Why do babies bite while breastfeeding?

There are a few reasons why babies bite.

Most commonly, your milk flow is too fast, or too slow, or baby bites to get your attention.

If your milk is not letting down quickly and your baby is chomping to make it start, take a few deep breaths, or drink some water. Usually that will relax you enough to let down your milk.

If your baby is suddenly overwhelmed because you have a Swoosh! of milk, when it lets down, they may bite to stop the milk. Release their bite, catch your spraying milk in a towel, and try again when the torrents have eased.

Babies most usually bite because they want your attention, and your attention is elsewhere. Babies love to be with you, and have your adoring gaze upon them. Fortunately, this is easy to do, but sometimes you drift away on a little mental vacation, and they bring you back with a sharp bite!

After two months, teething can start.

They also might start biting because their teeth hurt. Gently release the grip, and offer a teether to gnaw on.

Why is my baby laughing at me?

The cruelest bite is when baby sees they are getting an unusual reaction from you and bites to see it, over and over again. They might even start laughing. A yelp or a cry followed by scolding, and a funny face they have never seen before, is funny to them.

They truly don’t know that they are hurting you, unless they are older. Try especially not to scream, because this can scare them, causing a nursing strike. Being mean on purpose comes later, after 18 or 24 months.

Remember that getting a big reaction is another way of getting your attention.

Try to dampen your reaction and dis-associate breastfeeding, from your big reaction. Stay as calm as you can, remove them from your breast, and say gently, “That hurt. You can nurse when you are ready to be gentle.”

It doesn’t take long for a baby to understand that biting means no nursing. They often change their behavior fairly quickly to keep the milk, love and snuggles flowing.

The key is to pay attention to them while they are nursing.

Watch for clues that the bite is coming. Clues might be that they stop sucking, or they start squirming. When nursing, you usually have a window of gulping time that is safe, and then a shorter window of transition time, and finally, a biting time.

During the transition time, focus on baby, and be prepared to unlatch them, either with your finger in between their gums, or you can pull them in against your breast, so their nose is blocked. When their nose is blocked, their mouth will pop open, and they can’t bite.

You have to see which ways work better for you.

At that point you can offer them something else to bite, offer to nurse gently, or just end nursing and hold them. Try not to overreact by pushing them away, or setting them down alone away from you, as this just reinforces the separation, that they were bringing to your attention by biting you.

It’s scary and anxiety rears up.

You may dread breastfeeding. You may switch to bottles out of fear that your baby will bite your nipple and draw blood. This has happened! But usually biting is confined to a day or two, and your baby loses interest.

Keep this in mind, and get through the biting spell as best you can. And remember seeing an IBCLC is always an option, if it persists.

Mother of three, including twins; Lactation Consultant; Partner of Michael;

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