it is going to hurt!
To get your baby off gently place your fingers between your baby’s gums or teeth to break the suction and this will make it much less painful to get your baby off your breast.
You may even try bringing the baby towards your breast so they have to open their mouth to breathe and you will find they will quickly release from your breast.
We all love praise and to know we are doing a good job. Your baby does as well. Once you start each breastfeeding session give praise for a good latch and a smile.
If biting while breastfeeding occurs, withhold praise. You will notice that the more praise you give your baby while nursing the happier they are and the less biting occurs while breastfeeding.
Make sure there is nothing in their mouth
This may sound weird, but with my third son, the main times he bites are when he has something in his mouth. I know this makes me sound like parent of the year, but once there was a tiny leaf he’d thrown in his mouth, and he kept biting me. It wasn’t until I fished around and found a leaf that I realized why he was biting.
Is It Time to Wean Now that My Baby has Bit Me?
If your baby starts to bite you, it does not mean that you need to wean – especially since most biting starts when your child still needs the nutrition from breast milk. It may time but focus on finding the cause of the biting and work on correcting the issue. You could be as simple as fixing the position that you breastfeed and review your baby’s latch.
However, some mothers find they can’t tolerate the biting or can’t get their baby to stop regardless of what they do. If this is your situation and you want to wean, that is a personal decision. If your child is before the age of one, you will need to wean to expressed breast milk or formula.
Will My Baby Stop Biting?
I am happy to report that most of the time, biting is a phase. Once you address the issue and have figured out the cause it will typically end quickly. You will notice that your baby is no longer biting while breastfeeding and the habit is resolved.
How to Heal Bitten Nipples
If your baby has bitten you while breastfeeding, try allowing your nipples to be exposed to air as much as possible.
Cold compression packs over a layer of clothes for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off will help soothe the nipple as well.
If the pain is really bad you can try relieving the pain with ibuprofen or Tylenol which are both safe to use while breastfeeding.
If you are struggling with other breastfeeding issues be sure to check out these great Troubleshooting Breastfeeding tips.
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Katie Clark is a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, and IBCLC student. She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.