Little toothy pegs! How cute! Many people think that when a baby gets teeth it is time to stop breastfeeding. This just isn’t true. Babies have continued to feed with teeth for thousands of years.
In fact, the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding (i.e. no other fluids or solids) for six months and then continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for 2 years or as long as mother and baby desire.
Some babies never bite but many start experimenting when they begin teething. After all, they are learning what they can do with these new little chompers!
Biting is usually a temporary phase and there are a number of things that you can do to help minimise the frequency and intensity of the biting.
A Better Latch = Less Baby Biting!
When a baby is latched well and feeding effectively their tongue covers their bottom teeth making it impossible to bite. So, paying attention to their latch can prevent a bite.
Make sure your baby opens wide to get a large mouthful of breast and praise your baby when they do. Often towards the end of a feed the baby’s latch can slip, making it easier to bite.
Pay attention to how you baby is feeding and, if you see your baby start to slow down or if you see their latch changing, remove them from the breast.
If you find that your baby is biting at the beginning of a feed try giving them something that they can chew on prior to feeding. A teething toy or something cold can help relieve the symptoms of teething and may, in turn, reduce biting.
What Other Reasons Are There for a Baby Biting While Breastfeeding?
Sometimes babies bite when they are not hungry or not interested in feeding. If you have offered the breast and they are not interested, try again in a little while.
Distraction, such as reading a book to your baby, can not only keep your baby interested in feeding but holding the book above eye height will cause your baby to tilt their head back to see the book and by doing this assist a deep latch. Feeding while standing and rocking or swaying may help to sooth a distracted baby and keep them interested in the feed.
If your baby does bite your first reaction is to pull them backwards and off the breast but doing this can damage your breast tissue. Try bringing your baby towards you, close into the breast. Doing this can make it momentarily uncomfortable to breathe and your baby will automatically open their mouth and spontaneously release your breast.
If your baby is biting down and won’t let go gently insert your finger between their gums and then remove them from the breast.
Dealing with Your Emotions is So Important when Your Baby Bites
Biting hurts and can often catch you by surprise and you may find that you yell out in pain. Babies can be startled or even scared by your reaction and be temporarily reluctant to go back to the breast. If this happens, give your baby lots or reassurance and extra cuddles.
Yelling (on purpose) as a method of changing biting behaviour isn’t very effective and may have undesired results. A gentler approach is to simply stop the feed for a few moments. Babies are very clever and your baby will quickly learn that biting doesn’t get them fed.
Sometimes, when your milk supply dips a baby may bite and pull back, trying to get another milk ejection from the breast. Some factors that may negatively affect milk supply are: resuming menses, pregnancy while breastfeeding, hormonal birth control methods, some medications and supplements, and even stress.
Remember, if your baby is gaining weight appropriately, they are getting enough milk. If you have questions about your milk supply, check with an IBCLC for personalised, expert advice.
Did your baby ever bite you while breastfeeding? Do you have any advice for the other mums in our community who are facing a similar challenge? Let’s have a chat and support each other!