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Ten Top Tips to Avoid Biting (“While”) Nursing

biting toddlerMy recent podcast addressed babies’ nonverbal communication. I didn’t mention biting then, but I will now! For sure, biting is one of those things the parents need to watch for! Older infants who have teeth sometimes bite.

Biting won’t happen “while” the baby is actually nursing. He may still have his mouth on the nipple, but he is not possible to get milk from the breast and bite at the same time. If you’re wondering how to overcome this problem, here are some tips to prevent or (correct) biting.

1.  Watch for a baby who is “reaching” when latching on

If the baby is straining his neck and reaching while getting a deep latch, it’s a big clue that he is headed for slipping down on the nipple later, which sets him up for biting.

2.  Beware of the baby “changing gears”

After he has suckled happily with long, slow, rhythmic sucks to get all the milk he wants, he will begin to make faster jaw motions that are not rhythmic, and these motions do not compress the areola enough to draw out milk. This is a sign that he is nearly finished, and that can be a clue that biting will soon follow.

3.  Watch for any signs of satiety, including distractions

Older babies are naturally more social and more curious about their surroundings. If your baby has had all he wants to eat, he will likely start moving his neck and turning his face (often taking your nipple with him!) He may simply be distracted.

4.  Break the suction

Be ready to quickly slip your clean finger into the corner of his mouth, between his teeth and your nipple. This will break the suction.

5.  Be alert to when he slips down onto the nipple

That’s the “location” for biting. Immediately break his suction and take him off the breast.

6.  Offer a teething ring when the baby bites

He may be biting because he has teething discomfort, so help him to find the right thing to bite on; not you!

7.  Try not to scold him if he starts biting

Sure, it’s natural to react, but I’ve found that sometimes, yelling, “NO!” creates a bad predicament. Some babies interpret this as “no nursing” and will refuse to nurse for many days after the episode. Have the teething ring and different words ready. Offer the teething ring and say, “Bite this, not Mommy.”

8.  Offer positive and negative feedback appropriately

Break the suction and let him know he should not bite Mama. Offer and extra hug or nuzzle when the baby takes the teething ring.

9.  If he does bite, push his head towards your breast for a second or two

His nose will become occluded, and he will open his mouth; quickly remove him. Although it seems intuitive to pull the baby away, it doesn’t help him to release the nipple, which only worsens the problem.

If you try this approach the first time when he bites, you may find that he quickly realizes that he shouldn’t bite. This strategy doesn’t work as well after the baby has gotten into the habit of biting. And, you shouldn’t use this approach if the baby already has a stuffy nose.

10.  Be consistent with your approach

Babies are smart. They soon get the idea of what the boundaries are.

If you’ve found this post helpful, please forward it! And, if you can think of anything I haven’t mentioned, please leave a comment below!

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2 Comments

  1. Frank Ball

    I liked your tip of slipping your clean finger into the corner of the baby’s mouth when they start biting during breastfeeding. My wife and I are preparing for our first son together and she is worried that breastfeeding will be difficult with our baby. I’ll be sure to tell her to put her finger in his mouth if he ever bites while she’s breastfeeding.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Ah yes. It works for young babies if they just “clamp down”, but it also works for older babies who have teeth and bite. Congratulations on the upcoming arrival of your new baby! Help your wife to know that breastfeeding is, in many ways, like playing the piano, ice-skating, or going to college. It takes a little practice, but it’s totally worth it (and fun!) once you get the hang of it. And, remind her to subscribe to my podcast. It’s an easy way for both of you to take in good information while being busy parents!

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