Babies often get their first tooth between 3 and 6 months of age, although some babies are born with a tooth and others may not teethe until after 6 months.
Concerns about breastfeeding and biting often begin long before teeth are present. It’s a good idea to have a game plan in mind so you will know how to react if and when the time comes.
A baby who is latched correctly and is actively nursing cannot bite, because the tongue extends over the lower gum, and the nipple is pulled far back in the baby’s mouth. Once the milk flow slows or the baby starts to get full, he may allow the nipple to slip forward in his mouth. This is when a bite is likely to occur.
The natural reaction to being bitten in such a sensitive area might be to quickly pull the baby off and let out a yowl. This will probably accomplish two things-pulling back will cause more nipple damage, and a loud response might scare your baby so much that he may be reluctant to come back to the breast. Here are some better responses:
Tips to Stop Biting
- Quickly insert your finger between your baby’s gums and then take your baby off the breast. Remember, your baby didn’t mean to hurt you, but he may be fascinating to know he can make mommy jump! Resist the temptation to react in a way that might encourage your baby to repeat biting just to see what you might do.
- If your baby bites, or you feel your nipple slipping to the front of the baby’s mouth, you can pull your baby in close, which will obstruct the nose and cause your baby to let go. Repeating this action and saying, “gentle, no biting” in a calm voice may help your baby learn not to bite.
- Some babies will bite to get mom’s attention. If you are distracted while breastfeeding, focusing on and talking to your baby during the feeding may fix the problem.
- Offer your baby a teething toy and state clearly that the baby must be gentle with mommy but can bite the toy. Even a very young baby is anxious to please and can learn that biting is not acceptable.
- If you older baby is easily distracted and pulls at the breast while nursing, try feeding in a darkened room or wear a nursing necklace to help keep your baby’s attention focused on the job at hand. For a baby that becomes too rambunctious, interrupting the feeding may encourage your baby to feed more carefully. Simply remove your baby from the breast and sit him on the floor. Never force a feeding.
Why is Baby Biting?
When teeth first appear, biting is natural and your baby must learn that it is not acceptable. Check for tender gums and offer a teething toy or pacifier to help soothe your baby’s teething discomfort. A stuffy nose, poor positioning, a change in your milk supply, or a growth spurt can all cause a baby to pull or bite. If you baby has just begun taking bottles, he may be biting the rubber nipple since the sucking technique for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are very different.
The technique you use to curb biting will depend on your baby’s age and disposition, as well as the reason for biting. Babies love us and want to please us. Gentle and positive reinforcement combined with patience is usually very effective in teaching a baby not to bite.