Breastfeeding and Biting: Why Does it Happen?

By Katie Roebuck

September 16, 2019

I am the mother of two children, an RN, Prenatal Educator, Lactation Counsellor, and Sleep Coach. My nursing career has been focused on Maternity and Obstetrics. I am based in the Niagara Region and I enjoy helping moms reach their goals with pregnancy and motherhood!

I remember the moment of fear – that first time I breastfed my son after his first teeth popped through. Will he bite? Will it hurt? Both my littles popped their first teeth at 3 months old and yes I did get bit, but with these tips, it was a short-lived blip in our breastfeeding journey. 

Biting does happen with breastfeeding. It’s usually a behaviour and can happen for a few reasons.

  1. Breastfeeding should not hurt, so even with a full mouth of teeth, you should not feel them. I mean, some mamas nurse their littles well into their toddler years! If you can feel teeth, take a look at your latch. A proper deep latch won’t allow baby to bite, and should allow for a pain-free nursing session.
  2. Teething is a big cause of biting, simply because their gums are sore and chewing on something feels good. Offer a cold cloth or teether to chew on before a nursing session so their gums won’t be as sore, and they won’t be tempted to use you as a teether!
  3. If your baby is biting at the end of a nursing session, they may be done feeding, bored, or distracted. 
  4. The baby may be also trying to get your attention. If your little one is biting, try putting down the phone or turning off the TV and paying attention to them, especially if they are biting at the end of a session. By focusing on your baby, you will be able to see if they’re becoming distracted or bored and may be able to prevent a bite before it happens.

If your baby bites you while breastfeeding, calmly but firmly say “No biting” and end the nursing session. Try not to yelp if you can help it since your baby might find your reaction funny and be tempted to try it again. If your baby is clamped down on your nipple, insert a finger into their mouth and release the bite.

By immediately ending the nursing session after a bite, you’re sending a clear message that biting is not appreciated. Even young babies will figure this out fairly quickly if you are consistent. Offer them a teether if they are teething, and if they are still hungry then you can resume the session with a nice deep latch.

If your baby has broken the skin of your nipple with the bite (cause those baby teeth are sharp!) you can use expressed breast milk and or a protective nipple cream to help promote healing. 

Biting is typically a temporary behaviour and with consistency, it can be stopped fairly quickly. If you have questions about feeding your baby, reach out to your local Mama Coach!

 

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