Posted by: Admin | January 21, 2014

Dear LC – Is it normal for my toddler to bite me while breastfeeding and what can I do to stop him?

Yes! It is normal. Humans have the facial mechanical structure to allow for this, right? Our jaws can close together to allow us to bite off our food and chew it. Biting is, in fact, a survival mechanism! But should babies bite their mother’s breast? They “should not”, but some babies do it anyway.  The following information should help you avoid this.

Why does a baby bite while breastfeeding?

There are a multitude of reasons why babies bite: a baby will practice every new ability he acquires until he masters it. Biting is no different. Ideally, he will bite his teddy bear, his teething rings and his toys, but biting is sure fun and babies will bite anything they can get their teeth on. Ever try putting your finger in a baby’s mouth to check on a new little tooth? Ouch!

Note: Be careful what you let your baby put in his mouth. Some things are toxic, even if they are marketed as made for babies.

So, when comes the time to breastfeed, it is completely natural for the toddler to want to see what biting his mother’s breast feels like. He has no idea that it can be painful to her. In the beginning, it is an experiment for him. Then, depending on how his mother reacts, it will transform into a game, defiance or simply a refusal gesture.

Babies are more likely to bite when they are put at the breast when they did not request it. For example, you look at the time and realize your 1 year old child has not breastfed for over 6 hours, even though he ate a good lunch. Your breasts are also telling you he should be breastfeeding, as they are full and feel uncomfortable. He is busy playing with a new toy and you are talking on the phone, but you scoop him up, lift your shirt and offer him the breast while continuing your conversation. He opens his mouth, breastfeeds a little and then clamps down. It is his way of saying: “Hey, I was busy. I did not ask to breastfeed…oh, and by the way, you are on the phone and not even looking at me!”
Some mothers will make a “hurt” face, but most will let out an outraged cry of pain: “NO!”. Even though this reaction is completely normal, it might frighten your baby. He might pull away and start crying and it might be a little while before he wants to breastfeed again.

We know babies will bite when they do not want to breastfeed, when they are not hungry anymore, when they are upset, when they want attention, or simply when they want to test their mother’s reaction. Here are a few tips to avoid this painful experience.

How do I prevent my baby from biting me?

As soon as your baby has teeth and shows you he could try to bite you, try following these guidelines:
-Breastfeed your baby only if he shows he needs to.
-Make sure he is calm and that there are no distractions.
-Avoid doing something else at the same time; children need our full attention!
-When you see he has almost finished, take him off right away and hug and kiss him to show him you are not taking him away because you do not love him.
-If he tries to bite, even a little, take him off from the breast right away. Tell him he cannot bite you because it hurts. Offer him something to bite on. Always keep him on you with hugs and kisses to show you will always love him. It is the behavior you do not like, but him, you will always love.

What to do to treat a bite wound?

If your child bites you but the teeth do not pierce the skin, it will be sensitive like a bruise for a little while. Changing position is a good thing to do until the bruise heals. If the teeth pierce the skin, it is considered a cracked nipple. Here’s what to do:

-wash the wound with soap and water;
– try to keep your baby’s teeth from digging into the wound. You will achieve this by changing position to one where the baby’s teeth do not press on the wound. The teeth have to touch an intact area of your breast;
– if the wound does not improve in a few days, and if the area around it is swollen, red and burning, you will need to go to the clinic. They will prescribe an antibiotic ointment to help heal it.

It is not necessary to wean your baby because of biting. Babies go through phases and this one will pass, just like any other. Furthermore, if you follow the information above, the wound can heal even if your baby breastfeeds on that breast. 🙂

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