Breastfeeding a Biting Baby - Teething Woes
Curb the pain of breastfeeding a biting baby with some of these suggestions
Extended breastfeeding is not for all mothers. It requires a lot of determination, patience and even high pain tolerance - especially when breastfeeding a biting baby.
Because some mothers fear being bitten and being in pain, they tend to stop breastfeeding as soon as their babies show signs of teething. Other mums consider biting as a cue that their baby is ready to start weaning.
Why do babies bite?
During teething, a babies’ gum is extremely sore and swollen. Because of this, babies will consistently drool and want to chew on everything they get their hands on including their mama’s breasts or nipples. In reality, some babies do bite and even leave some indentation on the skin. But this is only to relieve the pain and discomfort that they are feeling.
Contrary to what other people think, teething babies do not bite their mother’s nipples or breast while they are actually breastfeeding. When babies are nursing and latched on properly, it is physically impossible to bite.
This is because the gums and lips are positioned just behind the nipple with the tongue between the breast and the lower teeth. Teething babies only have the chance to bite when they aren’t nursing. It is those brief moments just before and just after nursing that you need to look out for.
Other reasons why babies bite is because they are impatient and can’t wait for their mother’s milk to come out. It could also be because they finished nursing and just want to bite at something to pass the time.
Biting prevention during breastfeeding
In order to continue breastfeeding teething and biting babies (even after their teeth have come out), all breastfeeding mothers should pay complete attention to their children while nursing. Studies show that older babies are less likely to bite when breastfeeding if their mothers maintain eye contact while talking or reading to them.
Teething and biting babies won’t have a chance to inflict pain on their mothers if they are latched on properly. Before suckling, the baby’s mouth should be wide open so that the nipple will be positioned far back in the mouth to avoid bites.
More importantly, mothers should never force their babies to feed. Babies who are not interested in nursing are more likely to bite just to get their message across.
How long will baby keep biting for?
Some babies never bite, but unfortunately biting is a behaviour that most babies do try. For most mums, biting is a temporary issue that only lasts a few days to a couple of weeks.
Ease the pain of a biting baby
As soon as the bite is felt, stop the nursing session. This teaches baby that breastfeeding and biting do not go together. Once baby lets go, remove him/her from the breast for a few seconds before giving him/her another chance to nurse. You might tell baby something along the lines of, “if you want to bite, we’re not nursing.”
If the baby is teething, when de latching, do hand baby a cold washcloth or chilled banana. Baby’s discomfort and pain will be eased by biting on these items. Do refer to this article for more home remedies for teething babies.
Try not to yelp when baby bites as you may scare baby into a nursing strike or worse still egg baby to keep biting as he/she finds it so funny that they continue to bite for the reaction.
For more information about breastfeeding a biting baby, please watch this video:
Need Help? Don't fret!
If you are worried about biting and your breastfeeding baby, please refer to a lactation consultant, who can offer you more personalised breastfeeding advice according to you and your baby's situation.
theAsianparent also has a Singapore Breastfeeding Mums Support Group that you can join for mum-to-mum breastfeeding advice.