Biting has been my fear since I started breastfeeding and since I got past through it, it wouldn’t be a wonder that most Moms are fearing it. Especially, when those teething months are around the corner. I think this is probably the nth time I’ve gotten the question and is surely worth to have it’s own post.
An old friend of mine asked me how to get through biting and breastfeeding yesterday. I can understand how that can be a scary thought because honestly during my first weeks of breastfeeding Jack Jack while he was still learning how to latch properly, it felt like he was gnawing on my nipples. I was pretty sure it felt like gnawing not biting. But it all got better and the only reason why it hurt is because we were both in the process of learning how to latch properly and he is figuring out how to do that which is what makes it hurt.
Not all babies bite but when your baby starts to bite while nursing, it will hurt. Again. I’m not saying this to scare you but I’d like you to be prepared. Prepared for the pain and to try not to scream even if you get surprised. Much better if you not only try but really keep calm as screaming will cause a nursing strike. The screaming might scare your baby. Honestly, I can put up with the biting any day but not a nursing strike.
Your baby is definitely not hungry when they bite as they don’t get any milk out of it. There are two reasons why your baby is biting: play and teething. Play will more likely be the reason at first as they are exploring what they can do. You will have to train them not to bite because it hurts you but later on they might bite occasionally because they are teething. Teething will cause their gums to be itchy.
Be firm. When baby bites, start by unlatching properly (don’t pull!). This will emphasize that they won’t get anything (milk and comfort) if they bite. If you are wondering when to start disciplining your child, now is a good time to begin.
Proper unlatching can be done by inserting your little finger in the mouth and pushing the lower jaw down before pulling your breasts out. Some Moms push their baby’s head towards the breast making it harder for them to breathe and eventually unlatch to breathe from the mouth. I do it by pinching their nose. It’s easier.
Have the “Talk”. After unlatching talk to your baby that biting hurts you and that you don’t like it. No “baby talking” please. Talk with a calm voice. Please believe me when I say that babies are smart and they will understand. I promise they will understand. Eventually.
Offer something else to bite. If your baby is still biting after having the “talk”, their gums are probably itchy. Use a teether or a wet towel for them to bite on. Preferably cold. They will immediately bite on it if their gums are itchy because of the comfort it brings to them. If you have started on solids, you may also opt to offer them frozen fruits or any fruit that just came out of the fridge. Use a mesh feeder so your baby can hold on to the fruit. Frozen breastmilk can also do the trick.
Watch your baby’s cues. You can prevent the biting by unlatching right before they bite. How you say? You can immediately see this coming as baby’s facial expression changes right before the bite.
Biting and breastfeeding does not go together. But it doesn’t mean that you have to give it up all together when you don’t really want to. The biting is just a phase. With a little patience, it will get better.