Biting and teething during breast feeding
Got a biter? If your bub bites during a feed, learn how to teach him that it’s a no-no.
Your sweet little baby – cuddly and gorgeous as he is – can become a source of real pain if he decides to chomp on your nipple when breast feeding. Biting is a common peril during breast feeding, yet there are ways to teach your little one that it’s not on.
Why babies bite when feeding
There are a number of reasons why your baby may bite on your nipple during a feed:
- At the end of a feed, he may no longer be hungry and bites because he is bored or distracted
- If you’re multi-tasking, your older baby may bite to get your attention
- If your baby is teething, or has a cold or ear infection, biting may relieve his symptoms and make him feel a little better
- Some experts believe that babies bite as a sign of affection
What you can do to discourage biting
The most important thing to remember is to control your reaction – which can be a challenge when you’re in pain! If you react negatively or suddenly pull him away, it may deter him from feeding. Or, on the other hand, your strong reaction may delight him and encourage him to do it again.
If your baby bites, your best reaction is a calm one. Gently pull baby away – unlatch him with your finger if you need to – and pause the feeding session. He will soon learn that biting interrupts a good feed.
Here are other things you can do to minimise the chances of being bitten when breast feeding:
Focus on a good latch – if your baby latches on properly, it’s difficult for him to bite you. Read our article on an effective latch for a reminder on how to encourage your baby to feed well.
Soothe sore gums – if teething is the culprit, try to relieve his symptoms before breast feeding so he is less tempted to use you as a teething ring. Offer a cold toy to chew, or massage his gums with a clean finger.
Minimise distractions – feed in a quiet, dark room. If baby seems restless, don’t push it.
Watch for signs of biting – look for changes in your baby's jaw or mouth, especially at the end of a feed. If he slides his head back or adjusts his jaw, quickly unlatch and offer an alternative to bite on, like a toy or your finger.
And, from the earliest days of feeding, give your little one plenty of positive reinforcement. Extra hugs and praise go a long way to teaching him how to feed properly.