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HOW TO SURVIVE BITING DURING BREASTFEEDING – WITHOUT WEANING

Biting and breastfeeding are two words that no mom wants to say in the same sentence.

Biting during breastfeeding can happen not only when a baby is teething. Even a baby just born can bite while nursing.

A baby biting your nipple while breastfeeding can be incredibly painful even when they don’t have teeth.

I’ll talk about the different reasons a baby bites and what you can do about it.

Don’t worry, mama, this does not have to mean the end of your breastfeeding journey.

10 REASONS A BABY BITES WHILE BREASTFEEDING

Most moms think of teething as the time when biting can be a problem. However, a baby biting while nursing can happen at any time during your breastfeeding journey.

Biting while breastfeeding happens for different reasons. The reason for the biting will affect what you will do to resolve it.

Newborn Biting While Breastfeeding

Many mothers are surprised when their newborn bites while nursing. They assumed biting during breastfeeding was something they wouldn’t have to deal with for several months.

The birth process affects babies in different ways. For some babies, the result is biting or clamping down when trying to breastfeed.

Even though they don’t have teeth, it can still be quite painful.

Doing gentle massage at their jaw can help. 

  • Do jaw massage for 1-2 minutes before breastfeeding.
  • First, put your fingers at your baby’s jaw joint and gently massage in a circular motion, keeping your fingers in one spot.
  • Next, stroke down the sides of your baby’s jaw toward the chin.

Most of the time, biting or clamping by a newborn will resolve in a day or two.

If your newborn continues to bite or clamp down while breastfeeding, I would recommend that he be evaluated by a speech or occupational therapist who is experienced in working with breastfeeding babies.

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Baby Bites During Breastfeeding To Try To Slow Down Fast Flow

If you are a mom who has a forceful let-down reflex or an overabundant milk supply, biting can be a way that your baby tries to manage your milk flow. 

Strategic positioning will be your best tool if your baby is biting due to a fast flow or overabundant milk supply. Position her so that her head is above your breast. This can slow the flow and give her more control over the flow. 

Laid-back Breastfeeding Position

Straddle Nursing Position

Football Hold with Baby Sitting Very Upright

Baby Is Trying to Increase Milk Flow

It might seem counterintuitive that if a baby bites to slow down your flow, they may also bite to try to get more milk. However, this is a common reason for biting and pulling on the nipple.

If you suspect your baby is biting during breastfeeding in an attempt to increase the milk flow, try doing breast compression to increase the flow. 

Biting Because of Poor Positioning

Your baby wants to be comfortable during nursing. If his nose is pressed into your breast or his head is tilted down, this results in pushing his jaw together and increases the likelihood that he will clamp down on your nipple.

  • Before latching make sure baby is “nose to nipple”. 
  • Baby’s tummy should be facing your body so that he doesn’t have to turn his head to breastfeed.
  • Make sure your baby is positioned correctly, tummy to tummy.

Avoid positioning your baby so she has to turn her head like this.

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Baby Is Bored or Distracted

If your baby is not hungry or has fed and feels like she has eaten enough, she might bite out of boredom.

Another common occurrence is when a baby starts nursing for a shorter time than she used to. Mom sometimes thinks her baby can’t possibly be finished nursing in such a short time. She keeps trying to bring her baby back to her breast, and the baby just isn’t interested. Biting may happen at times like these.

If your baby comes off your breast and resists attempts to go back, trust that she has had enough and let the feeding be over.

Your Baby Thinks Your Reaction to His Biting Is Funny

Another lactation consultant I worked with shared a story about her experience when her daughter was teething. She said that the first time her daughter bit down, mom told her “No” in a firm voice.

For the rest of the day, her daughter would gently bite down and then look up at mom and grin. She thought it was a game.

Baby Wants Your Attention

Some babies want you to pay attention to them during feeding sessions. If you are looking at your phone or your attention is elsewhere, they may bite down in an attempt to regain your undivided attention. 

Some moms have found success weaning nursing necklaces to distract their baby if they cannot give their little one their undivided attention during every feeding.

Baby Is Not Feeling Well

If your baby has an ear infection or a cold, she may bite while nursing.

Clues that this is the cause is if they have a runny nose, a cough, or are pulling their ear or rubbing the side of their head.

The biting should stop once your baby is feeling better.

Baby Is Experimenting

As a baby becomes more aware of his body, he will try different behaviors out. Biting is one of those things he may experiment with. 

This is one of those times when you tell your baby firmly that biting is not okay and end the feeding.

Biting Due to Teething

Teething is the most common reason that we expect a baby to bite while breastfeeding. Their newly emerging teeth are irritating to them, and biting makes them feel better.

TIPS FOR BREASTFEEDING A TEETHING BABY

Try rubbing your baby’s gums right before breastfeeding. 

Offer a breast milk popsicle before nursing.

You could also offer a teething ring that you can keep in the freezer. 

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HOW TO GET YOUR BABY TO STOP BITING DURING BREASTFEEDING

Whatever the reason for biting during breastfeeding, it is no fun.

First, try to determine the reason for the biting. That will have a significant effect on what you need to do to stop the biting.

There are things you will want to do and there are also things you will want to try to avoid doing to put an end to biting during breastfeeding.

WHAT TO DO WHEN BABY BITES WHILE BREASTFEEDING

If you have a biter, then you will need these tips on how to stop biting during breastfeeding.

How you respond will depend on the reason for the biting.

For a baby who is old, four months or more, I think it is always important to say, “No biting. Biting hurts mommy. It is not okay to hurt mommy.”

If biting occurs at the end of a feeding, you can watch for signs that your baby is done. A baby will often start to move their head back and forth, and if you see this, you can quickly detach your baby.

If your baby bites at random times during a feeding, immediately detach her from the breast and say, “No biting. You can’t nurse if you’re going to bite.”

WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN YOUR BABY BITES DURING BREASTFEEDING

Try not to yell out. Admittedly, that is easier said than done when it takes you by surprise.

I do not recommend that you bite them back. 

While some people think this will show your baby that what they are doing hurts, it is probably confusing to them when you say don’t do this and then do it to them. Plus, I just don’t think you should do something intentionally to cause pain to your baby.

WHAT TO DO IS BABY BITES WHILE NURSING AND DRAWS BLOOD

Nipple damage from biting doesn’t happen all the time. When it does, you would care for it as you would for any kind of nipple trauma.

  • Keep the area where the cut is clean
  • Apply some OTC antibiotic ointment.
  • Gel pads for sore nipples can provide some soothing relief.

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DO I NEED TO WEAN IF MY BABY STARTS BITING WHILE BREASTFEEDING?

It is rare that biting would require you to wean. Most babies will learn not to bite.

Biting does not usually mean that your baby wants to wean either.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON BITING DURING BREASTFEEDING

Biting during breastfeeding is a challenging part of your breastfeeding journey. In the vast majority of cases, it will be a temporary bump in the road. You should be able to go on to nurse for as long as you want to.

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