What to Do When Baby Bites While Nursing

baby smiling with teethThere comes a time that every breastfeeding mother dreads. It’s that time when your sweet cuddly baby turns into a drooling, biting monster. Some women fear this moment so much, they stop nursing altogether just to avoid being bitten, but that’s not necessary.

Many babies bite when they’re teething or when they are bored or impatient, and it can be pretty scary. But with the right attitude, some vigilance, and swift crisis management, biting should quickly become a thing of the past.

Steps to Take When Baby Bites

Even before those tiny whites appear, babies can start nibbling on the nipple to soothe the ache of their gums. This is uncomfortable but not yet very painful. Still, it might be a good idea to take action already at this point. When your baby starts to nibble or takes your nipple into a jawlock, calmly take him off of your breast and put him down. Explain to your child that nibbling and biting hurts mommy. Offer him a teething toy or a cold washrag, and let him know that he can chew on those instead.

Try your hardest to remain calm! Crying out might either scare your child (which might result in her biting down even harder) or make her laugh because mommy is making funny noises. Getting angry at your child for biting doesn’t help either. Your baby doesn’t do this to hurt you! She does it because he’s uncomfortable and biting soothes her.1

Observe your child closely when he nurses. Babies can’t bite down when they’re actively nursing, because the tongue is stretched over their bottom teeth and prevents biting. Most babies bite at the end of a nursing session out of boredom or because they are feeling tired/uncomfortable. When you notice your child is no longer actively nursing, take them off the breast.

Some babies bite because they are impatient. Waiting for the let down just takes too long. The same advice applies here: be vigilant, take your child off the breast when you notice he pulls his tongue off his lower teeth. You may also wish to take steps to overcome a slow let-down.2
If you watch your child closely, you will find out when he manifests the biting behavior and you will be able to foresee and prevent it.

My Own Experiences with a Biting Baby

For my daughter, the biting lasted about six months. She now has a full set of teeth and never bites anymore. She did bite down very hard once (on her birthday! She got spooked because the phone rang), and I had blood in my milk for a day – very scary. But we both survived and we’re still nursing away happily at almost 21 months.

With the full set of teeth, sometimes she makes me think of a shark when she latches on.

How about you? Did the teething go smoothly without biting? Did those pearly whites scare you off?

More Resources

The following resources provide more tips on how to gently handle biting.

Ask Dr. Sears: Teething

Nursing Manners

Teething

When Baby Bites

Photo credit: csontoslea

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Laura ‘Mamapoekie’ Schuerwegen is the expat mother of a very active two year old. She currently lives in Ivory Coast and blogs at Authentic Parenting.

  1. The same holds true when your child already has teeth and still bites.
  2. kellymom.com has several tips for overcoming slow let-down in “Let Down Reflex: Too Slow?

6 Responses to What to Do When Baby Bites While Nursing

  1. Amy R.  

    I’m dealing with biting now with my five-month-old, and it is very challenging. Thanks for these reminders to stay calm, quiet, and vigilant. It’s nice to know it does come to an end!

  2. Momma Jorje

    It can be hard not to react! However, I read some great advice before Sasha’s teeth cut: When she bit down, I pressed my breast into her face. This blocked her nose, cutting off her airway. Sound awful? After just a couple of seconds, she would release her grip on my nipple to breathe. Literally one morning of doing this (3 times?) and she almost completely stopped biting me!

    These days (she is just past the 1 year mark and has only 4 teeth), my downfall seems to be when she wants to nurse and has a mouth full of food. I forget or am just too soft. She will suckle some, but then try to chew. Ouch!

    Worst yet, however, is when she nurses to sleep. If she is in my lap, she will continue to suckle. She likes to do that. However, if I let her suckle too long, she will jaw lock me, teeth and all! This is when I get frantic to release her teeth! I usually have to pry her mouth open with a finger, which may or may not disturb her slumber. It makes me flip out almost every time!

    If we’re in bed, she lets go and rolls over when she is done suckling – no bites!

  3. Maman A Droit  

    I’ve done the thing where I shove my breast a little farther in and it worked well, plus the removing and saying no. My son thinks my “no” is hilarious always for no apparent reason, so I always have better luck with non verbal solutions.

  4. Dawn Shepard

    This was the end of breastfeeding with my first child 16 years ago at the time I was 19 years old. My son had 2 teeth at 1 mo and 4 by 2 months. This is my only fear now with my 2nd child on the way. Do you think this advise will help so early? I cut teeth early (born with one 5 by 2 mo) I believe my children will all cut teeth early.

    • Dionna  

      Dawn – if baby is that young when teething starts, I think I’d concentrate more on being patient, staying calm, and taking *preventative* measures rather than *reactive* measures. In other words, once you think baby is teething, start with the cold washcloths, the teething tablets, give lots of love and affection – I wouldn’t have personally put Kieran down as some kind of “consequence” at that age. If I was bleeding, I’d take care of myself, of course, ;) but I would make it more my responsibility to try to prevent it with little tiny ones.
      Good luck!! You can do it :)

      • Dawn Shepard

        I only saw this today. Thank you for your responce. I did not mean to punish due to the biting, I was only 19 young single and scared. I know I will cope this time and I am not alone. I have been msg so many other mothers and understand so much more now. Thank you for everything.

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