Ouchie: What to do When Your Breastfed Baby Bites

My first instinct was to scream, but I had to gulp it back. Next time, here are a few tips I'm trying... but I'm also hoping there won't be a next time 🤱🏻

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I’m a fan of breastfeeding. I breastfed my eldest until she was 2 ½ years old. Six years later and I’m at it again, breastfeeding my second daughter. And at almost 5-months old, we’ve encountered one of the scariest things I find about breastfeeding — biting.

I hate that moment when you’re peacefully breastfeeding and out of the blue, she chomps down hard. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s also bottle fed when I’m at work (my eldest was always direct-fed) and she thinks that my nipples are also as hard and unfeeling as a bottle’s — unfortunately for me, they weren’t and I can feel every gigil she does. Aside from screaming in pain (of course I won’t because then, she’ll wake up) or throwing her away (of course I won’t because she’s so cute and I love her ✌🏼), is there anything we can do to stop our breastfeeding babies from biting?

Why do babies bite?

Perhaps, the first thing we need to do is to identify the reason why our babies bite while breastfeeding. Here are a few possible reasons:

  • Poor latch. The fact that they can bite means that she’s not well latched.
  • They are distracted. As babies get older, they tend to get easily distracted. And once they do, they can forget that they are still latched on and close their jaws. Ouch.
  • They fell asleep. Babies might bite when they fall asleep while latched on, so it’s best to keep our wits and watch out when their suckle (or jaw movements) slow down and weaken. Once it does, it’s best to ease our boobs out before they can clamp down.
  • They might be getting down with something. Babies with a cold or ear infection could be having a hard time swallowing, so they might bite when this happens. If your baby has a cold, then you can try breastfeeding him in a slightly upright position to make it easier for him.
  • They might be teething. Teething babies tend to bite down on anything, including our boobies. Again, ouch.
  • They are curious. Some babies just want to do it because they want to. Or they want to see what will happen when they chomp.

How do I stop the biting?

Now that we’ve more or less identified why our babies bite (I think my baby falls under the distracted one), then here are a few things we can try to prevent it and save our nipples. Do take note that these will also depend on how old our baby is and how much he/she can understand.

  • Stay calm. Even if your first instinct is to scream and pull your boobs away. Don’t. Because first, tearing your boobs away from his latch can also be painful. And two, a strong reaction from you might shock your baby so much that he wouldn’t want to latch again. Or since babies are naturally curious, he’ll do it again just to see if he solicits the same reaction from you — defeating your goal of stopping his biting.
  • Talk to him and ask him to stop biting. Depending on his age, he might not outright understand your words yet. But maintaining eye contact and using a firm and calm tone to tell him that biting hurts and you don’t want him to do it might just convey your words’ meaning to him.
  • Put him on the floor after he bites. Especially if he’s already big enough to sit or crawl. Do so for only a short time and this can somewhat convey your displeasure for that he did (biting).
  • Be positive when he doesn’t bite. This is again applicable for older kids who are regular biters. Reward him with hugs, kisses, and praise.
  • If you’ve noticed that your child bites when you’re distracted, give him attention when he’s latched on. Give him lots of eye contact and talk to him while breastfeeding.
  • Try feeding your baby in a different position.
  • Try to minimize distractions by feeding your baby in a quiet place with low light, if possible.
  • Recognize when he’s finished feeding and take him off your boob.
  • If you think his biting is because of teething, give him a teething toy or massage his gums with clean fingers.

It might not seem like it, but soon you and your baby will get used to bite-free feeding. Latch on, mama.

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