My baby is biting my nipple!

My baby is biting my nipple!

A very common experience that you may have as your baby gets a little bit older, around four to eight months of age, is to unexpectedly receive a bite when a tooth has erupted! 

This can really hurt, there’s no doubt about it, and it can be a really distressing situation. Please be assured that this is a temporary hurdle and it is absolutely possible to continue breastfeeding.

So, first of all, it’s reassuring to know that when a baby is well latched at the breast it is impossible to be bitten from an anatomical point of view. What usually happens is that babies will tend to bite at the beginning or at the end of a feed. 

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to get right back to basics.

Do the things that you did when you were first learning to help your baby to latch at the breast. 

You’ve probably got to the stage where you don’t even have to think about latching, and your baby just latches on himself, but it’s useful at this stage to focus again on the big wide mouth before every feed to ensure that every feed is a good one. This will prevent your baby from being able to bite at the beginning of the feed.

Also, pay very close attention to your baby as the feed is progressing and watch out for any change of jaw movement. You know your baby very well by this stage.

If you feel that he is about to come to the end of the feed or about to pull off the breast, this is usually the time when a bite can occur too, so be prepared to unlatch by placing your smallest finger in the corner of his mouth to break the seal.

Another useful strategy is to delay bringing your baby to the breast if he seems disinterested in feeding. You may be used to bringing your baby to the breast for lots of different reasons, and that’s great, but certainly, during this biting stage try to delay.

Also, if he gets sleepy take him off the breast before he hangs around too long and bites at the end of that feed. 

Another important strategy that may not be so easy is to be as calm as you can! This is a very positive thing. Praise your baby for every good feed – this is good positive reinforcement.

You may be wondering what to do if your baby does bite?  

As well as trying to remain calm, bring your baby in slightly closer to the breast. This will help him to unlatch as it’s very difficult to coordinate staying attached while swallowing and breathing at the same time.

Try not to shout because this can cause a nursing strike – have a good look at the information about this.

So bring your baby in close initially, then take him off, place him away from you just for a couple of minutes with a very firm ‘NO’ – that’s often enough to give the signal that biting has negative consequences! He will want to be able to come back to his place of comfort!

Some babies may take a little longer than others to get past this hurdle and to learn those lessons, but with persistence and your determination, things will move forward.

If you have already sustained a bite, and this has caused trauma to your nipple this can be distressing and you may feel very apprehensive about offering that side to your baby again! 

Please be assured that nipples heal really well given the right circumstances.

Those circumstances involve getting a good latch – so pay close attention to that big wide mouth before latching. Try some other positions as well and very soon those nipples will heal up and you can move forward.

If you feel that the damage that your baby has caused has brought you to a place where you just cannot face bringing your baby to that side, in this situation, it’s still possible to carry on with breastfeeding. 

Your body will continue to make milk on whichever side you feed on and you can also express on the painful side regularly, preferably with an electric pump to maintain your supply. 

You may need to use hand expression in-between the regular expressions if you get uncomfortably full, just expressing a minimal amount of milk until you feel comfortable. This will help to prevent a blocked duct.

Very soon your baby will be able to come back to the breast again and the pumping will give your nipple a chance to heal up.

If you have sustained damage to both nipples, you may need to use a really good quality electric double pump to maintain supply for a couple of days. 

This is usually an extreme situation, and not particularly common, but if it does happen, your pump will help you to go forward. 

Please rest assured that this is a temporary situation and babies learn fast, nipples heal and you and your baby can continue to breastfeed.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022

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