So, a mum asked on our Facebook Page what she should do to stop her 7-month old daughter from biting her while breastfeeding. Some mums advised that she should spank, bite ‘gently’ and do all sorts… Please, DO NOT spank your baby when he/she bites you during breastfeeding. They are babies- they don’t intend to harm you. If you are honest with yourself, you’ll realise spanking/biting approach doesn’t work because your baby still bites during the next feed.
Biting tells you that your baby is either full, losing his/her “latch,” or feeling restless, playful, even curious. But remember, even though we feel pain when biting occurs, it’s not really about us (mums). Instead, it’s a sign of tiredness, boredom, or curiosity from your baby. We know sometimes it can be tough to keep angry reactions in check, it’s important to remember that your baby is still learning how to use his/her teeth and is not quite aware yet the effect of biting.
Why does my baby bite when breastfeeding?
Apart from being poorly attached, there are other reasons why babies bite:
- They are distracted. If they turn to look at something, they can forget they still have mummy’s breast in their mouth, and then close their jaws.
- They are full. Some babies bite at the end of a feed, when baby is getting bored and is no longer hungry.
- They fall asleep while feeding. Your baby may bite if he/she falls asleep during a feed.
- They are curious. Babies are curious, and some bite just to see what happens.
- They are teething: Biting can also be brought on by teething.
- They need your attention: As babies grow older, we tend to watch TV, chat, read and do other things when we are breastfeeding.
If you notice your baby’s jaw closing before he/she bites, put your little finger into the corner of his/her mouth, between the gums. This will allow your baby bite your finger, instead of your breast.
How can I stop my baby from biting?
Now, you may be tempted to wean your baby, but there are lots of things you can try before making a decision. You can try various tactics to stop your baby biting. The approach you take will depend on your baby’s age and how much he/she can understand.
Your baby’s new teeth are sharp. Our natural reaction to being bitten is usually loud and dramatic. This tends to startle the baby and sends the message that using teeth while nursing is a no-no.Sometimes yelling stops baby from breastfeeding again (this is also known as Nursing Strike). Although some babies find their mothers’ reaction funny and are ‘encouraged’ to bite some more.
- If this happens, try to stay calm and quiet, remove your baby from the breast (remember to slip your finger into his mouth to disengage him or it can really hurt!). Make eye contact and say “no biting” firmly. This helps your baby understand that biting, when breastfeeding, is not appropriate. You’re also beginning to teach him/her the cause and effect of his/her actions: If he/she bites while nursing, mummy will remove her breast.
- If baby is teething (which is often the cause of biting), this is a good time to give baby a teething toy.
- If your baby bites and doesn’t release your nipple, quickly place your little finger between baby’s gums so you can pull away without (more) injury.
- Give them attention. As your baby gets older, you tend to talk on the phone, read, or watch TV while nursing instead of focusing on your baby. Try to maintain eye contact, speak to your baby, and touch him/her while nursing. This way, your baby will know he/she has your attention, and he/she will be less likely to bite. You will also be more likely to recognize signs that your baby is ready to end the feeding, if you are paying attention.
- Learn to know when your baby is full. Biting is most likely to occur when your baby is full and loses interest, towards the end of a feeding. Some babies will start to pull off the breast and look around. Learn to read your baby’s signals.
- Confirm your baby is latched on correctly.
- Don’t try to force your baby to feed.
- Minimize distractions: Dim lights, turn off the TV, or lie down in a quiet room. This will help your baby settle down to nurse without biting or turning to the TV to see what’s happening on JimJam.
- Make sure you have enough milk. Sometimes babies will bite out of frustration when there isn’t enough milk to suck.
Please see your doctor if these tips don’t work or if the wound becomes infected.
Source: Anne Smith, Breastfeeding Basics