When your baby bites while you breastfeed, it can be painful and make nursing an unpleasant experience for you. Whether it is because the nipple is still sore from the bite, or because you are in constant fear that it will happen again, this can stop you enjoying the quiet moments of nursing and bonding with your child.
How to prevent biting during breastfeeding?
It is impossible for a baby to bite if they are latched on and nursing actively. During nursing, baby’s tongue is covering the bottom teeth so it is physically impossible to bite on the nipple. That is why the most important thing you can do to prevent biting is to observe your baby. Often bites happen at the end of the nursing session, when your little one is full and no longer concentrating on feeding. Observe your baby closely and as soon as you notice a change in the tension of the jaw or you feel the tongue moving backwards, end the session and take the baby from the breast, to reduce the chance for a bite. If biting occurs at the beginning of the session, make sure that your baby is latching on properly – try switching nursing positions and find the one that allows your baby to properly position the nipple in their mouth.
Despite the fear many mothers have, the teething process is not necessarily the end of nursing. If biting is caused by teething discomforts, take the baby away from the breast and offer a teething toy.
Sometimes, if you are watching TV or talking on the phone while nursing, your baby may bite in order to get your attention. Dedicate the nursing time to your little one and focus on them. Choose a quiet room with dimmed lights and no distractions. This will help you maintain the focus on your baby, as well as keep your baby calm and settled. Talk to your little one, maintain eye contact or cuddle them. This not only provides attention for your baby, but also helps you recognize the signs that a bite may be coming your way.
If your baby is suffering from a cold, try breastfeeding in an upright position to make breathing easier.
Every child can learn not to bite, no matter how young – all you need is some positive reinforcement and persistence. Use a gentle and positive tone of voice to praise your little one when they latch on and off gently.
What to do if your baby bites
Stop the nursing session immediately. Try not to pull away (even if this is your instinctive reaction) because this can cause more damage to the nipple. Instead, pull the baby closer to the breast, slip your finger gently into the corner of your baby’s lips, between the teeth, and then pull the nipple out. Take a break from nursing if your baby is still hungry, or end the session altogether. If the bite has caused damage to the nipple, it is important to apply appropriate treatment quickly, before it develops into an infection. You can cool the nipple using ice, which will help with the pain, after which you could apply a breastfeeding compress which will speed up the healing process. Between the feedings, apply a protective nipple balm that will soothe and nurture the skin and provide protection from further soreness.