Breastfeeding can be a truly meaningful journey for a mom. It can help strengthen the love and bonding between you and your baby, while providing numerous benefits to both. While breastfeeding, for the most part, is an amazing experience, it can be hard to enjoy when your little angel begins chomping down on your nipples. If your baby’s biting is getting painful, you may wonder how to keep your baby from biting while breastfeeding. You’ll need to figure out the reason for their biting first so that you can apply the appropriate strategies for prevention.
Romper asked International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Tera Hamann, who says that says that biting is usually either a behavioral issue or a teething pain issue, but the most important thing to do is to correct the biting behavior immediately when it happens. If it is behavioral biting, she says that often a firm “no biting” is enough. “If that doesn't work,” adds Hamann, “then you may need to stop nursing in that moment and end the nursing session.”
Hamann says it can be trying when your baby is testing limits, and laughs when biting, so they need to understand that biting results in no breastfeeding. This corrective language and technique may take a while, but over time your baby should get the message that mommy is not for biting.
If the biting is due to teething, Hamann suggests using a few preemptive techniques. “If teething is suspected, you can try to treat the pain before nursing with a frozen damp washcloth to chew on, a breast milk popsicle, or if they are old enough, you could also use ibuprofen.” Beyond behavior or teething, says Hamman, you should also look at the medical aspect. If your baby is a newborn, she suggests contacting an IBCLC to diagnose something as simple as a slight position change, or as complex as a tongue tie.
If you feel like the biting is behavioral, and happens more towards the end of your nursing sessions, there are ways to prevent the biting. Kelly Mom suggested waiting to see if your baby looks bored, and look for any tension in their jaw, which could indicate they may bite. If you see this tension, the article suggested pulling your breast away and having your baby relatch, but deep enough so they can’t bite down.
If your baby is biting at the beginning of your nursing sessions, Being the Parent explained that it could be due to a poor latch, so repositioning your nipple and giving baby a deeper latch can help. The website also suggested only feeding baby when hungry, waiting for your milk to let down (baby could bite because let-down hasn’t occurred), and putting your finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth to release the latch if they begin biting.
Alternatively, if your milk let-down is too strong, explained Medela, the fast influx of milk could also cause your baby to bite down in order to slow down the supply. If this is the case, Medela recommended leaning back during breastfeeding sessions, and keeping pressure off the baby’s head, allowing them to let go and take a breath if they need to.
Nipple bites can be really painful, and may make you rightfully cautious throughout your nursing sessions. If you have any nipple injuries from your baby’s biting, Kelly Mom suggested applying ice or cold compresses, wearing a loose bra and airing out your nipples, using nipple shields, and taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen if necessary. While it may make you a little anxious, just know that with the right techniques, you can curb the bite, and go back to enjoying that mama and baby connection.
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