Breastfeeding isn’t always easy , and nipple biting can put a damper on already well-established lactations. Although fortunately it does not happen in all cases, it is relatively common for our baby to start biting our nipples at some point during breastfeeding .
This is tremendously painful and in some cases is reason for weaning by mothers. We are going to review below the main reasons why babies can bite us when breastfeeding and what solutions we can put.
Why do babies bite?
There is no single reason. Most babies will bite their mother at some point while nursing and the causes are varied and may depend on age and time.
- Newborns and very young babies can bite (or appear to bite) even without teeth. The reason is usually a bad attachment to the breast , which causes the gums to injure the nipple to be able to extract milk. When babies are well latched on, on the other hand, the nipple is stuck to the palate and the tongue makes an undulating movement over the areola, thus “pumping” the milk, which comes out through the nipple.
- Teething is a time when children show more tendency to bite. Some may be upset and, just like they bite their teether or their toys, they bite their mother’s nipple. Check out more interesting articles on our parenting site.
- When babies get older, around 8-9 months, they often bite as a wake-up call . At this age, breastfeeding may have become so mechanical and habitual that we stop being so aware of babies while they eat. And they claim us by biting us.
- Some do it as a game . They bite us for the first time unintentionally, by chance, and our reaction (scream, fright) amuses them, so they try to repeat it.
- Lastly, they can also bite involuntarily , especially when they fall asleep ; they relax and snap their mouths shut, sinking their teeth into us.
What can we do to avoid bites?
We must always keep in mind that breastfeeding should not hurt and ideally it should be enjoyed by both , mother and baby, so if at any time this is not the case, we must find a solution as soon as possible.
- If our baby is newborn or a few weeks old and we notice pain with feedings, as if biting us, it is probably a bad latch. We should then consult a specialist in breastfeeding. On many occasions, it is solved by correcting the posture and with appropriate guidelines. In others, it could be an anatomical problem in the baby, such as a short lingual frenulum , which prevents it from latching on properly (but, in this case, there is also a solution).
- If the baby is older and bites us because he demands our attention or because he sees it as a game, it is important that we remedy it as soon as possible. It is not convenient (if we can avoid it) to shout or make sudden movements when she does it, but it is appropriate to separate him and explain to him that this is not done. We must be especially vigilant during the shots, stare at her, talk to her, so that she does not need to claim our attention. It is good that we put him in the traditional position to breastfeed (babies at this age are capable of eating in the most unexpected positions). It may help to leave an object (a nursing necklace could also work).) so that he is distracted and does not think about biting. If in spite of this it continues to bite, we can say “no” when it does and keep the chest, implying that if it does that there will be no more.
- Lastly, if he does it involuntarily, during sleep or when he falls asleep, we should try to remove the nipple before he falls asleep completely . Many children fall asleep nursing , but we can take the nipple out of their mouth when they are sleepy but not completely asleep.
What if she goes on a nursing strike after a bite?
We have commented that, seeing our reaction after a first bite, some babies are amused and want to repeat it. Others, however, get so scared that they don’t want to breastfeed again and start a true breastfeeding strike, a sudden refusal to breastfeed.
We must not force them to eat (and, on the other hand, it is practically impossible), so we have to arm ourselves with love and patience to get them to get hooked again. Relaxing before the shot, making them laugh, caressing, being caressed by them… can help. Sometimes they reject the traditional suckling position and prefer to suckle standing up or piggybacking.
They may also find it easier to breastfeed at night, when they are sleepy. This “nursing strike” can last for a few days or a few weeks, and then the babies go back to nursing normally. In the event that they do not empty our breast completely or they feed less than usual, we can express milk ourselves to guarantee production and even, if necessary, offer it in a glass or bottle .