Sometimes, babies who are getting their teeth bite. It doesn’t actually happen while your baby is nursing–the motion of baby’s mouth when biting is different and incompatible with the motion of nursing. Rather, it tends to happen when the baby is put to the breast for a feeding, or at the end. Whenever it happens, it hurts! If your baby bites, try these strategies:
1) Watch for a baby who is “reaching” when latching on. If your baby is straining his neck and reaching to get a deep latch, it’s a big clue that he is headed for slipping down on the nipple later. Slipping sets him up for biting.
2) Watch for “changing gears.” After your baby has suckled happily with long, slow, rhythmic sucks to get all the milk he wants, he will begin to make faster jaw motions that are not rhythmic, and do not compress the nipple and areola. This is a sign that he is nearly finished, which can be a clue that biting may follow.
3) Watch for signs of satiety, including distractions. Older babies are naturally more social and more curious about their surroundings. If you baby starts moving his neck and turning his face (often taking your nipple with him!) he may bite without meaning to.
4) Be alert for signs of baby’s mouth slipping onto the nipple. That tends to be a place babies bite. Slip a finger into the corner of his mouth to break any suction, and remove him from the breast right away.
5) Offer a teething ring when the baby bites. He may be biting because he has teething discomfort, so help him to find the right thing to bite on–a chilled teething ring or something similar, not you!
6) Try not to scold him when he bites. Sure, it’s natural to react, but mothers who respond with “NO!” can find themselves in a bad predicament if the baby interprets this as “no nursing.” Some babies refuse to nurse for many days afterwards, which can be hard on baby and mom! Instead, have the teething ring and different words ready. Offer the teething ring and say, “Bite this, not Mommy.”
7) Offer positive and negative feedback appropriately. Break the suction and let him know he should not bite Mommy. Offer an extra hug or nuzzle when the baby takes the teething ring.
8) If he does bite, push his head towards your breast for a second or two. His nose will become occluded, and he will open his mouth; quickly remove him. Although it seems intuitive to pull the baby away, it doesn’t help him to release the nipple, which only worsens the biting problem. If you try this approach the first time he bites, you may find that he quickly realizes that he shouldn’t bite. This strategy doesn’t work as well after the baby has gotten into the habit of biting. Also, don’t use this approach if the baby has a stuffy nose or any breathing difficult.
9) Be consistent with your approach. Babies are smart. They soon get the idea of what the boundaries are.
10) Be positive. Although biting can be a challenge, breastfeeding is good for you and your baby.