If you have a baby biting while breastfeeding, know I understand your pain and frustration as I’ve been there multiple times myself! This post is full of tips and advice on how to stop your baby from biting while breastfeeding thanks to expert tips of professionals and seasoned breastfeeding moms themselves so that you can continue having nursing success!
I have three kids and I nursed all of them until they hit 11 months old. For some reason with my kids that’s just the magical age when they start showing less interest in nursing and way more interest in table foods. But I have so many mom friends who have had completely different experiences with nursing:
One friend of mine stopped nursing her baby at around 4 months and transitioned to formula.
Another friend produced so much milk she considered donating all her extra to a milk bank.
My aunt nursed her baby until he was 2 ½ years old, which is considered “uncommon” in the United States.
One of my sisters tried nursing over and over and over again and ended up having to supplement with formula.
My friend told me she didn’t want to stop nursing any time soon because she still felt such a bond with her baby. Her baby was 16 months and “didn’t really need it anymore”, but she wanted to keep that relationship.
A woman I know can’t breastfeed because of a certain skin condition, so she has to bottle feed.
In the United States, breastfeeding is encouraged by most OBGYNs, the American Academy of Pediatrics, other moms, aunts, cousins, relatives, etc. But the great thing about nursing your baby is that it’s a personal decision between you and your baby!
Sometimes circumstances dictate that you give your baby formula. Sometimes it’s easier to pump and bottle feed. And sometimes your baby just won’t take a bottle, and you have to cart her with you everywhere you go. Instead of judging other moms about their personal decision, we should respect that it is just that-a PERSONAL DECISION.
Ok, I had to get that out of the way. I just wanted to let you know that if you’re about to read this article, there is no judgment coming from me no matter what you choose to do. Babies have to eat.
Baby Biting While Nursing
So, if you are nursing your baby, what do you do if your baby starts biting while nursing?
The American Academy of Pediatrics published a book called the New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding. I recently checked it out from the library and loved this little tidbit:
Many mothers decide that it’s time to stop breastfeeding when they first notice a tooth. Usually, this is because the baby has nipped the breast at the end of a feeding session or because the mother fears she will be bitten. Yet many babies with teeth (or those who are teething) never bite when breastfeeding. In fact, an actively nursing baby will not bite, because her tongue covers her lower teeth. A baby who nips the breast as he starts to pull away near the end of a feeding can be taught to stop. It is a shame to allow this minor challenge to get in the way of breastfeeding so early on in your nursing relationship.” (pg. 168)
Your baby CAN be taught how to stop biting you! One of my friends said when her baby bit her she, “ . . . squealed and had him take a break from the boob. But then I always had to work up the courage to let him get back on.”
I think a lot of moms have that fear start creeping up once their baby bites them. They think that if it happened once, there’s a good chance it’s going to happen a lot going forward.
And nobody wants to be bitten, no matter how small those teeth are! In fact, even a baby biting with gums while nursing can be very painful, unpleasant and annoying!
How to Stop Your Baby from Biting While Breastfeeding
I opened up this conversation on Facebook and got the following suggestions for how to stop your baby from biting you while breastfeeding that revolved around a few basic ideas – Pull them in closer, make a loud noise, quick flicks, stopping nursing sessions, and to check for other problems like blocked ears.
1) Pull Them In
“I always kind of push them into myself and that makes them let go. Then stop the nursing session and after a few times they normally get it.”
“I pulled each of mine into me – basically squishing their noses so they had to unlatch to breathe. That seemed to work for each of them.”
2) Make a Loud Noise
“My mom nursed six kids and told me to say OW! really loud to startle the baby. Other people told me to press their faces against my breast, but that always felt like I was smothering them, so I could never bring myself to do it! I only have had one that liked to bite, and startling her worked! She only did it for a week, and then she was broken of it!”
“I screamed. LOUD. Then refused to feed for a few minutes. Only took a couple times for each of mine.”
There’s been some debate about whether or not screaming or yelling at your baby will cause him or her to go on a “nursing strike.”
It’s pretty painful when a baby bites you, (It’s been a while since I’ve nursed, but I DEFINITELY remember how it feels), so sometimes it’s hard not to scream or yell or make a loud exclamation.
Instead of punishing yourself for reacting in a very normal way, if you do scream out loud, just try to calmly reassure your baby that everything is ok and try nursing again after a few minutes.
3) Stop Nursing
“Immediately pull baby away. Biting equals NO BOOB. Then put them back on, but they are on probation, if biting happens again, pull away immediately. It took both my kids a couple bites to understand the cause and effect of BITING = NO BOOB. But I’m happy to report they stop once that sinks in.”
“Stopping the nursing session worked for my others. They were all old enough to sit up, so I would break the latch with my finger, set them down, and walk away. I would also tell them something like “Ouch! Biting hurts mommy!” I would try not to nurse again for ten minutes or so if they were still hungry, but sometimes they weren’t.”
4) A Quick Flick
“Some of my kids was as simple as a flick on the cheek and that was the end of it.”
“I did a quick flick to the forehead and that stopped the biting pretty quick. Biting is so scary, especially when they have teeth!”
“I give them a little pinch on the cheek.”
5) Check for underlying causes.
“Check ears. Sometimes kids clamp their jaws to feel pressure changes in their ears.”
Whenever biting happened with any of my nursing babies, I did a combination of the above suggestions. I usually inserted my finger to break the latch, looked at my baby sternly and said, “No. Biting hurts Mommy.” Then I would stop nursing and try again in a few minutes.
However, some of my friends tried many of these without much success and instead did the following:
“Suffer through!!! Nothing has really worked for my baby, but I did realize she was biting the most when she was teething. I just had to watch her close.”
“I tried the finger flicking, the yelling, and the “stop nursing session” but for us, nothing fully worked. I just suffered through it and weaned her at 11mo because she started leaving tooth marks and bruising. She weaned overnight so I assumed she was just ready.”
Experts’ Advice on How Do You Stop Baby from Biting While Nursing
So what do experts have to say about biting while breastfeeding?
Dr. William Sears shared some advice with Parenting.com on this subject. He recommended breastfeeding moms:
- Give him something else to bite on. Keep your knuckle or finger near the corner of his mouth. As soon as he starts to bite, immediately insert your finger between teeth and nipple. This will quickly protect your nipple. Between nursings, let him bite on a frozen banana or cool teething ring to both soothe his swollen gums and satisfy his need to gnaw on something.
- Try the pull-off-and-put-down technique. When baby bites, immediately take him off the breast and put him down. Don’t do this in any punitive way — just let him know with your body language that biting means an end to the nursing. By 9-months-old, most babies can learn this association.
Another suggestion from Dr. Sears was to “learn the timing of your baby’s bites as most babies bite toward the end of a nursing session.”
When I began nursing my first baby and had no idea what I was doing, I thought I should just let her nurse for as long as she needed to, and that she would pull off when she was done. I quickly learned that I shouldn’t let her go longer than 30 minutes on each side or I would become overly exhausted.
Once she got older, I would shorten the session to only 10 minutes on each side because I knew she got everything she needed in that 10 minutes, and any other sucking she was doing was just for comfort.
By the time your baby starts biting you, you probably have a good idea of how long they really need to nurse on each side to get adequate nutrition, and you can gently take your baby off your breast when the sucking slows down and let them suck on your finger instead.
Another great resource for breastfeeding women is La Leche League International. They suggest trying the PACED approach (acronyms always help me remember things a little better!)
- Positioning – Review baby’s latch, because if they’re on correctly and nursing actively, it’s physically impossible to bite.
- Act fast – When you feel your baby about to bite, slide that finger in there quick and get her off the nipple! Remeber not to pull your baby straight off as it may damage to your nipple.
- Comfort – Give a cuddle with a firm “no bite” and then offer a cold teether. Offer the breast again if baby is still rooting.
- Expression/compression – Do breast compressions to increase flow and remind your baby to suck and swallow. You can also express a bit to start flow at the opposite breast and quickly move baby there to continue feeding.
- Distract – Play and talk with your baby for a minute between nursing.
How to Deal with Breastfeeding and Biting Pains
So what do you do if you try all those things, but you still get bitten in the process? How can you help your aching nipples?
From Todays Parent.com recommends if you do get bitten while nursing to “smear a little breast milk over your nipple after the feed to help it heal, expose it to fresh air or rinse it with a soothing saline solution made with two teaspoons of Epsom salts and one cup of warm water.”
Something else I learned from this great book called, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League International, is to avoid immediately giving your baby a pacifier or bottle once the nursing session has stopped.
If your baby is in the habit of biting, they may just get used to biting on the pacifier and then forget they aren’t supposed to bite you when it’s time to nurse again. As it says in the book “Otherwise it’s a lot for a little brain to keep straight: one sucking source can be chewed all he wants, but another sucking source can’t.” (pg. 181)
I hope this article will literally help ease your pain and give you some ideas to try the next time your baby tries to bite you during nursing.
What did you do when your baby bit you? What worked? What didn’t? Comment below with your best biting while nursing tips!
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