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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
I see many new families in the hospital, breastfeeding clinic, and in their homes with my private practice, and I hear many common questions. One of the recurring themes comes across in statements like “my baby can’t be getting very much” or “my baby is feeding so frequently, I must not have milk. This cannot be normal!” There are many charts on the Internet that show an illustration of the size of a newborn’s stomach, I felt putting these illustrations into real world sizes we can see would be helpful.
Below is an illustration I have created showing the approximate size and volume of a newborn’s stomach on day one, day three, at one week, and at one month. Newborns’ tummies are tiny, and cannot/should not take in large volumes, so they need to feed frequently. In the first day or two, their little tummy fills with 2-20 ml during a breastfeed, and then, snuggled in close to your warm chest and familiar heartbeat, they fall asleep. Just as you may be drifting off to sleep or decide that you too should eat something, they start to wake up and show signs of hunger; their sweet little fists fly frantically to their mouth and their lips start smacking together. Their little tummies have started to digest that perfect amount of colostrum, and they are starting to get hungry again. A newborn baby feeds 8-12+ times in 24 hours, which means they will be feeding about every 1-3 hours. After the first 24 hours and for the first week or two the baby should feed the minimum of 8 times in 24 hours to ensure they stay hydrated (shown by pees and poops), assist with things like jaundice and weight loss/gain, establish Mom’s milk supply properly and get lots of practice at the art of breastfeeding.
They often cluster feeds together; this means your precious little one may breastfeed for 45 minutes then fall asleep, then wake 30 minutes later and feed for another 30 minutes, and fall asleep. The next feed may happen 2 hours later, then 3 hours after that, then an hour later… I’m sure you get the idea; there is no set schedule. This is the best way to establish a healthy milk supply and to allow baby to control when they eat and how much. You can not breastfeed your baby too much, but you can breastfeed them too little.
Many families feel the need to supplement their baby; maybe they are concerned with the frequent feedings, or feeling pressured from their doctor or family. I often hear my clients comment that they hear their well-meaning family members say “The baby is crying again, she must be hungry” or “The baby is fussing, are you sure you have milk?” or “the baby just ate an hour ago, you must not have enough if he is hungry already.” This can create, or further feed the insecurity a new mother may already be feeling, and often leads to unnecessary supplementation. Some families feel they need to supplement due to pressure from the Doctor, and other families are supplementing for legitimate medical reasons (these reasons should be clearly communicated to you). When you are supplementing it is crucial that you keep in mind how small those little tummies are. If you supplement too much this will cause baby to sleep longer and feed less frequently and any time they are supplemented away from the breast you lose the stimulation and removal of milk needed to signal your body to make more milk; this will directly impact your milk supply. If you are supplementing always seek guidance from an expert in feeding- a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) will help guide you through how to supplement, how to protect your supply while supplementing and how to wean the supplements when the time is right. Every baby is different and the size of your baby can impact how much they require/can take in by supplement. Small term/preterm babies will often have trouble taking in the same volume as an 11lb newborn baby. Seeking support will help customize supplementing based on your unique situation.
Understanding the size of your Baby’s stomach, the average volume taken in during a breastfeed and typical newborn feeding frequency can help alleviate some anxiety a mother feels when she is trusting her body to nourish her child. Newborns are only this tiny for a short time, those stomachs grow quickly and they get more efficient at breastfeeding which means breastfeeding sessions become less frequent and shorter. For now enjoy those snuggles, and feel encouraged that your baby is feeding frequently and doing a fantastic job of “demanding” a healthy supply of breast milk. The great effort you and your baby put in during the first few days establishes a solid start for a happy and healthy breastfeeding relationship.
Katie Wickham RN BScN, IBCLC
*Original image has been updated 2 times to improve clarity and quality. This image and any others on this topic by Babies First Lactation and Education may not be altered in any way or used without permission. For information on using this image please contact Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Breastfeeding is an amazing way to nourish your child; it is important for both of you for so many reasons. This amazing gift you can give your child should be easy, the baby should come out and take to breastfeeding perfectly and stay that way for however long you choose to breastfeed, Right? If only that were the case for everyone! Breastfeeding is often a huge learning curve for both Mom and Baby. The frustrations that are common in the early weeks can be exacerbated by the normal hormone fluctuations you experience, lack of sleep, self-doubt, naysayers and plain old exhaustion.
I wish I knew some of what I am going to share with you before starting on my breastfeeding journey 5 years ago with my preterm twins.
I am always happy to answer questions or provide support!
Katie Wickham BScN RN, IBCLC
Babies First Lactation and Education