Dealing with biting at the breast

Breastfeeding can be a beautiful, relaxing and bonding experience between mom and baby. But, if your baby or toddler has started biting you, it doesn’t only cause pain, but can lead to frustration and an aversion which could end your breastfeeding journey. There are a number of reasons your baby might be biting you.


A teething baby could be chewing on the nipple to relieve discomfort, or simply to try out the strange new things in its mouth. Babies also bite when they’re distracted or if they’re struggling to swallow due to an ear infection or cold. Here are some tips for preventing and stopping biting at the breast.

Position: A baby who’s latched on and nursing properly cannot bite. Check that your baby’s latch hasn’t changed. Make sure your nipple is aimed towards the roof of his mouth, and wait for a wide-open mouth before quickly hugging him close. Also make sure that your baby’s tummy is against your body and not twisted away from you.

Pay attention: Sometimes a baby will bite you to get your attention. If you’ve been distracted by the TV or your phone – stop doing that during nursing, make eye contact with your baby and talk to them while they’re feeding. Also be sure to minimise external things that may be distracting the baby by feeding them in a quiet room with dimmed lights. Some babies bite when they’re finished feeding. If you’re paying close attention to your baby, you’ll often be able to tell when they’re finished and might be able to anticipate a bite and stop it before it happens. But you’ll need to act quickly! If it feels like your baby is about to bite, quickly slide your index finger into the side of her mouth to break the suction and pull her off the breast.

Milk supply: A baby frustrated by milk that’s flowing less freely than they’re used to, may also bite you. Reasons that your milk supply might be less is if you’ve gone back to work recently, if you’re providing formula milk top ups for your baby, or if you’re struggling with blocked milk ducts or mastitis. The best way to improve your milk supply is to let your baby feed as frequently as possible. “Dangle feeding” can help with blocked ducts: You’ll need to lie your baby on its back and lean over forwards for your baby to feed. It’s an awkward position, but by leaning forwards gravity will help remove blockages as well as increase the flow for baby. If your baby has been drinking breastmilk from a bottle, make sure that whoever is feeding baby is practising paced feeding, so that your baby doesn’t get used to a faster flow of milk that’s easier to obtain.

Be comforting: Babies don’t understand that biting hurts and if you react by shouting loudly and pulling baby away suddenly, they will usually be startled and cry. Sometimes this is enough for them to never bite again, but other times it can have the opposite effect and baby may go on a nursing strike – refusing to feed at all for a while. If your baby bites, rather make sure they’ve unlatched properly, put your breast away temporarily and gently tell them ‘no biting’. If they get upset, cuddle and comfort them for a while before offering the breast again. Praise your baby when they latch and unlatch gently.

Unwell baby: If your baby is congested, they may bite you because they’re struggling to swallow. Continuing to breastfeed is important so that baby can get the antibodies it needs to get better. You might need to position the baby more upright during feeds or lay them on top of your chest so that their nose can drain more easily. Using a humidifier in the baby’s room can also help to open its airways. Putting a few drops of breastmilk in your baby’s nose, if it’s blocked, also helps to loosen the mucous. If your baby is very ill or takes long to recover, it’s best to consult a doctor. – Gabi Falanga


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