Biting: Could my baby have weaned?

I have been breastfeeding my 10-month-old daughter and we had a very satisfying nursing relationship until a week ago when all of a sudden she started biting me -- as soon as she latches on. She just won't no matter how firmly I tell her to. She has not nursed since that first time I told her to stop. To complicate matters, I am prone to plugged ducts and the breastpump doesn't help much. Could my daughter have weaned herself abruptly?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Sometimes when a baby is teething she bites on anything that comes her way (including your breast, unfortunately.) While it is true that most babies bite toward the end of a feed, some babies do use their teeth at other times. This is not a sign of weaning, though it does sometimes end up that way. It is natural to yell or scream if you have been bitten in such a sensitive area. Even the calmest mothers may not be able to help themselves. Biting hurts! Sometimes a sensitive baby will go on a "nursing strike" when this happens and refuse to nurse (or bite down again when put to breast). Maybe this was the case in your situation.

As far as your tendency toward plugged ducts, it can be a problem if your baby weans abruptly. Though it may be too late in your case, generally I would advise expressing your milk when your breasts feel uncomfortable, even though your baby has weaned. This is especially important in women who are prone to mastitis or plugged ducts.

The idea is to decrease stimulation to your breasts gradually (even if your baby didn't plan it that way.) The first day you might need to express quite a lot, but each day, if you listen to your body, you should find the amount decreasing until you no longer need to express any milk.

If your baby has weaned and you are still very uncomfortable and are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, fever, or see any redness on your breasts, it is very important to be promptly evaluated by your Health Care Provider. You may have developed a case of mastitis, and if so, you will need treatment even if your baby has stopped nursing.

Since your baby is under one year of age, if she has totally weaned from your breast, it is very important you talk with her Health Care Provider about breastmilk alternatives. Milk is still a very important part of her diet at this age. Most breastfed babies of this age are weaned to a cup, rather than a bottle.

If your baby did indeed wean during this time, please don't blame yourself. It is normal to feel sad if your baby weaned before you were really ready for the breastfeeding relationship to end. Weaning does change your relationship, and that change can be a bit scary. But this is not the end of your closeness by any means. Weaning is a new beginning. You and your baby are developing new ways of interacting with one another. It's an exciting time, though a time of transition for you both. Substitute lots of cuddling and loving for the times you spent nursing. It will do you both a lot of good!

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