Even though many breastfeeding babies have teeth, most don’t bite while nursing. Babies’ first teeth usually come through at about six months, some take longer and some babies are even born with teeth.
While this is the norm, there are those babies that do actually begin biting. Why? Because the baby is teething. If your baby is one of them, there are a few key things to know about preventing or stopping your baby from biting.
Teething and Breastfeeding
Why babies bite: Babies bite for one primary reason: They are teething. And when they are finished eating, consequently they move to teething. If you tend to leave them at the breast while you finish whatever task may be at hand or assume they need more time, they choose to start to teeth — at your expense.
What you can do if your baby bites: Most biting occurs at the end of feeding when your baby is full and playful. If your baby is teething, pay close attention to the feeding and avoid distractions. After feeding, remove your baby from the breast or offer a teething toy while leaving them near the breast. Babies learn to differentiate between the two. If I could speak for babies, I would say they don’t want to hurt their loving mothers.
What you can do if baby bites: Often the bite is such a shock that a mom screams or yells. That inflection is often all that is needed to stop further biting. But sometimes that reaction intimidates the baby and they have to be wooed back to the breast. They generally don’t stop breastfeeding, but may be a bit hesitant.
A good strategy to use if your baby does bite is to bring them quickly into the breast as this encourages your baby to open their mouth and release. Don’t attempt to pull your baby off, as this can damage the nipple.
What you can do to prevent future bites: To prevent future bites, do not reinforce the behavior. If your baby bites remove them from your breast. It isn’t necessary to flick or scold the baby, just don’t reinforce biting by allowing breastfeeding for the moment. Keep in mind that we fear babies biting more than babies bite.
If you have any questions about teething and breastfeeding and/or breastfeeding in general, talk to your physician or a certified lactation consultant. The Lactation Connection offers private appointments for you to meet with a board-certified lactation consultant.
Robin Hollen, RN, IBCLC
Robin Hollen is a registered nurse and lactation consultant at Renown Health.