Why Does My Baby Bite While I Breastfeeding?

If you are a breastfeeding mother, the thought of nursing a baby with teeth may send shivers down your spine.

You may be keeping your fingers crossed, hoping that the appearance of those sharp little buds holds off as long as possible.

Then the inevitable happens, and you begin to wonder what you can do to keep your little one from trying out her new chompers on you.

Unfortunately, every mother will experience a bite or two before their child is through with her nursing days.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help avoid as many as you can, but in order to do so, you need to identify why she may be biting in the first place.

When will Baby Start Biting during Breastfeeding?

In order to bite, they need teeth! You may get some gummy bites early on, but they will be nothing compared to the pain you will experience when the chompers sink in.

Most babies will get their first teeth around 6 months or so, but it can happen anywhere from 4 months (like I was so lucky to experience) to a year (wouldn’t that be nice!).

Once those teeth arrive, they will want to use them!

Not only do you now have to console your child as they deal with the pain of these little daggers trying to cut their way through a solid wall of flesh, but you also need to help them learn that they can’t bite Mommy.

The younger your child is when they cut their first tooth, the less they understand how biting hurts and the harder it is to get them to stop.

It can be very frustrating (and painful) as you deal with surprise chomps from your child, but it is important to remain patient.

Biting Vs Resting Teeth

You may notice some more subtle pressure coming from your baby’s teeth, but no sharp rush of pain like you would expect from a bite.

This is a symptom of a healthy wide latch, and is caused when your baby takes a rest when latched on. They relax their jaw and lean into the areola, allowing their mouth to close slightly.

Teeth marks and redness around the nipple area can become visible, but this is less likely to pierce the skin.

To relieve the pressure you can reposition your baby to wake them up, and prompt re-latching.

Why does baby bite in breastfeeding

Causes Of Nipple Biting While Nursing

Improper Latch

If you are lucky, your baby will have a great latch, all the time, every time, but in reality, this will probably not be you.

Even if you are diligent in the beginning, as you are both learning together, there comes a time when you may not be as careful.

Nursing will become second nature for both of you, and you will get to the point where all you have to do is position your little one and she will do the rest herself.

While you may not have some of the same repercussions of an improper latch that you did at the beginning (red, sore, hickey-like spots), you may have a new obstacle to overcome when those teeth arrive.

Your baby may be latched onto a smaller area, and before you know it you’re surprised when those pointed little daggers clamp down.

How To Stop The Biting

If you have a good latch, your baby’s mouth is open too wide to be able to bite.

Depending on the number of teeth your baby has, you may end up with a ring around your nipple (little teeth marks).

The sensation may be strange at first, as you will feel something hard scraping against your skin, but you will soon get used to it and it should not be painful.

You could also seek out the help of a lactation consultant.

Distractions

As your baby starts to get more active and interested in the world around her, she may become more distracted while eating.

Where she may have been able to tune out things around her before, everything around her catches her attention now. She may want to see who is talking to you or look at what you are doing on your phone.

With all of these distractions, she may start pulling off, or unlatching, frequently to look around.

She may then latch back on improperly, making it easier for her to bite.

Sometimes she may not release at all when she goes to turn around, clamping down and trying to take you with her!

How To Stop The Biting

There are two things you can do to avoid bites when your child is distracted.

One option is to wait until she is actually hungry to nurse. If your baby is actively nursing, she can’t bite.

If you are trying to keep a feeding schedule, and you try to feed your baby when she may not be completely hungry, she may want to do something else.

When this is the case, engage your child in another way, finding something to read or play with until she is ready to eat.

You can also remove distractions altogether. Go to a private room, turn the lights off, keep it quiet or have some soft music playing (something that will not distract or be engaging), and ask your family to give you a few moments alone.

With nothing to distract, you will be less likely to be bitten.

Illness

When illness strikes, your little one is bound to have trouble nursing, especially if it is sinus related due to the obstruction of the airways.

You may encounter a similar issue to those mentioned above.

She may have a small latch as she is trying to figure out how to breathe while eating, but then reflexively bites down to keep the nipple from coming out of her mouth.

She may also pull off more frequently to catch a breath.

How To Stop The Biting

The best thing you can do while your baby is sick is to continue nursing. The antibodies produced in your milk will help her to fight the virus and get well sooner.

In the meantime, until she is well, you can help her find relief in order to breathe and nurse properly.

Make sure your baby’s nose is clear by using a saline solution and nasal aspirator to loosen and suck out excess mucus. You can also use a vaporizer, diffuser, or the steam from a hot shower to give her relief from her stuffy nose.

baby biting breastfeeding

Teething

As your little one’s teeth are preparing to make their debut, she is going to want to find relief. She will begin chewing on anything she can get to, and that includes you.

Seeking comfort, she may want to pacify by nursing, and in doing so she may end up getting a few nibbles and chomps in there as well.

How To Stop The Biting

Babies at any age can learn not to bite. If they manage to sneak a bite or two in, an exclamation of “Ouch!” will startle them into letting go.

Tell them not to bite, reminding them that Biting hurts Mommy.

Some may have their feelings hurt just by this and may not bite again or may be a bit resistant to nursing next time, but through positive reinforcement, encourage them to continue nursing.

To avoid bites while teething, you can offer a teething alternative, such as a teething necklace or ring.

This helps them learn that there are things they can chew on, but your nipple isn’t one of them.

Be sure to watch them for cues that they are done eating, as babies will likely bite toward the end of a feeding, when they’ve lost interest in nursing.

They tend to give cues as to when their bellies are full, such as tensing up, remaining latched while not suckling, or getting fidgety. If you learn to read your baby, you can unlatch her as soon as she is finished.

Low Milk Supply

If you are lucky, your baby will have a great latch, all the time, every time, but in reality, this will probably not be If your milk is flowing, your baby is happy.

However, if your milk supply is lacking your baby may become frustrated. Your baby may be suckling and not receiving anything, become fussy, and then bite down out of frustration.

How To Stop The Biting

The best thing you can do to keep your milk supply up is to keep nursing.

Your body is an amazing thing, making milk on a supply and demand basis. Be sure you are getting enough rest (easier said than done with a baby, I understand) and reduce your stress level. If you need to, ask for help from your spouse.

He can take over some household chores to reduce your work load, and can give you a little break so you can nap if need be. What a better opportunity for baby and Daddy to get in some bonding time!

Also, take care of yourself, paying special attention to your nutrition.

Ensure you are drinking plenty of water by always having a bottle handy to replenish you every time you nurse. You need to make sure you are eating enough, getting about 300-500 extra calories per day, consisting of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Finally, avoid alcohol, as it has been found to hinder milk production.

Lack Of Attention

Feeding time when you are breastfeeding is a very intimate time between you and your baby, promoting closeness and bonding.

If your little one feels there is something coming between the two of you during these moments, she may try to get your attention in the quickest way she knows how: biting.

How To Stop The Biting

Watching your baby while she is eating lets her know that she’s got your undivided attention.

It can be such a heartwarming moment (if she’s awake enough) when you make eye contact and she smiles at you while she’s latched and eating.

You can also talk or sing to her to let her hear your voice. If she knows she’s got you to herself, even if it’s just for these few minutes, she will be less likely to bite.

If you are using a Nursing Cover, then be sure to use one with a rigid neckline and full viewing window.

It’s All A Game

Whether the intention is playful or not, it hurts like hell!

Biting will get an instant reaction from you every time, and your wincing may be met with a smiling face. Your child is not being deliberately evil, they can just be playing around. Amused by the speed and severity of your reaction.

How To Stop The Biting

Just as when they are teething, there may not be much more you can do but to reinforce that biting does hurt and to state this firmly.

If the behavior is repetitive you may need to end the nursing session temporarily until they set their minds on something else.

baby biting nipple

Risk Of Infection

Your nipples are prone to a number of irritations that can come from the exposure to friction and saliva while breastfeeding. These pose little risk and can be treated with general cleaning of the affected area.

A bite that pierces the skin can cause severe pain, and any resulting cracks or cuts can become infected.

Treatment And Prevention

If you keep the area clean then it should heal naturally in a week or two.

  • Use nipple caps if your baby is particularly bitey
  • A nipple cream like Lanisoh can provide relief
  • Air out the area and keep dry

If the area just won’t heal you may have to see a Doctor for assistance.

Can I Still Nurse While Healing?

Your baby will barely notice if you have cracked, or scabbed nipples. There may be some minor bleeding that could flow into your baby’s mouth. This will not do any harm though and will just pass through their digestive system.

You may notice some blood appearing in their diaper. The source of this blood may be your nipple and would be no cause for alarm.

Final Word

A little bit of pain while breastfeeding is just part of the deal unfortunately. Most irritations you will adapt to, but the bite is very painful and can prompt a mother to start the weaning process.

And who could blame them?

Baby’s usually learn fast though, and while they may find your reaction amusing at first they will learn that it does hurt Mommy if you persist through the inconvenience.

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