Breastfeeding a Teething Baby

Breastfeeding and teething

Generally babies don’t bite — even those born with teeth. Babies that do bite are teething, and there are a few things you can do to prevent or stop your baby from biting. To learn more about breastfeeding a teething baby, we reached out to Robin Hollen, RN, IBCLC of Renown Health.

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. If your baby bites, there are a few key things to know about preventing or stopping your baby from biting.

Why does my baby 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 teethe — at your expense.

What can I do if my 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.

Often the bite is such a shock that a mom screams. 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 can I do to prevent future bites?

To prevent future bites, do not reinforce the behavior. If your baby bites remove them from your breast. It is not 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, working both inpatient and outpatient with moms and babies. She also works with the WIC program.

She volunteers to mentor those passionate about the field of lactation and provides numerous volunteer hours each month supporting moms who are breastfeeding.

MORE:  Breast is Best: Overcoming Common Breastfeeding Challenges