Help! Baby Won't Stop Biting while Breastfeeding

Help! Baby Won’t Stop Biting while Breastfeeding

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Don’t wean her just yet! It is normal for a baby to occasionally bite while nursing. Here is what you can do when the baby won’t stop biting while breastfeeding.

Anyone else? You are breastfeeding your little angel and all of a sudden, you strongly feel their white pearl on your breast, and you can’t help but scream!

I screamed literally when my 6-month-old first time bit me while nursing. Screaming was a bad idea but when something happens that you are least expecting, your natural reaction is to scream. I was thankful that he wasn’t that scared to not come to me for the next feeding session.

If you have had a little biter on your hands, you know what I am talking about. Your baby has been breastfeeding effectively till now and suddenly, you are facing a new breastfeeding challenge.

If your baby is like mine “persistent biter”, they won’t stop until you find out the underline cause of biting and rectify those issues.

Here in this article, we talk about why baby bites and things you can do when the baby won’t stop biting while breastfeeding.

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Why do Baby Bites while Breastfeeding?

There are many reasons why a baby might bite your nipple while breastfeeding. Let me be clear not all babies bite. Some babies never bite, some do it once or twice, and others are more persistent biter.

When babies are actively breastfeeding, their tongue covers the bottom gum so they cannot bite (1), it is only when they are not actively sucking and swallowing, they tend to bite because they have access to the nipple in a place where they can bite. Even if you have mastered the skill of breastfeeding up until now, you still need to pay close attention to the correct latch.

Now let’s look at the most common reasons why babies bite while breastfeeding.

1. Newborn Clamping while Nursing

Newborn clamping while nursing may feel like a bite and hurt your nipple. A newborn does not have a tooth. So, when you are feeling pressure on your nipple is usually newborn clamping. A newborn baby might clamp down when they are not latched on properly or in response to adjusting milk flow (slow letdown or fast milk letdown) or change in position (2).

If your newborn clamping while nursing frequently, it is also a good idea to get them checked for tongue tie, which may be preventing them to open mouth wide and latch properly.

2. Teething Baby

Usually, baby teeth start to appear between six and nine months of age (2). But teething pain can trouble babies long before their first teeth erupt. Teething pain can bother babies as young as 3 months old. So, if your 3-4 months old baby clamping down on your nipple while feeding, they might be teething.

A teething baby is in pain and they might bite down your nipple the same way they bite their teething toys. Babies bite to relieve pain in their gum because of pressure from biting decreases the pain in their gum. Biting while breastfeeding may get worst when their teeth first cut through. It might change their latch because it feels different for them to have to feed with teeth. Once they learn how to hold their tongue while feeding with their teeth, they won’t bite anymore (3).

3. Mom has Over-active Letdown

Some babies will bite when their moms have an over-active letdown, frustrating them with milk flow that they can’t handle. Babies will clamp down on your nipple to slow the milk flow or chock on it.  If you have an overactive letdown, you can take your baby off the breast when it happens and press your nipple with the cloth to slow the flow down, then continue feeding your baby.

4. Mom has Too-little Milk

Some babies may bite when mom does not have enough milk and out of frustration, they will clamp down on mom’s nipple to get more milk (1). if you think you have a low milk supply, try feeding your baby more often to maintain your milk supply. Other milk booster tips include pumping between breastfeeding sessions, power pumping and if necessary, taking a supplement to increase your milk supply.

5. Baby is Sick

When the baby has nasal congestion, they might clamp or bite on your nipple as they can’t breathe properly. Clearing their nose with nasal saline before feeding session will help clear their nose. You can feed them in an upright position to make it easier for them to breathe when they have a cold. Babies with an ear infection also tend to bite while feeding because of pain. 

6. Baby is Distracted

Baby Won't Stop Biting while Breastfeeding

Sometimes babies are just distracted by what’s going on around them and don’t want to feed. Or it happens at the end of the feeding session when they are done and not hungry anymore. If you force-feed them, they might bite or clamp down on your nipple as they try to wriggle or to look at something in the room.

If you think they are distracted while feeding, try a nursing necklace. A nursing necklace is made out of different colors, shapes, and textures of the beads and worn by mom to keep the attention of distracted baby while breastfeeding. Check out this post to find a best nursing necklace for distracted baby.

Alternatively, you can take them to a dark and quiet room to avoid stimulation and distraction.  

7. Babies Biting for Attention

Some babies are a pure attention seeker. They want your attention while they are feeding. So, if you have a biting problem, no more phone or TV while feeding your baby. Paying attention while your baby is feeding may help you figure out when your baby is about to bite while feeding so you can protect your nipple.

8. Baby has been using a Bottle or Dummies

If you are using dummies like nipple shield for breastfeeding or baby drinking milk from bottles, he may have learned to bite the nipple of bottle to relive the teething gum pain. So, for him biting mom’s nipple is okay too when you offer your breast for next feeding session.

Sometimes babies bite while nursing for no apparent reason. Mostly because biting is a behavior that most babies try at some point.

For some babies, biting is a fun game. I have heard many moms saying “my baby bites while nursing then laughs”. It may be funny for babies but certainly not fun for mamas especially when the baby bites while nursing and draws blood. This is the worst thing that can happen to your nipple while feeding your baby. It may leave your nipple swollen, sore, and infected.

But not to worry, mamas! For the majority of mothers biting is a temporary issue that only lasts a few days or a couple of weeks. With a little bit of persistence from mom’s side, biting can be stopped for good.

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How to Stop Baby from Biting while Breastfeeding

As mentioned earlier, biting is a behavior that babies try at some point specifically when they are teething. Rest assured that behavior can be changed with tips and tricks listed below.

If your Newborn clamping while nursing, adjust their latch. Sometimes baby takes a while to learn how to latch properly and while they are learning, you might feel the bite on your nipple during feeding.

To prevent your newborn from clamping while nursing, you need to adjust their latch. Try laid back nursing position to have them open their mouth wider for a better latch. Once they learn how to latch better, they will stop clamping while feeding.

If your teething baby is biting while nursing, you need to pay close attention to their behavior- whether they are biting at the beginning of the feeding session or biting at the end of the session.

If your teething baby is biting at the beginning of the feeding session, give him a non-toxic teething necklace or cold teething toy to chew on before breastfeeding (1). It will lower the likelihood of biting. A teething necklace is not only great for them to chew on to relieve their teething pain but also works to distract them from biting while feeding. 

If your teething baby is biting at the beginning of the feeding session, give him a non-toxic teething necklace or cold teething toy to chew on before breastfeeding (1). It will lower the likelihood of biting. A teething necklace is not only great for them to chew on to relieve their teething pain but also works to distract them from biting while feeding. 

Don’t let them turn it into a game – When they bite you during feeding, do not react. I know, sometimes it’s hard to not react. But they may find your reaction funny and turn it into a game. At this stage, they do not understand emotions and your reaction may encourage your baby to bite while feeding then laugh.

What you want to do instead is, take them off the breast calmly and say, “No biting” to your baby. Do not offer the breast again for 10 min. Slowly your baby will associate biting = breast go away. And for the ‘no breast’ is the end of the world.

When your baby bites, try pulling him closer to your breast to stop your baby from biting and drawing blood. When your breast covers their nose, they will open their mouth wide and let go.

Sometimes, the baby won’t stop biting while breastfeeding. In this case, you need to take them off the breast and say “NO” and end the feeding session. You can feed them again after 30 minutes. You need to be persistent in taking them off the breast every time your baby bites while feeding. Babies are smart and soon they will realize the consequences of biting and they will stop biting while feeding.

Does it mean my Baby Wants to Wean when they Bite?

No!

Biting is a completely normal behavior that every baby goes through at some point. It is not an indication of their wanting to wean. All you need to do is teach them that it’s not OK to bite while feeding.

If your baby won’t stop biting while breastfeeding, you need to keep eye on your little one while feeding. You want to look for cues that repeat just before your baby bites. It may be a change in their tongue movement or suckling intensity. It may help you predict the bite before it happens, and you can take the baby off the breast and offer a teething necklace or teething toy to chew on. Remind them firmly about not biting while feeding. Then put them back to the breast after a couple of minutes or after 30 minutes.  

It will not be easy but with patience and perseverance, you will be able to go back to feeding your baby normally. If you still want to wean your baby check out this article on how to wean baby from breastfeeding.

Should I wean my baby if she has a Cold and started biting during Feeding?

When babies are sick, frequent breastfeeding is recommended as antibodies generated by mother’s milk help babies fight against the infection. Babies bite when they have a cold because they can’t breathe through their nose.

You want to feed your baby in a little upright position to make breathing easier for them. You can also clear their nostrils by putting drops of nasal saline before starting a feeding session. It will help them breathe better.

Also, run a cool-mist humidifier in the baby’s room when they are congested. The increased humidity will help open up the baby’s airway for easier breathing.

What to do if my Baby Bites and won’t let go?

Ouch! The worst thing that can happen to any breastfeeding mother. If your baby bites and won’t let go, you need to place your finger between the baby’s gum to break the suction so you can pull your nipple gently without further damage.

If this doesn’t work, bring your baby closer to your breast. It will make it harder for him to breathe (he will choose to breathe over biting) and open his mouth wide open.

Conclusion

Breastfeeding is not easy and once you think that everything is settled, another breastfeeding challenge comes up. Worst of all is when the baby won’t stop biting while breastfeeding.

But don’t lose your hope mama! With the above tips and being consistent, you can teach your baby not to bite while breastfeeding and go back to successfully breastfeeding your baby.

Meanwhile to keep you encouraged for breastfeeding your baby, check out this inspirational breastfeeding quotes + FREE printable and funny breastfeeding quotes!

Good luck, mama!

Do you have any tips on how to stop the baby from biting while breastfeeding? Leave your comment below.

References

  1. Mohrbacher, N., & OverDrive Inc. (2013). Breastfeeding solutions: Quick tips for the most common nursing challenges. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
  2. Lyttle C, Stoops F, Welbury R, Wilson N. (2015) Tooth eruption and teething in children. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 295: 7883.
  3. Gaskin IM. (2009) Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding. Pinter & Martin, London.

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