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Breastfeeding a Biter

Katlyn Joy |18, November 2010


Breastfeeding a Biter

Many nursing mothers begin to worry as they see their infants gums starting to bulge. Teeth! How do I keep my baby from biting me while nursing? Since the World Health Organization recommends nursing through the second year of life, and the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends at least through the first year, teeth are guaranteed parts of the equation.

Babies can start feeling discomfort due to teeth weeks before the pearly whites actually erupt. You'll know they are teething though when they begin drooling, chewing or gumming on anything in contact with their mouth, and experiencing general fussiness.

If you believe baby has begun biting due to teething pain, try these simple remedies.

  • Offer baby a cool wet washcloth or chilled teething toy immediately before your nursing sessions.
  • Rub baby's gums with a clean finger prior to nursing.
  • Avoid over the counter numbing agents, or at least consult with a physician first. These products can make nursing difficult as baby experiences gum numbness and it may numb your nipple as well.
  • You might need to give baby a cool washcloth before switching breasts during a feeding, too.

Behavioral Biting

Sometimes biting is more about being distracted, bored or just experimenting. To avoid this,watch carefully for signs that baby is about to bite. You may notice he pulls away from the breast but doesn't release the nipple, or she moves her jaw in a distinct way. Once you note the telltale sign of an impending bite, pull baby in closer to your breast and insert your finger into the corner of the baby's mouth to break any suction and protect your breast as you pull away.

If you notice baby is playing and not seriously nursing, end the nursing session before allowing the biting to begin. Or if you know baby needs to nurse, remove yourself to a quiet, or darkened room with fewer distractions. When babies get older, their attention can wane even though their appetite has not yet been satisfied.

Whenever baby does bite, quickly and safely remove your breast from the baby's mouth and say firmly, "No! don't bite Mommy!" Then do not resume breastfeeding for at least several minutes.

Improper Latching On

Evaluate how baby is latched on and the positioning of baby's body. A nursing infant who is correctly latched on cannot bite down on mother's nipple. If you notice baby is not latched on correctly, quickly insert a finger breaking the suction and reposition promptly.

A baby is properly latched on when baby's mouth and nose are facing your nipple and baby's mouth is open wide. Your nipple should be aimed at roof of baby's mouth. The base of your breast, about a one inch area around the nipple should be in the baby's mouth with nose nearly touching the breast.

For baby to bite, she'll need to adjust where your nipple is located in her mouth. She'll have to move it from far back in her mouth to forward, nearer her teeth. Pay attention if you notice that type of movement starting and stop nursing immediately.

A baby's nursing position may become more of a factor during teething periods, as certain positions may allow different pressures on gums. Try different nursing holds to find one that seems best for you and baby during this trying time.

Praise baby who has been biting whenever he doesn't bite. Never reward unacceptable biting behavior with nursing. For an initial offense stop nursing for several minutes. Subsequent biting attacks warrant at least a 15 minute time-out from breastfeeding.

If baby does go through a biting period, don't stop nursing all together. It will be simple enough to correct and you can continue your breastfeeding relationship. Talk to other breastfeeding mothers to find out how they handled this bump in the breastfeeding journey.

Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer, and just graduated with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado.

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remie Oct 4, 2013 03:51:12 PM ET

Whenever I am nursing my baby,she always bite me and if she notice that I'd been hurt by her biting,she will look up on me and give me a smile.she have 4 teeth in total and it hurts a can I stop her for biting me?if I pulled her closer she only bite me harder.

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