4 Reasons Babies Bite While Breastfeeding

Why a nursing baby might bite, and what to do about it.

As babies mature, concerns about biting while breastfeeding can grow stronger. We can’t blame moms for being apprehensive – no one wants to feel like a chew toy, especially on such a delicate part of the body. But many women are surprised to hear that a baby can’t bite while actively nursing. If baby is biting while breastfeeding, it’s actually happening during breaks between active feeding. Understanding why babies bite when breastfeeding can help you decide what to do to stop or avoid this from happening, and keep nursing comfortable for both you and baby. Here are four reasons babies bite while breastfeeding, and tips for getting them re-focused on the task at hand: that amazing liquid gold.

  1. Your baby is teething

Teething can begin at any time, and can cause a baby’s gums to be sore and swollen. If you notice your baby biting during this time, they are probably more interested in relieving pain than breastfeeding. Giving your baby a teething toy or breast milk popsicle can help soothe their gums with something other than your breast.

  1. Your baby is bored

Many times, a baby will bite when nursing because he is distracted by what’s going on around him. This often happens near the end of a nursing session, when he is getting bored and isn’t as hungry anymore. When possible, try to nurse in a quiet room, rocking or lying down together to avoid too much stimulation and distraction.

  1. Your baby wants your attention

Older babies tend to demand significant attention and may bite if they don’t feel they’re getting enough. Try to keep eye contact and engage with your baby while breastfeeding. In order to actively nurse, the baby’s tongue must be placed over the lower teeth and gums to draw milk out of the breast. Playful babies often draw their tongue backward at the end of a nursing session, signaling that they are finished suckling. Keeping a vigilant eye on the baby while nursing, and removing him as soon as he finishes actively nursing can prevent a potential bite.

  1. Your baby wants more milk

Sometimes when milk supply dips the baby may bite and pull back, trying to get another milk ejection from the breast. Some factors that may negatively affect milk supply are: resuming menses, pregnancy while breastfeeding, hormonal birth control methods, some medications and supplements, and even stress. Remember, if your baby is gaining weight appropriately, they are getting enough milk. If you have questions about your milk supply, check with a Lactation Consultant for personalized, expert advice.

How to Stop the Biting (Whatever the Reason)

It’s recommended by many nursing mothers as well as breastfeeding experts that if baby bites, take them off the breast, end the nursing session, and say something calmly such as “No biting mommy.” Nursing can resume in a few minutes if the baby seems interested, and you can praise your little one for a good latch-on and gentle release. By ending the feeding each time biting occurs, your baby will soon get the message that biting interferes with their desire to nurse.

If your baby has clamped down and doesn’t release right away, don’t pull back (as you might want to); this could cause nipple injury. Place your finger between baby’s teeth or gums to break the suction and make it easier to remove the baby from your breast. You can also pull the baby a little closer to your breast so he opens his mouth to breathe and releases the breast.

Finally, if you are also pumping, using properly fitted breast shields – like our PersonalFit Flex™ options – can allow you to easily adjust the way your breast shield fits to help you find the most comfortable pumping positions. A unique design optimizes breast milk supply and allows you to continue feeding your liquid gold to your little one, even if you’re taking a short, temporary break from nursing due to soreness, latching issues, or biting challenges.

Rest easy, mama!

Biting is usually a temporary habit that babies quickly learn to stop. If pain becomes an issue, check with your healthcare provider on ways to manage it.