Don’t Bite the Boob that Feeds You!
“My son bit me last night; I guess it’s time to wean.”
“I see teeth coming; you can’t keep breastfeeding can you?”
In most cases, Moms will see Baby’s new teeth but won’t feel them; somehow Baby knows Mom is not food to be chewed. But then sometimes baby gets distracted, or is struggling with teething pain, or trying to be playful, or thought your reaction from the first bite was hilarious; so Baby tries again. There is nothing funny about teeth marks on your breast!
Here are 5 steps to help prevent or stop Baby bites.
Step 1: Before a feed offer your little one your knuckle; see Baby wants to chew for teething comfort, or suck for nourishment/soothing. If chewing, offer a cold cloth, teething toy, etc., or give pain relief of your choice if you think they need it. Then try to Breastfeed in a little while after Baby is soothed.
Step 2: If baby is distracted or uninterested in nursing, this can lead to biting. If distracted, try to find an environment where baby will stay focused on feeding. If baby is uninterested in nursing, do not force baby to nurse; allow Baby some time to play and then try to offer again.
Step 3: As babies age their latch can get relaxed. Ensure you are helping Baby to latch deeply during this biting phase: when a baby is latched deeply to the breast and actively feeding, they physically cannot bite because of the position of their jaw and tongue. Go back to your newborn latching technique to help baby get on deeply.
Step 4: Most biting happens at the end of a feed when Baby is full and playful. When you start seeing signs of playfulness, end the feed, early if necessary, and distract with a song or toy so Baby isn’t upset.
Step 5: If Baby bites, remove Baby immediately from the breast and place Baby on the floor as calmly as possible and say something like “Ouch that hurts mommy, biting means no milkies”, or something along those lines. Then you can try feeding again shortly. Baby learns very fast that biting means no milk. Try your best to stay calm; some babies find it hysterical when Mom’s yell, scream, or make faces, and try to get that reaction again, never realizing they are hurting Mommy; they just like the surprising reaction (some babies cry, some laugh). When you are calm and repeat the same words each time (you hurt mommy, biting means no milkies), Baby probably won’t understand the words, but will make the association that biting means the boob is taken away and Baby goes on the floor.
Sometimes after new teeth emerge the latch feels uncomfortable. Changing up your position can change the pressure those new teeth may put on the breast. For the most part as your little one gets used to the new teeth the latch adjusts and becomes comfortable again.
Biting does not mean weaning. Try following these tips to stop biting.
Consistency is the key.
Katie Wickham RN BScN, IBCLC
Image from dormenenem.com