Our five-month-old bites while breastfeeding and it hurts. How can I stop her? Babies do bite the breast that feeds them. As soon as those pearly whites begin to painfully bother her gums (can begin as early as three months), she naturally turns to her favorite pacifier – mom. What’s even more startling is the irritating little nip that comes just as you are feeling the effects of your natural tranquilizing hormones, as if being jarred out of a light sleep. Try these suggestions to lessen biting:
- React appropriate to how it feels. “Ouch!” you holler as you pry those little baby jaws apart with your fingers to preserve your precious, tender piece of flesh. Once you’ve rescued your nipple, watch baby’s face. Sensitive babies will cry at mother’s reaction. Calm her and immediately resume nursing. When she bites again, react the same way. Eventually, baby will associate biting with an undesirable reaction and will stop biting.
- End the feeding. When baby bites and you prematurely end the feeding, baby associates biting with the end of a feeding, which acts as another deterent for her continued biting.
- Pull baby close. Instead of the yank-and-yell response, which you may intuitively feel like doing, as soon as you sense baby’s teeth coming down to bite, draw her in close to your breast and she will automatically let go in order to open her mouth more and uncover her nose to breathe. Don’t try to disengage your nipple from the clenched teeth. Your baby will lessen her bite as she realized that she can’t both bite and breathe. After several times of this counter-instinctive trick of pulling your baby in close to you when she bites, your baby will realize that biting triggers this uncomfortable response and she will stop biting. Remember, your goal is to discourage her from biting, not to frighten her.
- Reserve a protective finger. Once you know your baby is in the biting phase, keep a finger in the corner of her mouth, ready to break the suction if you sense her starting to clamp down.
- Try the pull-off-and-put-down technique. If baby bites, immediately disengage her from the breast and put her down, not in a punitive way, but with enough firmness that she makes the connection between biting and being put down.
- Provide an alternative. Teething creates the urge to chomp, and anything that enters her mouth is fair game. Keep some teething toys in the freezer, such as a frozen banana or a washcloth, and let her chomp on these before, or at the end of a feeding. If you know from experience that biting comes at the end of the feeding, let her finish her sucking on your finger or a cool substitute. These techniques will teach your baby breastfeeding manners and also preserve your nipples.