There's a lot of things people tell you about when you start out with breastfeeding but not many talk about the time when your baby starts to bite when feeding, or the fact that it's mighty painful when they sink there little newly formed teeth into you. Whilst not all babies are biters, it is a fairly common occurence, but it doesn't have to mean the end of breastfeeding.
When Baby Bites Back
Babies will bite during breastfeeding for a myriad of reasons. It could stem from boredom, from you not paying them sufficient attention or from the milk not coming fast enough or in my case, it could be when your baby is teething. However, none of these reasons mean that you suddenly have to become a human teething ring, instead you just have to find a way to stop the biting so that your days of breastfeeding can long continue.
Prevent Biting During Breastfeeding
I'm going to lay it down truthfully here and say that if you are bitten during breastfeeding it can really hurt, and for some mothers, it can absolutely be enough to decide to give up breastfeeding. However, there are a few tactics you can employ, which should hopefully stop your baby from biting you so that breastfeeding can continue.
1) Biting at the beginning of the feed.
This can be a sign that your baby is super hungry and that your milk is just not coming fast enough in their impatient opinion. If this is the case, try to time your feed a fraction earlier so that you get to them before they are 'too hungry'. You could also try to express a bit of milk before their feed to get your milk flowing at a good rate so they can get straight down to the business of feeding.
2) Biting when teething.
Parents typically know when their child is teething, so you get a bit of warning about this one. A good distraction before a feed is to give them something cool and hard to bite down on (instead of your breast) to provide some temporary relief to their sore gums. A teething cream rubbed on their gums might also provide some relief for them. After a few minutes, it is generally safer territory to then offer them your breast.
3) Biting at the end of a feed.
My good friend had an 8 month old that used to bite to signal the end of a feed, not a great end to the nursing experience, but this was her baby's way of communicating boredom. The way that she overcame this was to look for his signals, so when his feeding became less rapid and when his latch started to change she knew that a bite was likely. In this example, her son would genuinely start to look bored and mischevious before biting down, and this was when she knew to stop the feed. If you're not sure on the signals that your child is giving you and bites occur, then unlatch as soon as you've been bitten and tell your child 'no'. They'll soon start to realise that biting is not the done thing, and you'll recognise when to unlatch and prevent the bite from occuring.
4) It's a phase
Like most things with babies, biting during breastfeeding is typically just a phase and something they will move on from. It can very often coincide with teething, a growth spurt or from illness and needing to nurse for more comfort, and all of these phases are shortlived. If you get bitten, give a firm no and your child will soon learn that you don't appreciate being gnawed on.
Call for expert assistance if you need help Image: Morguefile
If these tips don't work for you, or you need further assistance, a great resource is the Australian Breastfeeding Association and you can call their free helpline on 1800 68628
for immediate assistance.
Did you have a biter? What worked for you during this phase?