Picture this lovely scene with me. I’m sitting out on my back deck, the one that took my husband the entire 9 months of my pregnancy to build, feeding my little babe. The sun is out, there’s a gentle breeze. I’m probably gazing lovingly into my little beans mesmerizing blue eyes. I’m sure we are talking all about the activities of our day. All of a sudden she clamps down like a vice with her gums of death. I surely shrieked in pain. I’m sure she pulled away with a huge grin.
Biting. Just when you think you’ve got this breastfeeding thing figured out, the biting begins.
Biting usually occurs between 4 to 6 months. During this time babies begin to cry as a cue for play, being held, and in general they cry for things other than feeding. Biting can occur if baby is offered the breast during this crying and they aren’t really hungry or if they have had their fill and they want you to know it. Biting can also occur in relation to teething and the eruption of a new tooth. Whatever the reason, it hurts and it is important to put a stop to it before your little love reeks havoc on your nipples!
Just a few tips for if/when biting occurs:
Remove baby from the breast; fun fact, babies cannot bite and drink at the same time so if they are biting, they aren’t eating and should be removed from the breast.
Firmly state “no biting.” It’s important to address the incident so baby can learn not to repeat.
Remove yourself from the environment if you need to; this is better than responding negatively.
Pay attention to baby’s cues in the future and remove from the breast when they are done eating.
It is important to try and stay calm when biting occurs because in some instances babies will refuse the breast following the incidence if the reaction to their biting is frightening to them. If you experience any breaks in the skin following a biting incident pay attention for signs of infection and follow up with your health care provider if necessary. A good thing to do is to hand express a little of your own milk, and then rub that into your nipple or the area of soreness or break in the skin. Then you can put on a baby safe lotion or oil such as lanolin, organic coconut oil or olive oil.
Biting is part of your babe’s development and is very common. Avoid a negative reaction to biting, such as yelling, raising your voice, pushing your baby away from the breast. Even though biting may be frustrating during this time, know that many moms continue to breastfeed successfully after their babies have teeth! Yes, its true! Moms breastfeed babies with teeth! Like we mentioned above, the best way to deal with a biting baby is to learn the signs that tell you your baby is hungry and then when she is done. If she bites you after or during feeding, simply take her off of the breast, calmly, and then begin again when she shows her feeding cues again.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and to continue for a MINIMUM of one year. This means that breastfeeding after your baby has teeth (teeth begin to erupt anytime from 3months on!) is encouraged and recommended. Make sure to offer your baby teething toys and necklaces. We LOVE the new stylish and useful teething necklaces that are out now. These necklaces look like cute, fashionable, normal jewelry, but are actually baby safe teething helpers instead! The Deila Teething Necklace is a great one, we like the Mint color, click HERE for more info.
Remember, your baby LOVES your breast, and LOVES you. Biting, nipple twittling and ‘playing’ with the breast are all different ways your baby tells you she loves everything about you and your milk. Try the tips above when you encounter a biting baby, and contact us for more help!
Bunik, M. (2012). Breastfeeding Telephone Triage Triage and Advice. Elk Grove Village, Chicago: American Academy of Pediatrics.
US Department of Health and Human Services. (HHS, 2014). Maternal, Infant and Child Health. Healthy People 2020. Retrieved from http://healthypeople.gov
Weissinger, D. (2004). The World of Latch On: One Leader’s Journey, 40 (1). 3-6. Retrieved from La Leche League International. http://www.llli.org/llleaderweb/lv/lvfebmar04p3.ht ml