You may be one of the lucky few moms who hasn’t experienced “the bite.” Maybe you occasionally get a nipple bite – but through adjusting the baby's positioning, you have relief again.
For the rest of us – welcome to nipple biting.
You may wonder if you need to stop nursing when your baby starts to teethe. Thankfully no, but the little milk bandit may be stretching your nerves a bit with their sharp tooth (oh, they have more?).
It may feel impossible to get your baby back to latching and not biting – but let’s look into why it happens and how you can get them back on track.
Why do some babies bite?
As your baby grows, you may naturally feel more concerned about biting during breastfeeding. We can’t blame you for being a little worried about it–your baby probably doesn’t have concerns about your nipple health. You should take solace that if your baby is continually nursing successfully and latching well, they generally won’t bite you during nursing. This is because their lips and tongue work here – and the teeth aren't close to your nipple.
When they let go of the latch? Fair game, mama. Here are some common reasons your baby may get a little toothy.
Your baby is bored
You care for this baby on hand and boob – yet, they’re still bored? Remind your little one that biting isn’t allowed and engage them in an activity. If the little one has a full tummy and starts to pull away, you may feel a little bite–as it denies your relatching and goes into business for themselves. You can simply tell them, “It’s not ok to bite, mommy!” before placing them in a comfortable spot. Your baby should respond to light reprimanding but talk calmly and sternly to get your message across.
Your baby is suddenly distracted.
Many things are happening around your baby, so it makes sense that they can get distracted. The TV is on, the dog is barking, or your partner just got home. It’s tough to keep focused even when you’re hungry! Try to find a quiet place to nurse that doesn’t have too much stimulation or distraction for the baby. Distraction mainly occurs during the nursing session when the baby is no longer hungry and looking for something new. Those little brains are constantly working overtime.
Your baby is demanding more milk.
If you have a drop in your milk supply, you may experience a nipple bite. In these experiences, your baby will have de-latched and bit down in frustration. Your baby isn’t willing to negotiate terms about quantity with you – so expect a bite if they get frustrated about demand.
Other reasons your baby may be biting
- Your baby has sensitive gums from teething, and the bite might give them relief.
- They’re feeling unwell or even at the start of an ear infection.
- Frustrated with fast milk flow or slow milk flow.
Should I wean my baby when they get teeth?
Once your baby’s teeth start erupting, you may wonder if it’s time to get them off your breast. The myth is that having teeth or the emergence of teeth will lead to more biting. When your baby is actively nursing and latching well – their teeth aren’t making contact with your nipple.
Think of when you’re sucking out of a straw. Your suckle is coming from your lips and tongue versus your teeth. You’ll want to encourage deep latching, where your baby is sucking on your areola and breast, not the end of your nipple. Your baby will have a wide, open mouth during deep latching, and their chin will lightly touch the bottom of your breast.
Consider holding them belly-to-belly for deep latching success.
Things to look out for right before a bite
You may see your baby’s jaw tighten before their little spring-loaded mouth slams down on your nipple. A slight restlessness or squirminess but also be present. In these cases, unlatch your baby, check to see if your baby is still hungry and if so, reattach and try again. A soft reset can stop a biting situation before it emerges.
Does your baby have a good latch?
We discussed it previously, but establishing a good latch earlier with your baby will minimize the chances of “niplash.” The growing body of your baby will also need to be adjusted as their comfort needs change. When in doubt, go back to basics and start over.
How do you heal sore or damaged nipples?
Nipple damage is quite painful. It’s not often a baby biting will cause damage, but if they do, you’re going to want to treat it with some of the following options:
Nipple creams: Thankfully, there are a ton of nipple creams available on the market. Nipple creams will promote healing on your nipple skin. Since they encourage moist wound healing, they’re practical for a nursing mommy.
Saline rinses: Doing a quick salt water rinse can soothe your nipples and heal gently. You can safely to do them often.
Cold packs: Open the freezer and grab a frozen bag of vegetables if you need to. Ice or cold packs can help reduce pain and give you quality soothing. We won’t tell anyone if you opt to use the frozen green bean bag.
Over-the-counter pain relievers: If your little biter continues to cause you pain, you may use an over-the-counter pain reliever compatible with breastfeeding.
Last thoughts on breastfeeding biting
It can be frustrating when your baby bites the boob that feeds them. It’s incredibly common, and most moms have experienced it or will experience it during their nursing journey. While you feel like you’ve done everything to stop it – the situation will generally resolve itself over time. Have faith, you’re doing great, and your nipple will survive. You’ve got this, mama.