The inevitable. Biting. This is what most new moms are terrified about far before it happens. In fact, I had many non-breastfeeding friends and family members worry about biting when I told them my choice to breastfeed. I would be lying if I said that it won’t ever happen because it usually does. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your nursing journey.
Why Do Babies Bite?
There are a variety of reasons why a baby might give you a little love bite but most commonly it happens when:
- Baby has or has transitioned to a shallow latch (the end of a feed)
- Baby is teething
- Baby is bored or trying to get your attention
- Baby is distracted
- Baby is falling asleep
How to Prevent Biting
While it is uncomfortable and can be quite the surprise don’t let a bite be the end of your nursing journey. Most babies will react as a result of your reaction and are just as scared. A little positive redirection can help curb biting so you can enjoy pain-free nursing
- Remove baby from the breast when they are slowing down or at the end of a feed before biting can even take place. I knew when my daughter started the biting phase I paid very close attention to our nursing sessions to watch how engaged she was with nursing. After a few sessions, you can really become in tune with your babies tendencies.
- Does baby want to nurse because he or she is hungry or will a teether or cool treat do the trick? Sometimes you can try giving baby a teether to see if they chew or suck on it. If you notice they are chewing instead of sucking they probably just need a way to help soothe their gums.
- When baby is bored or wants your full attention you may get a nice little bite as a call for attention. Let your nursing sessions be a time for bonding and quiet. Nursing is a great excuse to take a break and enjoy the time with your baby so use it! This can also help you pay attention to those other cues that may cause baby to bite as well.
- The world starts to open up for babies as they get older. It really seems at the 6m+ mark they are so interested in everything happening around them. Sometimes they can be nursing well but then hear the mailman and accidentally bite when they stop to look and see what is happening. Again, pay close attention during your nursing sessions to watch for those cues. Most importantly, try nursing in a quiet dimly lit room to help reduce distractions.
- I have always nursed my daughter to sleep. Good or bad, it is what we do. I seemed to get most of my bites in the sleepy phase. I had to pay extra attention when I noticed she was no longer actively sucking and switch her over to a pacifier before getting a bite.
How to Handle Biting
In most instances, removing baby from the breast is effective. If you are at the beginning or middle of a session you can relatch once everyone is free from distractions and calm (bites can be surprising). If you are at the end of a session, you can just end the session entirely and redirect baby to another activity.
Most babies won’t bite longer than a second or two but if you can’t get baby to release their bite on their own simply place your finger between your breast and their mouth to release their latch. You can also pull baby’s face towards your breast and they should release on their own.
What To Do After a Bite
Most bites result in temporary discomfort and surprise but if you get a little bit more there are some things you can do to help soothe things out. Ice after and between feedings can help along with some over the counter pain relievers that have been deemed safe by your doctor and pediatrician. I have also used lanolin between sessions and have noticed some improvement.