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Help! My Breastfeeding Baby is Biting Me!

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The first time my baby bit me, I literally screamed out in pain. He’s my third breastfed baby but the first to pick up the painful habit of biting while nursing. Until he started teething, I never really understand what moms were talking about when they said they gave up breastfeeding once their baby started to cut teeth. It only took a few bites for me to realize exactly why so many moms throw in the towel around six months.

I don’t plan to wean anytime soon, so for the last two months, ever since he starting cutting his first tooth, I’ve been troubleshooting occasional biting. The first person I asked gave me less than helpful advice, actually telling me to slap my baby on the leg each time he bit. That wasn’t something I felt comfortable with so I decided to reach out to Aubrey Richardson, a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, for a little advice.

She explained that there are a few different reasons a baby might start biting. Sometimes, it’s because they’re cutting teeth or they’re frustrated by the mother’s let down, whether it’s too slow or too intense. No matter the reason, pain while nursing really sucks the enjoyment out of the task of feeding a baby. (Which is admittedly not all the enjoyable a lot of the time.)

Breastfeeding needs to be good for both Mom and baby,” Richardson said. “Usually after a few days of changes to avoid biting, the breastfeeding experience can improve.”

When it comes to making changes to avoid getting bit, Richardson had a few different ideas. If Mom suspects the baby is cutting teeth and clamping down on the breast to relieve pain, she suggests giving the baby a cold teething toy to chew on before breastfeeding. And if that doesn’t help, a lot of moms have success simply breaking the latch as soon as the baby starts biting and returning to nursing later.

Getting bit totally sucks, but there is no reason to throw in the towel if both you and your baby want to continue nursing.

Biting may also occur when babies become distractible and start looking around, so feeding with a cover on or in a quiet space or darkened room may help improve. Telling the child 'no, that hurts Mommy' each time they bite, even if they can't speak they still understand us, praising them for not biting also helps.”

In some cases, if a baby isn’t all that hungry they might be more likely to play around or bite. Richardson says to avoid forcing Baby to eat and always wrapping up the feeding as soon as they are done eating. If all else fails, some moms have success talking to their baby while they’re eating to distract them from biting.

It’s easy to get discouraged or even frustrated when a nursing baby starts to bite, but there are some things you should never do, no matter how bad it hurts.

“Hitting, tension or yelling are inappropriate and do not create a positive environment which breastfeeding should be,” warned Richardson. “Babies love to nurse and simple negative consequences like being removed from the breast should be enough to stop the behavior.”

And if your baby just so happens to break skin before the behavior stops, make sure you are taking care of the wound by keeping the nipples clean with saline soaks, which will also help you to avoid developing mastitis. Additionally, if you have been using any type of oral gel to relieve your baby’s teething pain, always wipe their mouth clean before nursing to avoid introducing bacteria to broken skin.

Getting bit totally sucks, but there is no reason to throw in the towel if both you and your baby want to continue nursing.

“Teething is just a passing phase,” encourages Richardson. “Babies don't bite to be cause and they don't have an intention of hurting you.”

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