It’s an unpleasant truth of breastfeeding: Sometimes, older infants with teeth (or in the process of getting them) bite. It doesn’t happen when the baby is actually feeding; it’s not possible for the baby to draw milk from the breast and bite at the same time. But it can happen right after a feeding, or while the baby is taking a momentary break.
Whenever it happens, such biting is a hassle. Fortunately, there’s something you can do. Here are ten tips for handling your baby’s biting:
- Watch for signs the baby is “reaching” when latching on. If the baby is straining his neck and reaching while getting a deep latch, that’s a big clue that he’ll slip down on the nipple later, setting him up for biting.
- Know how to remove your baby from the breast without pulling. Slip a clean finger into the corner of his mouth, between his lips and your nipple, to break the suction.
- Watch for signs the baby is “changing gears.” Long, slow, rhythmic sucks are the sign of effective feeding, and a baby who’s been satisfied will then shift to faster jaw motions that are not rhythmic and don’t compress the nipple and areola. If your baby has been biting at the end of a feeding, you’ll want to be aware he’s nearing “done.”
- A baby who’s had enough to eat may be prone to distractions, which may cause “accidental” biting. Older infants are naturally more social and curious about their surroundings, but turning his face may take your nipple with him, and seem like a bite!
- Be alert to signs he’s slipping from a mouthful to the nipple, where he’s most likely to bite. Remove him from the breast–slip a finger into the corner of his mouth to break the suction, first–immediately.
- If teething is the cause, be ready to offer your child something soothing–a teething ring, a chilled damp washcloth, or something similar. If discomfort is what’s prompting him to bite, giving him something “ok” to bite will help you both!
- Remember not to take biting personally. He’s not biting you; he’s biting as a reflex. Try not to scold. It’s natural to react strongly to such a bite, but a yelled “NO!” might result in your baby being fearful of nursing. If you can, have a teething alternative ready and say something like: “Bite this, not Mommy.”
- Use positive and negative feedback appropriately. When you break the suction, let him know not to bite you. When he takes the teething ring, offer an extra hug or nuzzle.
- If your baby bites, you can push his head towards your breast for 1-2 seconds. Pulling away may seem more instinctive, but that doesn’t help him release the nipple. Pulling him closer will cause him to open his mouth, allowing you to remove him quickly. This approach isn’t as effective if biting has become a habit, but if it’s used the first or second time your baby bites, it might nip the habit in the bud. (Note: Avoid this approach if your baby has a stuffy nose.)
- Be consistent. Babies are smart, and yours will soon get an idea of what the boundaries are.
Dr. Mark Belsey, Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative expert, is the guest on “Born to be Breastfed,” on VoiceAmerica’s Health & Wellness Channel during World Breastfeeding Week.
Herndon, VA – 08/01/16 — Marie Biancuzzo, host of “Born to be Breastfed,” announced today that Dr. Mark Belsey, former director of Maternal & Children Health and Family Planning at the World Health Organization, will be a guest on her show on
August 1, 2016. The show will air from 6 PM to 7 PM ET on the VoiceAmerica Health & Wellness Channel, and it will be available as a free podcast on iTunes. Discussion will focus on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, from its origins to today.
“This year marks the 25th
anniversary of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative launch,” explained Marie Biancuzzo. “and I wanted to recognize the effort, which has finally received long over-due interest in the U.S. in recent years. Dr. Belsey and I will talk about how the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative came to be, and why it matters for everyone. We’ll also talk about how the Initiative provides valuable guidance for any organization engaged in caring for mothers and babies. It’s not just a pie-in-the-sky ideal. BFHI is a set of steps that, if together, are essential to good health care.”
“We’ve talked about the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative before,” Ms. Biancuzzo said. “but I’m looking forward to Dr. Belsey’s insight, as the former director of WHO’s Maternal & Child Health and Family Planning unit.”
Listeners are invited to tune in at 6 PM ET (3 PM PT) to the VoiceAmerica Health & Wellness channel. The show will also be available as a free podcast through iTunes.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Constitution
came into force on April 7, 1948 – a date we now celebrate every year as World Health Day. However, it wasn’t until almost thirty years later—in 1974—that the word “breastfeeding” first appeared in the context of a World Health Assembly resolution. The second time was in 1978, when “Health for All” became the slogan. The main aim of “Health for All” was to remove obstacles to health, specifically malnutrition, ignorance, contaminated drinking water, unhygienic housing, and medical problems.
Breastfeeding mitigates many of those obstacles, a fact which has since been well-recognized by the World Health Organization
. Malnutrition is unlikely when an infant is receiving his mother’s nutritious milk. Illiteracy, contaminated water, and unhygienic housing make formula preparation and dilution a huge risk; breastfeeding makes these moot. And, because breastfeeding provides a “remote immune” system, it helps with problems such as disease and access to doctors, drugs and vaccines.
This isn’t to say that breastfeeding is without obstacles! Families and healthcare personnel often know little about breastfeeding. From a cultural standpoint, we view modern technology—including formula—as improved ways for promoting health, and we view breasts as sexual objects, to be used for pleasure and marketing.
Here’s the conflict, then: Is formula a facilitator or an obstacle to health? Are cultural norms a boon for women, or an obstacle to breastfeeding? In 1991, the World Health Assembly saw the elimination of free formula in the hospital as a strategy for improving breastfeeding rates. But Dr. Mark Belsey thought that eliminating formula from people who had grown accustomed to it would raise other problems that needed some forethought. After all, how will the babies be fed if the families and hospital staff didn’t know how to breastfeed?
Unquestionably, support is helpful for anyone who sets a goal or undertakes a project. Whether you’re studying for an exam, trying to kick a bad habit, or shooting a basketball from the free-throw line, you’ve already seen that it’s easier to succeed when someone is cheering you on.
It’s the same with breastfeeding. Having support from your family, your healthcare providers, and your community helps you to reach your goals, and to overcome obstacles you encounter along the way.
One or more of these obstacles have happened to every breastfeeding mother I know. It’s likely you’ll encounter them, too.
Negative cultural beliefs and practices
It’s a popular myth: Dad feeding baby mom’s pumped milk from a bottle is just as good as feeding the baby directly at the breast.
It’s supposed to be a set-up that’s good for everyone:
The truth, though, is that it’s not good for anyone. Not baby, not dad, and not mom.
- Baby gets all of the milk’s goodness (nutritional, immunological, and other).
- Dad gets to nurture and bond with the baby through bottle-feeding
- Mom gets a little break during feeding time (often, this is a nighttime feeding).
Mark Harris, author of Men, Love, and Birth, has plenty to say about this topic. I’m eager to add to what he says.
Here are 3 reasons why it’s better for everyone—baby, dad, and mom—to nurse the baby at the breast, rather than giving pumped milk by bottle.
Few of us us feel like we have enough time to do everything we want or need to do. But there are even fewer who would suggest that nursing mothers have enough time. Breastfeeding creates unique challenges for breastfeeding mothers’ time.
Most time management gurus talk about the importance of adopting a proactive approach (rather than a reactive one) to managing our time. For example, high-achievers are advised to lay out their goals and objectives, schedule time to finish their “to do” lists, and let nothing get in the way of finishing their tasks and meeting their goals.
The mother who is committed to cue-based feeding for her baby would quickly find that whole approach going out the window. The breastfeeding woman is receiving clear messages from her whole body—not just her breasts—that she must stop what she is doing and nurse her baby.
Especially in the first six months, as the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy says, the mother and the baby are “inseparable.” It would seem hard to be anything but reactive!
Yet mothers often feel guilty for sitting and nursing their babies while the laundry piles up, an overdue report sits on the desk, and unpaid bills lay on the coffee table. Ugh. How is a new mother to manage her time?