Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Ah, nothing strikes fear into a mother's hearts like breastfeeding a teething baby.
Really though, it's not that bad. Don't let it scare you away from continuing to breastfeed your baby. There's a lot of belief that once your baby begins to get teeth that the breastfeeding journey comes to an end. NOT TRUE! Don't believe the hype! There is no reason (in research or for the sake of your nipples) to stop nursing.
Too bad babies didn't get the memo not to bite the hand that feeds you. Or boob. Whatever.
5 Common Reasons for Biting
It's important to understand why your baby is biting. Biting doesn't always mean that a baby is teething, although it is the most common reason. Understanding why it's happening can help you determine the best way to stop it and keep it from happening again.
Babies begin teething anywhere from 4-7 months, but for some, it can come later. The first teeth you will notice make an entrance will be the bottom two front teeth. They'll likely come in together. Those two little teeth are the cutest darn things!
Common Symptoms of Teething:
Tender and/or swollen gums
Change in sleeping patterns
Change in eating patterns
Drooling (more than usual)
Sometimes, babies bite when they're trying to look around while simultaneously trying to nurse. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out too well for us mommas. Babies love to see what's going on around them. That's great! It's how they learn and develop. But it's not so great when your nipples are being stretched and bitten by a little one, especially if they already have teeth. If you notice your little one tends to bite when others are around or there's noise that's distracting them try nursing in a quiet area. I know this isn't always feasible, but it can help limit distractions for your little one.
Yep. Babies get bored, too. Sometimes they're done nursing and just hanging out on the boob and clinch down on mom. If you notice that you're baby isn't actively nursing anymore and is just hanging around but not really suckling, it's a sign that they're done. Simply end the feeding session before they have a chance to bite down.
4) Wanting Attention
Sometimes, as moms, we tend to get distracted, ourselves, while nursing our babies. This is especially true with older babies where we've been nursing for months and are pretty certain we're pros by now. Maybe you watch TV, read a book or magazine, or scroll through Facebook. Maybe you have other children who need your attention. Either way, your baby biting could be a call for attention. If you notice the biting happens when your focus isn't on your baby try being more aware and talkative or responsive with your baby as they nurse.
This one is for the older babies (8+ months) as you don't typically see this with younger babies. Sometimes incessant biting is a sign that they are weaning themselves and they just aren't interested anymore. If this is something you suspect then you can try some of the things mentioned above to rule them out and if it continues to happen it may be time to let go. Let your baby lead the way. You can continue to give them breastmilk in a sippy cup.
3 Ways To Deal With Biting:
Prevention is the best way to go. To help prevent biting means being mindful while nursing your baby and making sure you have a deep latch. If your baby has a deep latch they can't bite you. Period.
Nursing can provide a lot of comfort if they're feeling irritable from the pain. If you notice the biting occurs at the beginning of a session try rubbing their gums before nursing to help alleviate the pain. If you notice that the biting is happening at the end of a session then when you notice your baby is no longer nursing unlatch them and hand them a teether.
2) Have a teether nearby
This will come in handy! There are all kinds of teethers that are safe for babies to use. I recommend having a few different kinds of teethers because you may notice they like certain ones over others. Furthermore, some teethers may be more beneficial at different times.
3) What to do if you get bit?
I know this is hard to do, but don't yell or scold your baby. I know sometimes remaining quiet and having no reaction seems preposterous, but it will benefit you both in the long run. It's best to remain calm and end the session. Hand your baby a teether and maybe say something along the lines of "no bite" or "we don't bite (insert cutesy name for your boobs)". This will let your baby know that biting is not to be done while eating but to be done with a toy.
If you have a bad reaction to being bitten you risk a) your baby being afraid to nurse again or b) them finding it hilarious and doing it again on purpose. Neither of these things you want so it's best to try to remain calm and act as if it was no big deal.
If you're bitten and damage is done to your nipple see this post of tips on healing your nipples.
Rest easy, mama. Like everything else, this too shall pass. Quicker than you may imagine.
The first tooth is a big event in your baby’s young life. (n.d.). Teething in Babies: Symptoms and Remedies. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/teething-symptoms-remedies#1
When Baby Bites • KellyMom.com. (2018, March 17). Retrieved from https://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/biting/#damage