You don’t know the true meaning of fear until you put your nipple in the mouth of a teething baby. Learn how to stop your baby from biting while breastfeeding TODAY!
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One of the saddest things I hear from moms is “I have to stop breastfeeding because my baby is biting me and I can’t stand it anymore.” Some moms even stop nursing at the sign of the baby’s first tooth coming out in fear of getting bitten. I have breastfed my son until he was 2 and I am still breastfeeding my almost 3 years old daughter and I can tell you that just because they have teeth doesn’t mean they bite when breastfeeding.
I know it takes tons of courage to put your breast in your baby’s mouth again after the first bite. I know the fear in your hearts as you watch your baby nurse, trying to anticipate the next bite before it happens.
Your baby CAN LEARN that biting is not acceptable while breastfeeding. Your nipples do not need to continue to endure bite after bite. My kids DID bite me when they were babies. But I nipped that habit in the bud immediately to prevent further injuries to my nipples.
To prevent your baby from biting, let’s first chat about the reasons babies bite in the first place, and also what to do when your babies bite.
Why Babies Bite While Breastfeeding
Your baby is done nursing.
An actively nursing baby will not bite. Your baby may be biting at the end of a nursing session because he is no longer hungry and is getting bored. Pay attention to your baby’s sucking and if you feel him pulling back his tongue and the latch becomes more shallow (signaling end of the nursing session), unlatch before your nipple becomes a chew toy.
Your baby is teething.
When your baby is teething, his gum is sore and swollen. Therefore, they may find sucking uncomfortable.
If your baby is using you as a teething toy rather than wanting to nurse, unlatch and offer him something else to bite on instead of your nipples. You can offer a cold washcloth or teether to relieve the pain. Breast milk popsicles were my kids’ favorites when they were babies.
Another way to prevent biting while teething is to ensure your baby gets a nice, deep latch. When the latch is deep, your baby won’t be able to bite.
Your baby is distracted.
When you have a toddler running around or other exciting things happening while you are nursing, your baby may be distracted and want to look around.
If he is pushing against you with his arms and turning his head away from the breast, that means he may be more interested in watching what’s going on than nursing. Unlatch and see if he wants to nurse again. If he does, go into a quiet room, put him in a baby carrier, or use a nursing cover to block out distractions and create a calmer environment for your baby while nursing.
Your baby wants more attention.
Older babies especially may bite for attention. Instead of watching Netflix or checking emails on your phone, focus on your baby while nursing. Time passes fast and before you know it, you will be missing the closeness you get with your baby while breastfeeding.
If your baby is in the biting phase, you will want to pay 100% attention to your baby anyway to save your nipple before your baby bites!
Your baby fell asleep.
This one is the worst for me because you do not want to wake your sleeping baby. However, when they do fall asleep while nursing, sometimes it’s very difficult getting your nipple out without waking them up. Therefore, when they bite down accidentally during sleep, you are stuck between a rock and a hard place – do you risk waking the baby up by unlatching, or do you endure the nipple pain?
My 2 cents is always put your nipples first. You don’t have to have a nipple wound so painful that you will have trouble nursing later. You can always put them back to sleep or move up the next nap time.
Your baby wants more milk.
When you have delayed let-down, your baby may get frustrated and bite down because they are waiting too long for your milk. Try gently massaging your breasts before a nursing session to help trigger the let-down reflex so your impatient, hungry baby gets milk faster. You may also want to look for ways to increase your milk supply.
Your baby is getting too much milk.
I know, we just talked about your baby biting because of your delayed let-down. However, sometimes babies bite because they are trying to stop the milk flow from an overactive let-down. Your milk is gushing out so fast that your baby is choking, so he tries to cut off the milk supply by clamping down on your nipple.
If this is the case, try nursing in a laid back position where the baby is above your breasts. This way, your breast milk will have to work against gravity to get to your baby’s mouth, thus slowing down the milk flow.
You can also pull off when you feel your let-down and catch the milk with a washcloth or bottle (if you want to save it for later). Then re-latch your baby once the milk stops gushing out.
What to Do When Your Baby Bites You
The answer is simple – biting means no breast.
If your baby decides to bite the boob that feeds him, then you need to stop the nursing session immediately to teach your baby that biting equals no more nursing.
Once you unlatch, remove your baby from the breast and say firmly but calmly, “no biting mommy.” You want to give a little time – at least 15 seconds to a few minutes – to make sure your baby comprehend the consequence of biting before resuming the nursing session.
If your baby latches on and nurses without biting, praise your baby for good listening.
If your baby continues to bite, increase the time away from the breast.
If your baby still wants to nurse after you pull off, he may not be happy to be away from your breast and fuss a little. Be strong and wait a few minutes before you resume the nursing session.
Your baby might decide that he is not interested in nursing once you pull off. In that case, let him go and play.
Remember to never yell at your baby. I know it hurts like H-E-double-hockey-sticks, but your baby doesn’t know what he is doing is wrong. Yelling can cause your baby to develop negative feelings and upset your baby so much that he goes on a nursing strike.
Sometimes it’s impossible not to yelp or scream “Ouch!” when you feel the sharp bite. Some babies may stop biting because he gets surprised and sees that you are in pain. However, some babies will think your exclamation is funny and bite more to get the same reaction. Argh.
What to Do if Your Baby Bites and DOESN’T LET GO
Oh my goodness, our worst nightmare coming true. Especially if your baby is biting due to delayed or fast let-down and when he falls asleep, you may find your nipple in the jaw of death and your baby just does not let go.
DO NOT try and pull your nipple out. I know that’s always our initial instinct, but your nipple at this point is stuck between possibly two rows of sharp teeth and forcing it out may cause more damage. The last thing you want is for the bite to draw blood and risk infection.
Try these methods to save your breast:
Break the Latch with Your Finger.
Place your finger between the baby’s teeth or gums to break the suction. I usually use my pinky because it’s small enough to jam it in between the teeth or gums. Insert your finger horizontally (palm up) and then twist it to get your baby to open up.
Pull Down the Baby’s Chin
If you rather not stick your finger in your baby’s mouth, then you can use your thumb and pull down his chin. When you pull his chin down, his mouth should open and you can remove your nipple.
Pull the Baby Toward You.
This is so counterintuitive but it really saved my nipple several times. I first heard about this from a breastfeeding consultant when a few moms cried about getting bitten during a breastfeeding support meeting.
Pull the baby’s head TOWARD your breast, like you are hugging your baby tight. Since your baby’s nostrils are blocked by your breast, he will find it difficult to breathe through his nose. Therefore, he will open up his mouth to breathe and you can get your nipple out.
Pinch Your Baby’s Nose
Instead of pulling the baby toward you, you can also try gently pinching your baby’s nose shut with your fingers. This should get the same reaction – your baby will automatically open up his mouth to breathe and release your nipple.
How to Heal Your Nipple After a Bite
Your nipples may be in a world of pain after a bite. Cracked and sore nipples can get infected or at the risk of developing a yeast infection. Whatever product you use, you have to keep in mind that your baby is going to ingest it while nursing, so it’s best to go for natural remedies when possible.
Coconut oil is antifungal and can be used to prevent your injured nipple from developing thrush, or yeast infection. This natural moisturizer will help heal your cracked nipples. Plus, coconut oil is safe for the baby to eat, so there is no need to wipe off before the next feed.
Using a warm compress may help relieve some pain after a bite. Wet washcloths work well.
Hand express a little bit of breast milk after a feed and rub it on your nipples. Let your nipples air dry. Breast milk contains natural antibodies as well as anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties that will help your nipples heal.
The thought of nursing again after a bite may be horrifying. Try applying an ice pack to your nipple just before a feed to temporarily numb the nipple as you latch the baby on.
Use Nipple Shells
Your nipples are very sensitive after a bite and touching anything may cause them to hurt more. Since we can’t walk around naked all day, use breast shells to protect them from touching your bra or clothes. Breast shells look like a dome with a hole on the flat side where you can put your nipple – the dome protects your nipples from contact.
Here are a couple of nipple shells recommended by moms:
All Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO)
When all else fails, you can try the All Purpose Nipple Ointment. You can make it yourself following these instructions. I asked my breastfeeding consultant and got mine from a specialized pharmacy since I didn’t want to risk making it incorrectly.
The APNO is basically made out of an antibiotic ointment, an anti-inflammatory ointment, and a miconazole ointment. You do not need to wash the APNO off before the next feeding, although I always did anyway because I did not want to put anything unnatural in my baby’s body.
If your nipples are hurting so much that you are thinking about stopping breastfeeding, I really encourage you to get the APNO. I only used it in desperate situations, but whenever I did, it worked like a miracle. Usually, my nipples are back in good shape in a couple of days.
You Can Do It, Mama.
Babies biting is probably one of the hardest parts about breastfeeding. You have to be strong and be persistent when your babies bite. Remember, you are not a chew toy. If your baby is biting, teach him that biting is not acceptable if he wants to continue nursing. Do not let the fear of biting stop your breastfeeding journey. You can do this mama!