I can't lie and say that nursing was a wonderful experience. In fact, breastfeeding my kids was difficult and, at times, painful. It felt like I struggled with almost every breastfeeding problem in the book, from undersupply to mastitis. And while those were not walks in the proverbial park, nothing could prepare me for what it would feel like to be bitten during breastfeeding. Talk about ouch, my friends.
At the risk of oversharing I have to say that my nipples are super-sensitive, even when I'm not feeding a baby. So, as you might imagine, the first few weeks of latching, pumping, and feeding a baby who wanted to nurse all day and night were pretty painful. Then came thrush, which caused my nipples to blister and bleed. And just when I thought I was past the worst of my breastfeeding pain, my son cut his first tooth. The first time he bit me I screamed in horror and tore him off my breast, which was as horrible as it sounds. His tiny lower teeth ended up cutting into my nipple like a cheese grater. He was too young to understand what was happening and, as a result of my natural reaction, started to cry. So, of course, I cried, too.
In my conversations with other parents who have been bitten during breastfeeding, I've learned that I am not alone. They describe the feeling as painful, shocking, and frustrating. No matter how much you try not to react, it can make you want to yell or hand over your baby to the nearest adult. I wish I could tell you that you get used to it, too, but that would be a lie. Hopefully, however, your baby realizes that biting their meal ticket isn't the way to go and, eventually, knocks it off.
So with all that in mind, and because knowledge is power, here's what it really feels like to be bitten during breastfeeding, according to moms who've been there, done that:
"At first, when their teeth are breaking through, it feels like little razor blades, particularly when they pull or turn away quickly while latched. This is called niplash, I think? It's painful again, like nursing a newborn, but after a few weeks it went back to normal and bites are now very infrequent."
"My daughter started biting around 18 months. She'd do it only occasionally, but just often enough that my nipples never had a chance to fully heal and breastfeeding went from relaxing to agonizing. It felt like my nips were on fire. We weaned a few months later. I wish I had done it sooner."
"It’s like little kitten teeth grinding from side to side. My first bit me twice and that was it. My second likes to pinch the skin around my boobs while he nurses, leaving nail scratches and bruises. He has only bit me once on purpose. The other times he sneezed a few times and didn’t move in time."
"My kid has spastic quad cerebral palsy. Nursing was so hard for us, and he was never able to take a bottle due to oral motor issues. He has an overactive startle response which was often triggered by sound, movement, or changes in lighting. When he would have a startle response while nursing, his jaws would clamp together and his whole body would stiffen, which often meant that he bit and pulled simultaneously. This was brutal once he got teeth."
"Mentally it is completely agitating. I have to remind myself not to have a dramatic or scary reaction to it every time."
"I have really insensitive breasts, so breastfeeding never hurt for me... until the first time I was bitten. It was like a sudden, sharp, shocking pain. It made me wonder just how hard I'd really been bitten considering my very high pain threshold."
"My 18-month-old has all his teeth and loves cashews. Once, after dinner, I didn't realize he still had cashew shards in his mouth. I tried to nurse him to sleep and he wanted to nurse and chew his nuts. I thought, 'Why is my nipple being driven over a gravel road?'"
"With my first son it felt like a little glass cutter. I learned really quickly after that to wet my finger and put it by my nipple. As soon as I felt the clamp, I'd slide it in and break the latch and we'd start again. By the time I'd had my other kids I nursed continuously for years at a time. I think I had nipples of steel because it no longer bothered me."
"The actual biting isn’t what hurt. It was when he realized he could get a reaction. He would clamp down with his teeth and shake his head like an excited dog killing their toy. It left my nipple feeling like it was on fire."
"My daughter didn't get teeth at all until after a year. The first time she bit me was the last time we breastfed. She was 15-months-old and thought it was very funny. She re-latched and did it again. I told her milk was all gone in sign language, and we never breastfed again. It actually really worked out for us. I was pretty much done and getting bit was a great reason for us to stop."
"My baby has a chipped front top tooth. It was sharp to begin with, but now it feels like I’m putting my nipple in a pencil sharpener. He thinks biting is hilarious, even if I try hard not to react."
"It hurts. It feels like a tiny piranha is biting me. In all seriousness, it's definitely a quick, jolting pain. It usually causes me to jump and pull my toddler away."
"I tandem-nursed my twin boys. It seriously felt like those videos of a Great White shark chomping down and whipping its prey back and forth."
"My son bit me once when he was teething. It stung so bad that without even realizing it, I smacked him on the cheek — not hard, but hard enough to shock him into letting go. It was a reflex reaction. I was really horrified with myself and we both cried while I tried to stop the blood with a nursing towel."
"Mine bit me so hard it hurt, I still have a scar. It felt like a burning hot knife stabbing my nipple."
"My son bit down on my nipple once, and even though he only had gums at the time the pain was pretty bad. I don’t know what to compare it to but, for me, it hurt more than getting my nipples pierced."