I have noticed over the last several years that breastfeeding problems seem to come in waves. I might have one month when most of the issues are sore nipples and latch problems. Other months I might see more babies with slow weight gain. More recently, I have had several mothers complain about teething and biting babies. How do you prevent biting while breastfeeding?
No one wants to breastfeed when babies get teeth. We can’t help but imagine a little shark coming at your breast. Babies do, however, still have to eat even when teeth start coming in. Once you are aware of what to look for with your teething baby, the whole idea doesn’t seem quite as dangerous. Read on to learn more about how to prevent biting while breastfeeding your baby.
When Will Teething Start?
One of the difficult ideas behind teething is that you don’t really know when it will start, and it is different for every baby. Have 5 babies? Experience teething in 5 different ways. Babies can also show signs of teething months before you actually see that little tooth come through. As uncomfortable as this may be for you and breastfeeding, it is probably worse for your little one. In addition, nursing may bring your baby comfort if teething is uncomfortable or help them back to sleep if they wake during the night with teething pain.
Do Babies Know They Are Biting?
Let’s start at the beginning. Babies have no idea they are biting you. The pressure on their swelling gums brings some welcome relief. In other situations, your baby may have dozed off, biting down in their sleep without realizing it.
If your baby does bite, it may take you by surprise and cause you to jump or yell. This may cause your baby to either smile and laugh or cry. Try not to yell out if it does happen because any action from you will cause a reaction from the baby. I know, easier said than done, right?
Will My Baby Bite While Breastfeeding?
Some babies don’t ever bite. It’s not a guarantee that your baby will bite once they start teething, or once the teeth come in. Out of my 3 kids, one bit me, and it only happened once. He was 7 months old and I was determined to fix it. We came this far; I’m not stopping now! I was determined to get through it. It ended up being a somewhat comical story for my kids once they got older. Even to this day, my other 2 kids like to tease their brother with taunts of Brandon bit mom’s nipple off! To his extreme embarrassment, of course.
Tips To Get Past Biting While Breastfeeding
The ideal scenario is to prevent the biting before it happens. But if you find yourself in this place, here are a few tips to help prevent biting while breastfeeding.
Go Back To Day 1
Remember when your baby was a newborn and you watched them as they were feeding, to make sure the latch was ok? To count the swallows? By the time your baby has teeth, you are a breastfeeding pro. You’re holding the baby in one arm and scrolling Facebook with your free hand. Once your baby has teeth, you may have to go back to watching closely again. Swallows slowing down? Release the latch and take them off. Is your baby falling asleep? Release the latch before they have a chance to bite down.
Icy Teethers and Pacifiers
Keep a few in the freezer and ready to roll. If your baby isn’t a fan of the cold teethers, try a frozen washcloth to bite on. Offer these before feeding (if possible) and this should help to numb the gums a bit before feeding. Your baby will be less likely to bite down if their gums are numb.
Teething can happen around the same time that babies start to get pretty distracted when breastfeeding. If you happen to have a distracted, teething baby, you may experience them biting just because they are distracted. You may need to breastfeed in a quiet spot or in a carrier, where distractions are at a minimum.
You can also be a distraction to your baby while you’re feeding them, making biting less likely. Sing to them, talk to them, hold their hand. Distraction may help move the feeding along without incident.
Pay Attention To Your Baby
If you are someone who has grown accustomed to doing other things while breastfeeding, your baby may bite just to get your attention. Babies have little personalities, and breastfeeding is a bonding time for them. They may want to interact with you while they feed, and if you are doing something else, they may be offended by that.
Make Sure Your Baby Isn’t Sick
Babies have a difficult time feeding when they have a stuffy nose, cold, or ear infection. If they are sick, they may bite down more than usual, just out of frustration or because they aren’t feeling good. If you have noticed some sniffles or other signs that baby might be sick, call your pediatrician.
What To Do If Your Baby Bites
If your baby bites, it’s ok to take them off the breast. Typically, we see biting happen when baby is done feeding. It is not possible to bite and feed at the same time. This is an important thing to remember. In order to feed efficiently, babies need to have their tongue over the gumline, which makes it impossible to bite down. It helps to know your baby’s patterns, when they start to doze, and how long they usually feed for. This will make it easier to avoid biting.
Taking Baby Off The Breast
Taking your baby off the breast when they bite is a way to help teach them that their action will cause a break in feeding. This is a process for them, but it can work. Babies have no idea they are biting you. They are biting down because it feels good for them, but they do not know they are causing you any sort of distress or pain. Once you take your baby off the breast, give them a teether or something to chew on. Babies also love breastmilk popsicles – you can put some breastmilk in a basic popsicle mold or ice cube tray and let your baby suck on that.
Biting At The Beginning Of A Feeding
As I mentioned, babies typically bite at the end of a feeding. If your baby bites at the beginning of a feeding, that is your cue baby is not hungry or not ready to feed. Take them off and give them something else to chew on.
Your baby has a lot going on. They are getting new teeth, growing, developing, their jaw is shifting. They are dealing with a lot! It’s hard to cope with a biting baby, but if you look at it from a different perspective, that might make it easier for you.
Teething Is Developmental
Also, keep in mind that biting is a stage. As much as it seems like a breastfeeding problem, it’s really not a breastfeeding problem. It’s a developmental process that all babies go through. They get past it. Once the teeth are in, this won’t be a problem for you anymore. For more resources on biting babies, check out the Badass Breastfeeding Podcast and listen to the episode on biting. No matter what, biting is definitely not a reason to wean, it’s just another stage of your baby’s growth and development.