Biting hurts! Teething is one of the reasons that could cause your baby to bite or clench while breastfeeding (keep reading for other possible causes). When teething is the cause of your baby’s biting, here are some things you can do to help.
Offer teething remedies
Before nursing, give your baby something cold to chew on like a frozen teething toy or a frozen wet washcloth. This can help to numb and soothe her sore gums so that you don’t end up being the chew toy.
You can also freeze breastmilk and make breastmilk “popsicles”. Or you can also do this with pureed fruit or smoothies if your baby is old enough for solid foods. Click here for my favorite homemade popsicle mold. Another easy (and healthy!) remedy is buying some popsicle sticks and sticking them in a few bananas before throwing them in the freezer. Frozen banana, anyone?
If teething is causing your baby so much discomfort that she is not eating or sleeping well, talk to your pediatrician about medications that are safe for your teething baby.
What to do when your baby bites
If your baby bites while nursing, unlatch your baby and (in your calmest tone possible) say something like “Biting hurts mommy. I see you don’t want to nurse right now.”
Try not to overreact as this can startle your baby and prevent her from wanting to nurse again or could cause her to bite more because she enjoyed the strong reaction from you. It’s important not to endure the pain because this can cause nipple damage over time. Unlatching sends the message to your baby that biting will not be tolerated.
If your baby is upset after unlatching because she is still hungry, you can simply try again in a few minutes or after offering some teething remedies.
If biting has caused some nipple pain/damage, you can dab the damaged area with a rice-sized amount of lanolin after the feeding.
Get to the root of it
Teething is not the only cause of biting. Other causes include:
- A poor latch
- Your baby is wanting your attention
- Your baby is distracted or bored and doesn’t feel like eating
- A forceful milk ejection reflex or oversupply (especially if biting is happening at the beginning of a feed)
- An illness or ear infection
- Insufficient milk supply
It’s important to get to the root cause of biting in order to prevent it from happening. If you’re not sure what the problem is, your pediatrician or lactation consultant can help you identify the root cause based on your baby’s medical history, growth, age, latch assessment, etc.
Hang in there, mama! Biting hurts, but it is usually a temporary phase.
Want more? Check out our research-based online breastfeeding course for expectant and new parents. We offer practical tips and solutions for your breastfeeding journey so you can feed your baby with confidence and meet your goals!