We know, we know, OUCH. We really do feel your pain! We’ve been through it and we can help. When you’re breastfeeding and your baby is biting, nothing about it feels like a “baby” bite. It feels more like your nipple is caught in a car door and the rest of your body is about 100 feet away. You want to keep breastfeeding but don’t want the baby bites, so what can you do? Fortunately, all babies, no matter how old, can learn to stop biting. Biting is temporary so stick with it, mamas.
Most babies try biting during the teething stage when they are around 6 months old. Teething hurts and chewing helps to relieve your baby’s pain, so basically your baby will chew on your shoe if you let him (we don’t recommend this).
Here’s the good news: A baby who is latched on and nursing properly cannot bite your nipple. If the nipple is far back in his mouth, and his lips and gums are about an inch behind the nipple on the areola, then his tongue will stop the bites because it should be between his lower teeth and your breast. Moral of the story: If he is nursing properly, he can’t bite. Nursing can and should continue when your baby gets teeth. Keep on giving that baby your liquid gold.
Tips to stop the baby bites, pronto:
- Biting at the end of a nursing session: Notice when he’s biting – usually it’s at the end of nursing and he’s playing around, though it doesn’t feel playful to you. WATCH for signs of boredom, watch for tension in baby’s jaw before he starts to bite down, he may pull his tongue back from the proper nursing position over the lower gum/teeth, or, you may notice the intensity of his sucking slows. If you notice any of these warning signs, remove that babe from your breast before the biting starts.
- When baby is teething, test the shark-filled waters:Biting is often brought on by teething. If baby seems to be teething, offer a teething toy or something cold to bite (instead of you). Offer your baby a teething toy and see if he starts gnawing at it or sucking it. If he starts sucking it, he’s probably hungry so proceed with the feed.
- Make sure your baby opens wide when latching on and use your pinky to help: Praise your baby when he latches on correctly, without biting.
- Don’t force the course:When your baby is distracted, don’t force a nursing. If he’s pushing against you with his arms, he may not be hungry or interested in nursing. Try lying down with him in a quiet room, walking or rocking. A quiet dim lit room is a great way to minimize distractions.
- Attention, attention, attention: If your little angel is biting, focus your attention on your baby while nursing because some older babies will bite for attention. Maintain eye contact, so you can catch the cues. In other words, be on guard, soldier.
- Praise, praise, praise him! ALL babies (and humans) love praise. Praise your babefor a good latch and withhold praise when baby is biting (obvs). Praise makes babies oh so happy, so don’t hold back!
What to do if baby bites:
There are a few things you can do immediately to stop your baby from biting. The most effective thing you can do is to calmly remove your baby from your breast (with your pinky) and either say nothing, or say something like “no biting.” Stop nursing immediately and remove the little biter for a few seconds or a few minutes (you need to be the judge of how long is best – use your instincts by your baby’s reaction). If he really wants to keep nursing, he’ll be upset and you can give him another chance. If he wasn’t really that interested in nursing, he may just start playing with toys.
What NOT to do if baby bites:
NEVER scream or yell. This is the most important thing to do and is of course hard when you are in pain – so come on, mama, you’re the adult here. Control those emotions, breath deeply and whatever you do, do not scream or yell at your baby. Many babies are so scared of yelling that they go on a nursing strike. Screaming or yelling will not stop baby biting – it will only cause problems. Often his feelings will be hurt and he will begin to cry. This is negative reinforcement and is not effective. Some babies will be so upset by your reaction that they will refuse to nurse altogether. Babies are sensitive.
Mama, you’ve got this. You are a superhero, so keep on doing what you do.
If you’ve been bitten, your nipple hurts. Use Rachel’s Remedy Breastfeeding Relief Packs to relieve nipple pain – it’s a miracle for mamas!