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, and usually between the ages of four to eight months when your baby is starting to teethe you may unexpectedly experience a bite from your baby. This certainly hurts there’s no doubt about it and it can be a really distressing situation. But please be assured that this is a temporary hurdle and most babies will try to bite at some stage.

So first of all a really good thing to know (and studies have shown this) is that when babies are latched it’s impossible to be bitten, from an anatomical point of view – but what babies do is they tend to bite at the beginning or the end of a feed, so with this in mind it’s a really good idea to get right back to basics- the things that you did when you were enabling your baby to latch at the beginning where you watched really closely to get that big wide mouth before the feeding.

 You’ve probably got into a situation where you actually don’t even have to think about latching and baby just latches on no problem, but it’s good now to focus on the big wide mouth again, before every feed, to ensure that every feed is going to be a good one, and it will prevent your baby being able to bite at the beginning of the feed without you realising. Also, coupled with that, watch your baby like a hawk as the feed is progressing and any change of jaw movement or you know your baby very well at this stage if you think your baby is about to come to the end of that feed or about to come off the breast that is usually the time when they’ll start to think about biting at the end of that feed so have a good look at that and keep an eye out, unlatch the baby with a little finger in the corner of the mouth to break the seal and getting off fast if you think he is coming to the end of that feed.

 Some other useful strategies that you can try are, not to bring your baby to the breast if he seems disinterested in feeding. You know you might be in a situation where you’ve been bringing your baby to the breast for lots of different reasons and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But certainly during this biting hurdle phase, try not to bring the baby at that time, and also if he gets sleepy then take him off the breast before he hangs around too long and bites at the end of that feed. Another thing is to remain as calm as you can- it’s easier said than done. But remaining calm is a very positive thing, and praising your baby for every good feed that he does – this is very good positive reinforcement.

 You might be wondering what to do if your baby does bite? –  one of the most important things is to remain calm, and you can pull him in slightly closer (to the breast) as well because this will help him to come off the breast-  it’s very difficult to coordinate staying attached and and swallowing and breathing at the same time.

 Try not to shout in the process because this can cause what they call in breastfeeding circles a nursing strike – there’s a video relating to that so have a good look at that just for your information. But 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 your baby the signal that biting does have negative repercussions before he gets that relationship back again. 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 your baby has already bitten you and cause trauma to nipples this can be very distressing and you may feel  that you never want your baby to feed on that side again, but please be assured that nipples heal up really well given the right circumstances. And those circumstances involve getting a good latch- so pay close attention to that big wide mouth before latching. Try some other positions as well – look at the videos relating to other positions that you can try, and very soon those nipples will heal up and you can move forward.

You may however feel that the damage that your baby has caused because of the bite has brought you to a place where you just cannot bear to bring your baby to one particular side so in that 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 other painful side, expressing regularly, preferably with an electric pump just to keep your supply up. You may need to use a little bit of hand expression in between the regular expressions  if you get uncomfortably full – just taking off a minimal amount of milk to prevent a blocked duct  –  but 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 trauma happens on both sides some women have used a really good quality electric pump, a double pump just to keep the supply up, even for a couple of days, but usually that’s an extreme situation; your pump is your mechanical friend to help you to go forward, so please rest assured that this is a temporary situation and babies learn fast, nipples heal up and you and your baby can go forward together as normal.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

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

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