Biting the Breast that Feeds

My 13-month-old son is biting me when I breastfeed. Do you have any advice on how I can stop it?

-- Cathy Saputo

Question:

Getting bitten while nursing your baby is no fun. There are many reasons why our little ones bite us.

Biting is often related to teething. Just as they bite everything else that gets near their little mouths, they may bite the breast as well. Even babies who did not bite with earlier teeth can be more troubled by the eyeteeth or molars. You might try giving your toddler something to chew on to soothe the gums a little before nursing, for example, a frozen washcloth or bagel.

Another reason for biting is to get our attention. Does your little one tend to bite when you are distracted during the nursing session? Some babies prefer that their mommies spend this time focused only on them. It is a personal, special moment, and these babies seem to really want their mothers' full attention.

Babies also can bite simply because they enjoy the reaction they get from us. The first time you are bitten it is hard not to let out a yell. It is helpful in such situations to try to downplay your reaction as much as possible. Some mothers have reported success with immediately ending the nursing session while saying something like: "Mommies are not for biting. Crackers are for biting," while giving the baby a cracker.

Whatever the reason for the biting, this is a behavior you will want to discourage. Many mothers have found success with the following techniques: First of all, watch the baby closely while nursing, and pay attention to when the biting tends to occur. Soon you will probably see a pattern and be able to end the nursing session by gently breaking suction with a pinky before the biting begins. Second, if the child bites despite your efforts to prevent it, resist the urge to pull him off. This only causes you more pain. Instead, pull the baby in as closely to the breast as possible. It is physically impossible for the child to bite and simultaneously maneuver his head away, causing him to release the bite.

-- LLLMarci

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