Infant Tips

Biting While Breastfeeding

Ouch! I have to imagine that every woman who breastfeeds past the point of their baby getting teeth has experienced this. If not, you are one of the lucky ones as it can be very painful. Not only is it painful, but it was making me think that I may have to stop breastfeeding earlier than planned. Lulu is now 8 months old and my plan is to breastfeed her until she is 12 months of age. Therefore I had to do some research so I didn’t let those cute little teeth she has coming in get in the way of this special time.

I began to read up on reasons why babies begin to bite, and advice on things I could do to help get her to stop. After reading a few articles it started making sense. One of the main reasons babies start to bite is because they are teething. Another reason could be that they are sick, have a cold, or an ear infection. Just a few days after Lulu bit down for the first time, her second tooth broke through and she was diagnosed with an ear infection. Not sure if it was a coincidence, but it made me feel slightly better. Now we need to work on getting her to stop.

While I know it’s very unlikely that she’ll never do it again, we have certainly made progress in just a short period of time. I’ve learned certain signs to watch for, and also some techniques to use in order to reduce the amount of biting that occurs while I nurse.
  1. Stop feeding if your baby shows signs of being full. This was where I had messed up. Because she was sick, I couldn’t figure out whether or not she was upset because she was still hungry, or because she was in pain. By watching her closely, I can now tell when she’s just about full and pull away before she has time to bite.
  2. Don’t feed baby if she’s not hungry. This may seem obvious, but when Lulu is upset and I can’t figure out why, I immediately think that maybe she’s hungry. While she’ll latch on initially, if she’s not hungry she will pull away pretty quickly. Originally I kept getting her to latch on over and over until she basically said “enough is enough” and bit down on me. I learned my lesson.
  3. Stop feeding baby if they are not latched on properly. I didn’t really think much about this at the beginning, but it actually makes a lot of sense. If your baby is latched on properly and feeding then it’s actually impossible for them to bite. It’s when they stop swallowing and start to pull away that should alert you to take them off the breast. Lulu does this a lot. I know she’s about to bite when she looks up at me, pulls away slightly, and starts to smile. She knows exactly what she’s doing. Those babies are smarter than we think!
  4. Nurse baby in a quiet room. At about 6 months of age I started feeding Lulu in a quiet room with no one else around. She gets distracted way too easily, which sometimes makes feeding her near impossible. I didn’t realize how important feeding her in private was until she started biting. The more she had to be distracted with, the more likely she was to bite me. However, there are times when it’s just me, her and my 4 year old son at home. During those times I stress to my son how important it is that he not distract her, and that he try and be quiet while she feeds.

These are just a few things that I have found to be helpful. What advice would you share for someone experiencing this?

La Leche League has a great article on What Should I Do If My Baby Bites Me? And the mom community over at Babycenter is a great resource as well. Not only do these moms have great tips, but it’s comforting to know that we’re not alone, and that biting while breastfeeding is more common than one may have thought.

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Dr. Levine

Dr. Alanna Levine is a New York based pediatrician and a mom of two children.