Baby Biting During Breastfeeding - Causes & Prevention

Baby Biting While Breastfeeding: Reasons and Prevention

Medically Reviewed By
Shruti Kanchan (Lactation Specialist)
View more Lactation Specialist Our Panel of Experts

A baby biting while breastfeeding is common. Many babies do it for various reasons of which the most common is teething. Babies will gnaw at anything that relieves the pain of teething.

When breastfeeding properly, a baby will cover the lower gum ridge or teeth (if he/she has teeth yet) with the tongue and will be wary of biting the breast as that would hurt the underside their own tongue too. In the correct latch, the nipple is positioned deep in the baby’s mouth and cannot be bitten. However, if a baby is not latched on properly, or the tongue is not correctly used, it can feel he/she is clamping down or biting on the nipple.

As we know, every problem has a solution to it and so does this. We need to take certain measures to prevent babies from biting, and this can be done only when you have the knowledge as to why your baby bites while breastfeeding. Once that is known, half the battle is won. Thereafter, you can easily take preventive steps to stop your little one from hurting you.

Video: Baby Biting During Breastfeeding – Causes and Prevention

Reasons for Baby Biting while Breastfeeding

There are plenty of reasons why a baby bites while breastfeeding. Apart from not latching on properly onto your breast or improper positioning while being breastfed, here are some reasons as to why babies bite while breastfeeding.

  • Teething can be said to be the number one cause of this problem. Your baby seeks relief from the pain during teething by biting onto the mother’s breast while breastfeeding.
  • Older babies get distracted easily. In case they turn to look at something, they can forget that they still have their mother’s breast in their mouth. This can cause unintentional damage when the baby inadvertently closes its jaws.
  • Sometimes babies don’t get enough milk so they bite into the nipple to get a better hold.
  • A baby may involuntarily bite when they fall asleep while being breastfed.
  • Babies bite as a sign of affection and may cause unintended damage to the nipple.
  • In younger or newborn babies, biting can be a sign of Tongue Tie and should be examined by a paediatrician.

Can You Continue Feeding Your Baby Even After Teething?

There is no reason as to why you cannot continue feeding your baby when they begin to grow their milk teeth. It is a common misconception that when a baby has teeth and starts biting, the time for nursing is over, and it is time to start weaning. But that’s not necessarily correct. If your baby is latched on properly, and the positioning is correct while being breastfed, then you should not feel any pain, even if they have a mouthful of the pearly whites. A breastfeeding baby biting with gums can just as painful as a baby biting with their teeth.

Biting is something that most babies try to explore especially when they are teething. It can be stopped with a little bit of persistence on your part. Not all babies react in the same manner to a situation, and you may need to try out various ways to discourage him/her before you find one which works. All that is required to stop your baby from biting you while breastfeeding is the three “P’s”; Patience, Perseverance and Persistence.

How to Prevent a Newborn From Biting During Breastfeeding?

How to stop the baby from biting the nipple is a common question asked by many mothers. It is something which comes naturally to babies, especially when they are teething. However, mothers can try and prevent it by taking several measures.

  • The baby often bites when he/she has finished nursing session or when they may be tired and bored of suckling. So, watch out for indications of disinterest and stop nursing before the biting begins.
  • Mothers should learn to position their baby the right way. Incorrect positioning of the baby while breastfeeding could irritate them, which in turn could lead the baby to bite the mother’s breast.
  • Make sure that there are no distractions while feeding the baby. In case of any distractions, the baby may forget what they are doing and close their mouth which could be painful.
  • Talk to your baby while feeding them to communicate the fact that it is not a good thing to bite. Consistently engage them by singing or telling a story while feeding them. When you see their jaws tighten to bite, just say a firm ‘no’. For this too, you may have to experiment with several ways of saying it because for some a stern impression may work and for others, something else.
  • If your breasts are engorged, the baby may find it difficult to latch on to it. Therefore, before you start nursing, try expressing some milk.
  • Teething is one of the many problems that all babies face. During this period, the baby’s gum itches and aches and as such to ease the pain and itch, the baby bites while breastfeeding. In such cases, the mother should massage the gums with a clean finger or give them a teething toy before and after every feed.
  • Learning the time when your baby bites can also help in preventing them from taking jabs at your nipple. Usually, babies bite at the end of a nursing cycle when they have finished getting enough milk and simply want to play around by gnawing at your nipple. Therefore, once the baby slows down the intensity of their sucking, gently pull your breast off from their mouth.
  • When your baby bites, immediately pull them away gently from your breast and put them down. By this, your little one will start realising that biting means an end to nursing.
  • Many mothers find that encouraging correct behaviour with ample praises if effective in discouraging the baby from biting.
  • Feeding the baby only when they are hungry can also prevent a baby from biting. If the baby is hungry, they will be more interested in sucking milk and less in biting.
  • You can also soothe the baby’s gums by feeding them expressed breastmilk popsicles.

Can Your Nipple Get Damaged Due to Baby Bites?

A mother breastfeeding her baby

The biting of the nipple by the baby while breastfeeding can be painful, to say the least. It leads to soreness and discomfort too. Usually, it does not damage the nipple, but at times, you can get a bad bite from your baby. In that case, it is best to apply ice right after the injury and after every nursing session. Apart from this, Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is compatible with breastfeeding and can be taken as and when required. However, it is best to take the advice of a medical practitioner before taking any medicine. Also applying a few drops of fresh Aloe Vera juice could help in healing the wound.

Although babies biting while breastfeeding can be painful and a nuisance for the mothers, one cannot steer clear of it. You may go through a whole lot of pain and problems associated with breastfeeding, but the outcome is sure to be rewarding for both you and your baby. After all, a mother’s milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies and helps with a baby’s health and growth.

Also Read:

Baby Sweating during Breastfeeding
Baby Crying While Breastfeeding
Baby Sleeping While Breastfeeding

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