When Baby Bites: How to Prevent Biting While Breastfeeding

Prevent Biting While Breastfeeding

It's at the top of the list of breastfeeding fears: What do I do if my baby starts biting? It's enough to make you cringe, but experienced mothers tend to agree, it doesn't have to be that bad. Breastfeeding mother Heather Jones commented, “It may hurt but it startled me most. The pain wasn't that bad. It's sharp and over quickly…”

Every baby tries at least once. It's how you handle the situation that will determine if it becomes a habit. The trick is to stop unwanted behavior from the beginning.

Biting happens most often during teething. Your nipple feels good on your baby's gums, but it's your job to teach you, baby, that your nipples are not teething rings.

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Always make sure your baby is latched on properly. It's impossible for your baby to bite if she has a good latch. A bad latch is a signal that your baby could bite at any moment.

Playing while nursing and “grazing” are times when your baby is most likely to bite. If the baby is not actively nursing, go ahead and end the nursing session, unlatching your baby with your finger in the corner of her mouth.

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If your baby does bite, give a calm but firm “No” and end the nursing session. Take it a step further and set your baby on the floor. It can take a couple of times, but your baby will soon get the message that biting while nursing is unacceptable.

Mom Heather Jones added, “…It was easy enough to teach my babies that if they wanted to nurse, biting was not allowed. I just stopped the nursing session by closing my shirt and sometimes even sliding the child off of my lap to play. I became aware of situations that signaled a possible move into biting which helped me to keep it from becoming a habit…”

Remember, it's not your baby's fault. Your baby is not biting to make you upset unless your baby has learned how to get an amusing reaction out of you.

If you're struggling, know you are not alone. Another mom, Mary Cleveland, had this to say, “…I put her down and told her no and that it hurt Mommy. I felt that once I started telling her it hurt me, she took it more seriously and was sad. Eventually, she stopped.”

What has your experience been with biting during breastfeeding?

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS

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