What to Do When Your Baby Bites During Breastfeeding
Teeth or no teeth, sometimes breastfeeding bites…literally! Babies can clamp down when they’re nursing for a number of different reasons. When babies do bite down it can be pretty painful, even if they haven’t sprouted any pearly whites yet. If your baby is biting while breastfeeding, there are a few reasons for this behavior. Understanding the reason can help you avert this behavior. In this article, we’re breaking down common reasons for biting and what you can do about it. Keep reading for more information!
Why Do Babies Bite Down During a Nursing Session
We’re kicking off with the most often talked about, because it’s probably the most obvious reason. Teething babies chomp down on fingers, toes, and just about anything they can put in their mouths…this includes our nipples.
Wanting More Milk
Your baby might be off to a great start for a nursing session and then part way through, bite down. Sometimes this can mean that your baby is still hungry and is frustrated or searching for more milk.
Babies aren’t like a gas pump, they don’t stop suckling just because they’re full. If a baby grows tired or bored, they might start to “play” around and bite down. Sometimes the way a mom reacts, the noises she makes can be funny or entertaining, which means that your baby might be more likely to try this tactic again.
Babies often nurse out of a need for comfort. Once they’ve finished nursing though, they might still need a bit more attention. What faster way can you get mom’s attention than by biting down at the breast?
Biting your nipple can also be a baby’s reaction to a strong let-down reflux. They might not be able to handle the strong flow of milk. It’s faster and easier for them to clamp down than it is to break their latch and pull away when they’re little.
How You Can Discourage this Behavior
That’s a lot of different reasons why a baby might bite down while breastfeeding. If you are surprised at this, you’re not alone. We often liken breastfeeding to a dance with two partners involved in coordinating movements. You can think of biting as the breastfeeding equivalent of stepping on someone’s toe. It hurts, but it’s a chance to regroup and evaluate the situation before trying again, or trying something new.
When They’re Teething
Even if your baby hasn’t sprouted any pearly whites, they might still be teething. There are a number of clues you can look for on top of painful gums or fussiness. For example, they might feel warm to the touch. There’s no reason you both should be in pain. If you are experiencing biting while breastfeeding, try unlatching your baby and offering them something cold to soothe their pain before trying again.
Hunger Looking for More Milk
You might be thinking how can they be hungry if they’re at my breast? Your baby might need a bit of help with their latch in order to successfully achieve a letdown and feed. Try assessing your positioning and the quality of their latch. If one position isn’t working, you can try a different one. We break down a whole list of options here.
When evaluating their latch, make sure your baby is facing you, with their arms hugging the breast. This is why it’s helpful to avoid the use of baby mittens when breastfeeding. Wait for them to open wide before bringing their mouth to your breast. For more on latching, check out this post.
If your baby is biting during breastfeeding out of boredom, they might not be super hungry. For moms who nurse on demand, it can be hard to determine whether your baby is actually hungry or fussing because they are bored. Try assessing your position and their latch to make sure they are able to nurse. Then, if they bite again, try feeding them again a bit later.
If your baby is in fact bored, try playing with them, singing to them, reading a book, or even giving them a bath. There are a number of different ways in which you can provide stimulation for your little one.
Yes, its true Mama. Sometimes your baby just wants you…not necessarily your boob. So give them what they want! Try some of the things we suggested above. Or lay your baby on a play mat and engage with them as he or she plays and explores. You can try rattles or teething toys. The list goes on and on!
Unless you visibly see your let down, this one can be a bit hard to determine. To determine if you have a strong let down, try using a pump or allow your baby to suckle until you achieve a let down. If you’ve let your baby suckle, break their latch and grab a towel to catch some of your let down. Soon the flow will start to subside and you can re-latch your baby and get back to breastfeeding!
Another option is to use gravity to your advantage. In a traditional breastfeeding position milk is flowing down towards your baby. Trying a laid back or reclined breastfeeding position means that your body has to push milk up towards your baby. This change in positioning can slow the flow of milk and make it easier for your baby to nurse.