Many breast fed babies never bite the breasts that feed them. The very mechanics of how a baby takes the nipple and aureola far into her mouth in order to suck and receive milk make biting very unlikely during nursing. However, some babies do bite either when they are not completely latched on or while taking a break from nursing. Often this may occur during teething when a baby’s gums are sore and he or she is gnawing on anything that will help relieve the soreness. Here are some suggestions for coping when a breast fed baby starts to bite…
Once babies get teeth, they may not know exactly what they do and what they’re for in the beginning. Often a mother’s startled and pained response to having been bit is enough to shock a baby into ceasing and refraining from biting again. If it becomes a more regular occurrence, however, the mother may need to take some other tactics to stop the biting. It is important that a mother try to remain calm and I was actually taught that it is better not to yank the baby off the breast (this can hurt worse if he has the nipple between his teeth)–instead, bring the baby in and hold him even closer, this will cause him to release the nipple and wonder what’s up.
If a baby is dawdling after a feeding or becoming distracted, chances are this is when the biting will occur. As babies age, they become more active and while he may have been content to linger at the breast and drift off into a nap in his early months, an older baby has other things to do. If possible, a mother should end a feeding when the shows signs of being finished–if the baby starts to slow down or shows that he is letting the nipple slip partly out of his mouth–this indicates he’s finished with a feeding and she can remove him from the breast before he gets a chance to bite.
On the same token, these busy older babies may feel too busy and stimulated to settle down for a nursing. If the baby is resistant, crabby, or trying to get down, she’s likely not interested nor hungry and it is best not to try to make the baby feed. Wait until she’s quieted down or seems more in the mood instead of trying to make a baby breast feed when she’s not into it.
If biting seems to develop into a problem, a mother can remove the baby from the breast, or put the baby down if he or she bites. This will signal that feedings will not continue when biting is occurring. Some mothers keep a teething toy or appropriate object for chewing on nearby to substitute if it seems the baby is interested in biting. It is important to remember that most babies are not purposefully trying to be aggressive or naughty, they just aren’t sure what to do with their new teeth, nor do they know what is and isn’t appropriate.