A common theme that I have seen recently is to do with babies biting while feeding. I was just reading some responses to a question about babies biting at the breast and to be honest some of the answers like “bite them back”, “just flick their cheek” and “time to wean” etc sadden me.
The number one thing to remember is your baby is not biting you on purpose and certainly don’t need to be punished or taught a lesson.
Babies physically cannot bite if attached to the breast properly and actively feeding as their tongue needs to be over their bottom gum.
It is pointless getting mad at your baby as he/she is not intentionally hurting you and has no idea that the reaction you give is related to the bite.
Imagine you are a baby happily suckling at your mummy’s breast and all of a sudden you are on the floor and your mumma is speaking strongly to you. Your baby will be confused and understandably upset. I totally understand that it may be instinctive to yelp as it can really hurt but try not to react angrily towards your baby.
Why do babies bite?
The common reason for coping a bite from your baby is due to sore gums, being distracted or possibly trying to tell you that the flow is too fast or too slow.
Frequent biting can also be an indication of a decreased milk production. If your baby is reasonably young (less then five months) and frequently biting or chomping down on the breast – this can be a sign of a tongue tie as baby needs to work extra hard to maintain adequate latch. If this is the case – consider seeing an IBCLC to have your feeding technique assessed and baby checked for anything effecting his/her latch.
What can you do to stop or prevent babies biting at the breast?
* Make sure your baby has a nice deep latch on the breast. Often after feeding for a couple of months we can get complacent so paying close attachment to their latch is important. Keeping some pressure between your babies shoulder blades will ensure his/her head is extended and encourages a deeper latch.
* Watch your baby closely. As I said before babies cannot bite while actively feeding – so by watching their feeding rhythm and taking them off when they finished actively feeding can really curb the biting. Also dont let them play at the breast.
* If you know your baby gets distracted easily – try and find a nice quite place to feed them.
* If you feel your baby is biting due to sore gums/teething you can offer something to help their gums. A cold spoon, washer, breastmilk icey poles or a teether are great biting tools for your babe. I find the homeopathic remedy chamomillia to be extremely helpful for teething babies.
* If baby is biting due to fast flow you can try expressing and letting down into a towel before you put the baby in the breast.
* If baby is biting due to a slow let down you can also try hand expressing until you start to let down and put babe to the breast or use breast compressions during a feed.
What can I do when baby does bite?
The best thing to do is pull bub into the breast which will cover their nose and he/she will release the nipple. This method will also stop you getting nipple damage as a swift pull off while sharp little teeth are clamped onto your nipple can result in nasty damage.
You can then say something along the lines of “no biting it hurts mummy – how about you chew on this” but try not to yell or physically hurt them.
If your nipples are sore and damaged from biting try having a rest and express day and offer expressed milk via a syringe or cup.
Always remember though “this to shall pass” and continue on with your beautiful breastfeeding journey.